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When Two Words Collide

In December 2011 David Johnson, a driver of an 18 tonne truck for logistics firm ELB Partners, was involved in a collision with a cyclist. Tragically, the accident was fatal.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. According to Transport for London, 53 percent of pedal cycle fatalities between 2008 and 2012 involved “direct conflict” with a HGV.

As a result, such incidents attract a lot of media attention. However, what often goes unreported is the impact that an accident can have on the driver, his colleagues and the firm as a whole.

In the case of David Johnson, the aftermath is equally as tragic as the accident itself. Understandably distraught, David was unable to return to work. In April 2012, the previously healthy driver was diagnosed with bowel cancer and passed away the following September, aged just 31 – less than a year after the fatal event.

Mark Norman, transport manager for ELB Partners’, told haulage industry magazine Commercial Motors: “Clearly the stress he was going through played a massive part in this.” While providing emotional and financial support (not only did ELB Partners arrange a 12 week counselling course, they continued to pay David for a further three months after the incident) the company also faced what ELB Partners Managing Director, Peter Eason, believed was extremely one sided media attention.

In a letter to London Mayor, Boris Johnson, Mr Eason wrote: “The media were relentless. ELB Partners were written about in newspapers and on social media websites. These reports were totally misleading, and this is often the trend.”

As a result, ELB Partners has introduced additional safety measures to its 30 HGV’s, which include CCTV, side bars, warning stickers and top-specification blind spot mirrors. Audible warnings stating “caution truck turning left” are also being rolled out across the fleet.

“None of this is mandatory,” Eason told Commercial Motors, “but I believe cameras should be.”

However, this could be about to change. Under new proposals announced in February, lorries without cycle-safety mirrors and side guards will be banned from operating in London. All heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) weighing more than 3.5 tonnes face a financial penalty on entering the capital if they do not comply with the rules.

Financial Cost As Well As An Emotional One

At the time of Mr Johnson’s death the crown prosecution service was assessing whether to bring charges for causing death by dangerous driving.

Comprehensive Motor Insurance (whether individual or fleet) would ensure a driver is covered against injury or death of third party persons with an unlimited limit of indemnity as well as the costs of defending an action under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. So ensure your fleet insurance is up to date.

Whilst having the proper motor insurance in place is vital (and compulsory), companies will need to ensure their drivers are properly trained and supported whilst engaging in company business. By encouraging higher standards of driving, this will reduce the number of accidents (so less injury to third parties and employees), also reducing monetary losses due to recovering employees not at work and vehicles off the road. As well as providing motor insurance, insurers may also offer motor fleet risk management/driver training so please get in touch with us for options or for further information on Comprehensive Motor Insurance.

While cyclists are unfortunately always going to come off worse in such a collision, they are not immune to causing injury or damage themselves. If you have staff who cycle to work, ensure they have insurance that covers them against public liability.

Two Sides To The Story

Commissioned by Transport for London (TFL) and the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) analysed killed or seriously injured (KSI) data over a five year period, from 2008 to 2012. The study revealed that had all exempted HGVs been fitted with equipment that is standard for 18 tonne trucks, between 3.20 and 6.85 fatalities and between 1.24 and 4.75 serious casualties could have been prevented during the five year period.While there has been a lot of campaigning from the cycling community to do more to protect cyclists it is not as though those in the freight and haulage have been ignoring the issue.

For example, it was announced in January 2013 that the Freight Transport Association had joined with the European Cyclists’ Federation, the Mayor of London and others in signing a declaration calling on the European Parliament to support Commission proposals to review the lorry dimension rules.