Scotland’s Traffic Commissioner, Joan Aitken, has called on hauliers across the industry to make sure the place where they keep their HGVs is “safe and suitable” at all times – to protect their employees as well as other road users.
Aitken made the comments after suspending a Tain haulier from running vehicles for two months because practices at its operating centre – where HGVs are parked – had compromised road safety.
The country’s regulator said Alex Campbell Haulage breached a fundamental principle of operator licensing by not making sure its operating centre was safe and suitable.
Aitken remarked that owner Alex Campbell was so engrossed in his own business that he did not consider the safety of others. She found the company’s operating centre had become so cluttered that it was not possible for vehicles to turn around safely inside the yard. This lead to HGVs reversing into the site from a public road.
“It is patently clear to me that the reversing manoeuvres into the access road to the operating centre were inherently less safe than taking entry in forward gear,” she said.
“The operator had significantly breached the safe operation of its vehicles and trailers by engaging in this reversing manoeuvre and expecting the driver to reverse in.
“The tragedy of this case is that this operator compromised road safety by allowing the operating centre to deteriorate and change in use such that it was no longer suitable. The deterioration in the suitability of the operating centre was all of the operator’s doing and goes to the operator’s repute.”
During an inquiry in Inverness, which concluded in April this year, Aitken heard from a former driver for the company, Alasdair MacLean.
MacLean told the Traffic Commissioner that on 30 January 2014, he was driving back to the firm’s operating centre on the B9175. Although he could have turned into the site in a one-movement forward gear manoeuvre, he chose to reverse in because he knew the yard was confined by other vehicles, trailers and materials. He commenced the manoeuvre at a time when there were no approaching vehicles on the road.
Before the trailer reached the position of being in the access road, it was hit by a private car at speed. The driver of the car, Kevin MacIver, was fatally injured.
In a written decision issued after the hearing, Aitken said her role was not to determine who, if anyone, was to blame for the collision. She said it was not clear why MacIver did not see and interpret the vehicle and trailer lights and that the road was blocked.
The regulator also noted that while MacLean fully expected an oncoming vehicle to slow down, he had created a hazard given the length of the trailer and the narrowness of the road.
She recorded a warning on his professional driving licence in respect of safe practices at work and said he should have tackled his employer about the issue with the yard.
Ordering a two month suspension of vehicle operations for Alex Campbell Haulage from 11:59pm on June 30, Aitken said road safety had been compromised and another road user had come to grief.
She noted that the company’s operating centre had improved and been cleared “beyond all recognition” from what was observed in 2014.