Lorry driver sentenced to eight and a half years

Tired driving costs lives. An HGV driver was recently sentenced to eight and a half years in jail for falling asleep at the wheel and using his mobile phone whilst driving. Are your drivers taking regular breaks and giving the road their full attention?

An HGV driver was sentenced in September to eight and a half years in prison having killed two cyclists in July 2013 whilst travelling along the A30 Road near Summercourt, Newquay. The jail term included a year for a separate dangerous driving offence that took place when on bail whilst the police were investigating the cyclists’ deaths.

The evidence pointed to the driver having almost certainly fallen asleep at the wheel. And whilst not the primary cause of the accident, evidence was presented during the trial showing that the driver had been habitually using his mobile phone and texting at length.

The message from this particular case reinforces the need for road transport operators take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that their drivers:

  • Adhere to the appropriate drivers’ hours and rest regulations

  • Park up as soon as they realise sleepiness may be affecting their ability to drive

  • Do not use hand-held mobile devices whilst driving.

As every transport business knows, these are simply aspects of a broader health and safety policy that needs to be successfully rolled out and managed. So how can that policy be best developed and implemented across a transport business?

  • Key to success is a top-down management culture that places safety at its heart and firmly on the Boardroom agenda. Without that, drivers and other staff may pay little long-term attention, sensing any safety initiative to be little more than a quick-fix ‘safety-wash’

  • A comprehensive risk assessment that carefully considers every aspect of risk affecting their drivers as well as their other staff needs to be carried out. That risk assessment process begins at the depot and at the delivery sites to which the drivers travel

  • From an occupational road-risk perspective, it’s essential that risk assessment does not ignore the risks posed by driver fatigue. As well as ensuring that drivers’ hours regulations are strictly adhered to, it is important not to over-look a range of fatigue-related issues such as the risks posed by shift-work patterns, the risk of a driver having a serious sleep disorder with potentially fatal consequences – and drivers not knowing what they must do if they become excessively sleepy whilst driving

  • Once the risk assessment has been completed, an appropriate action plan that prioritises and addresses the issues identified needs to be drawn up and implemented

  • A clear policy for the management of work-related road safety needs to be communicated to all staff, appropriate training provided, and monitoring and feedback processes introduced

  • That policy needs to include matters such as the maintenance of vehicles, the carrying out of daily vehicle checks, measures to be taken to ensure that drivers have the knowledge they need to drive safely and are sufficiently fit, monitoring driving style and behaviour, journey planning and contingency planning to cope with adverse weather conditions. It also needs to forbid behaviours that can distract a driver such as eating whilst driving - and, of course, using hand-held mobile devices

Useful links:

Download pdf of Driving at work – Managing work-related road safety

Download pdf of Health and safety in road haulage

Download pdf of Tiredness can kill – Advice for drivers

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