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£2.3m fine but will it really make any difference?

03 December 2018

Will Tuesday 27th November 2018 be the day that makes the commercial vehicle industry sit up, take stock of itself and admit, that it finally needs to learn from the very important lessons it has been ignoring for far too long.

This day brought to a conclusion the criminal aspect of the terrible events that unfolded in Coventry on Saturday 3rd October 2015, when a 7 years old boy and 76 years old woman were killed by a double decker bus which was being driven by a 77 years old driver, who we all now know, was not fit to be driving his vehicle. 

Does this sound familiar? It should do because it is very similar to the scenario of the Glasgow bin lorry incident on 22nd December 2014, were the driver in that incident was also not fit to be driving his vehicle. 

However, there is one major issue that differentiates the two incidents. In the Glasgow incident, the driver’s employer Glasgow City Council, did not know the driver had a historic medical condition that should have prevented from driving because he had failed to notify them. Whereas, in the Coventry incident, the driver’s employers Midland Red, knew the driver was unfit to drive that day. 

How did the employer know this? This was because his driving records showed he had worked for more than 70 hours in the week leading up the fatal incident. Therefore, he would clearly be suffering with fatigue but the employer still asked the driver continue driving, due to business needs.

In addition, the employer knew the driver was ‘high risk’ but they chose to ignore the data they had. This included: 

  • The driver had been warned four times about his "erratic" driving by his employer after four crashes in the previous three years.
  • The driver had been subject of eight warning letters about his driving for harsh braking, acceleration and speeding all triggered by a telematics system installed in 2014.
  • The driver had a practical independent driving assessment seven months before the incident. The instructor who conducted the assessment said the journey was "uncomfortable and erratic". He concluded that the driver "would not have been good enough" to pass an initial training driving test. 

Despite knowing this information, the employer:

  • Allowed the driver to miss a ‘1-2-1’ meeting about his driving standards because they needed him to be out driving. 
  • Did not monitor the driver’s telematics data properly, thereby knowingly putting passengers and other roads as risk.
  • Allowed the driver to continue driving until the fatal incident.

Despite the obvious information telematics data provides about the way a vehicle is being driven, telematics is a vitally important tool that can help identify fatigue and other medical conditions that affects the driver’s ability to drive and control their vehicle properly and safely.

Now we reach the crux of the matter. Telematics provides masses of data about every driver in a fleet but the data needs to managed and has to be acted upon and employers need to start asking the awkward questions about their drivers’ health and ability to drive.  

Unfortunately for the employer, just ignoring the data or not having the time to deal with it is no defence. 

So, the question that all employers who run a fleet of vehicles is: “Will a £2.3m fine make you change the way you manage the drivers of your fleet?” 

If it does, then this will be a defining moment. However, it will not be easy and will not happen overnight but the industry will finally show that it is prepared to learn its lessons. Most importantly, it will show that it values the lives all road users and its drivers ahead of profit.

Only time will tell!!


Road Safety Smart
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