Collaborating against unsafe HGVs

Enforcement against rogue haulage operators moves forward with London Freight Enforcement Partnership

Collaborating against unsafe HGVs

CTC's campaign for joined-up enforcement of rogue goods vehicles operators moves forward with the creation of a new London Freight Enforcement Partnership.

CTC has welcomed Transport for London's initiative in forming a new London Freight Enforcement Partnership. The partnership will involve TfL, the DVSA and London’s policing agencies in the joint intelligence-led targeting of rogue freight operators. The aim is to build on the work of TfL and other agencies including the Industrial HGV Task Force and Commercial Vehicle Units, which have carried out targeted inspections of vehicles and operating firms identified as non-compliant.

Initiatives like this are sorely needed. Earlier this year, CTC highlighted the failings in the system for regulating goods vehicle operators. This followed the tragic death of three cyclists in two separate incidents involving lorry drivers who should never have been behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle, and whose employers displayed scant if any regard to basic health and safety and employer diligence requirements.

Any initiatives which encourage agencies  to co-operate and target enforcement at rogue haulage operators have to be welcomed.

Duncan Dollimore, Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer

Cyclist Alan Neve was killed in London in 2013, when he was run over by a tipper truck driven carelessly by Barry Meyer. Meyer had a string of previous driving convictions. However, the Transport Managers who hired him, Alan John Drummond and Colin Frank Drummond, had not bothered to check his driving licence to see if he was legally permitted to drive their vehicles. No investigation of the operator was commenced until after Meyer’s trial in April 2015, when the Transport Commissioner (TC) for London and the South East was notified by Transport for London (TfL) of the operator’s negligence. Alan’s death highlighted the failings in the system for notifying the TC of concerns regarding operators, with neither the police or the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) being under any obligation to do so.

Similar problems were evident following the deaths of cyclists Toby Wallace and Andrew McMenigall in Cornwall, just two weeks after Alan Neve's death. Lorry driver Robert Palmer drove straight into the rear of both cyclists after working back-to-back shifts for his employer Frys Logistics. It appears that the Transport Manager Mark Fry must have been content for Palmer to repair vehicles on one shift, and then to drive those vehicles on the subsequent shift, in an apparent breach of the spirit and intention of the tachograph regulations. Again, the TC was not immediately notified of the concerns regarding the operator, even though the TC had previously declined an application from Arthur Charles Fry to act as the firm's Transport Manager. A C Fry had lost his licence to operate in May 2010 when trading as A C Fry Transport. So Frys Logistics was set up with Mark Fry as its Transport Manager instead. More recently, Mark Fry was convicted and fined in June 2015 for tacograph offences which were uncovered during an investigation into Wallace and McMenigall's deaths. However, CTC has raised concerns with the TC that, to the best of our knowledge, the company has not been held to account for any offence directly relating to their deaths.

How this new partnership works in practice remains to be seen, but as CTC has been calling for agencies to share information relevant to road safety, improved communication and a system to ensure that the TC is immediately notified of concerns regarding operators, and a greater enforcement role for agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the concept of partnership working has to be welcomed.

This is however a London-only initiative. CTC has recently made submission to the Transport Committee Inquiry into road traffic law enforcement regarding notification systems, resourcing and the enforcement role of the TC and HSE. Hopefully, the new London Partnership will show that more co-ordinated and targeted enforcement can assist in addressing some of the failings in haulage licencing and enforcement demonstrated in these tragic cases, and help create the impetus for a change in approach nationally.

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We await the Inquiry report from Sheriff Beckett relating to the Glasgow 'bin lorry' crash just before Christmas 2014. In strong contrast to the German Wings plane crash some 4 months later, where the basic factual details were collated and made public within 4 days, we had as 4 months, a second Glasgow bin lorry crash where the driver also 'passed out' (fortunately without fatalities that time), and after 7 months, in which there was much speculation, the Fatal Accident Inquiry opened.

That Inquiry revealed that the driver of the lorry in the fatal crash had in 2 previous jobs driving a (milk) tanker, and a bus with passengers on board, had episodes where he had lost consciousness, and been in line to be dismissed, for the bus company he resigned and took a job with Glasgow Council just before he was due to be sacked. Through this process he managed to avoid his medical condition being connected to this vocational licence, and the process of self-reporting the 5 yearly medical checks to DVSA meant he kept his vocational licence. His licences were automatically suspended for 4 months after the fatal crash but he applied for and got back both his standard and vocational driving licences in April 2015, but with the evidence collected for the inquiry, the licences were revoked within 2 months. Since then it has been reported that he was stopped when driving a car, and charged with a traffic offence.

The Inquiry revealed some deep systemic flaws in the system. The operators who employed Mr Clarke have a Transport Manager who is charged to make sure that vehicles and drivers they control are fit to be on the road, but they do not have the ability, available to a GP, to get a Police referral process to review and if necessary revoke with immediate effect, a driving licence where the driver is considered to be a danger to other road users. There is also the lack of a robust record of vocational (LGV/PCV) driver's driving history. Pilots can go back to a log of all the hours flown and all the aircraft, and their medical checks can only be carried out by doctors accredited by the regulator (CAA). Perhaps we need a closer scrutiny on vocational driving history, especially when many of the drivers involved in these fatal crashes have a history, or traffic offences, and crashes that should be ringing alarm bells.

Added to the mess is the fact that a fatal crash of a Glasgow Council bin lorry, driven by a Glasgow Council driver an a street managed by Glasgow Council as the roads authority which had less public prominence, would have had an investigation carried out by Glasgow Council who would then be required to tell themselves what measures to take to prevent any future event of a similar type, in stark contrast to the regimes for air rail and sea transport, where the investigation and regulation are carried out by independent bodies and the reports and decisions openly accessible to the public.

In 1999 the railways were killing passengers and staff by the busload annually, but the watershed of a series of major fatal crashes and the decision by Lord Cullen to deal with the wider issues than those of just one crash (Ladbroke Grove) has delivered 'vision zero' for rail within less than 10 years, Are we reaching the tipping point for road casualties?