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Load security in conference spotlight
By adminCategories: NewsPublished On: Thursday 26 October 2023
Chris Powell, principal associate of Weightmans Solicitors, gave an update on load security and enforcement to the Logistics UK Transport Manager conference.
He pointed out that government guidelines had changed after motorist Steven Oscroft was killed by a lump of concrete that fell from a tipper lorry (Transport Operator 100).
Mr Powell (pictured, right) was able to use his experience of representing operators at public inquiries to provide advice on the implications of these changes to the conference.
Lost load incidents were normally dealt with initially by the police. If there was no personal injury, the matter would be passed to DVSA.
DVSA would conduct ‘interviews under caution’. The driver would be the first to be interviewed.
Mr Powell took the conference through a typical case, where a driver gave a full and frank account of a lost load incident. He had been moved from a 7.5-tonne vehicle to an artic, and told to load it and get underway.
The driver protested to the transport manager that he did not feel qualified to load and drive the vehicle, as although he held a C+E licence he had little experience on artics and he had no straps to secure the load.
The transport manager had told him to get on with it and do the best he could.
Under interview, the driver had admitted to DVSA that he had driven the truck with an insecure load. This, Mr Powell said, was “a vital admission”.
The transport manager had then confirmed the driver’s account, and said that the company was short-staffed and he “felt under pressure to get the load out”.
He added that the driver had had training, and he thought the driver was “trying to get out of doing the job, but hadn’t actually refused to take the load”.
The driver’s training had only consisted of being given a large number of pieces of paper to read, sign and return. There had been no practical training.
There had been no legal representation for either the driver or the transport manager during their interviews.
DVSA had referred the matter to the traffic commissioner (TC), who had undertaken a driver conduct hearing followed by a public inquiry (PI) into the company.
The TC said the driver should have refused the load, and suspended his LGV licence for two months. At the PI, company was blamed for having an ineffective training process and had its licence reduced for 28 days.
But Mr Powell pointed out that the consequences did not end there: the curtailment caused disruption, stalled expansion plans, did reputational damage, and put the company firmly in the sights of DVSA and the TCs.
He said there were several lessons to be learned from the case.
Firstly, training needs to have actually been done, and properly documented. Training materials must be up-to-date. The training drivers undertake must be relevant to the loads they will carry.
Questions need to be taken seriously. In this case, the driver had questioned his own suitability for the task but had been told to get on with it.
Drivers needed to be managed after a shedded-load event.
“Many drivers will attend the PI as hostile witnesses because they have been sacked by their employer.
“If you write to the TC before the event and blame the driver, bear in mind that the driver will be shown that letter at his conduct hearing prior to the PI,” Mr Powell cautioned.
“You could end up facing not just the PI, but also an employment tribunal as a result of the driver seeing that letter.
“Remember that a notification to a TC about driver conduct from an employer is a legal document. It should not be made without first seeking legal advice.”
Mr Powell warned of the ‘snowball effect” that could be triggered by a summons to a PI.
“The TC will want to see all the paperwork, including tachograph records, PMIs etc, so your compliance systems need to be 100 per cent bulletproof.
“Get an external audit from Logistics UK or similar, and have a legal representative on hand at the start of the process. Don’t wait until afterwards,” he warned.
In a video presentation to the Transport Manager conference, DVSA chief executive Loveday Ryder said that all the current updated advice on load security could now be found in one place on the gov.uk website.
“’We’ve always done it this way,’ doesn’t wash as an excuse,” she warned.
“The overall load security system must always work. Drivers must understand the guidance and follow it. Drivers must be trained, equipped and given time to do it right,” she said.