Changes to licensing and DVLA medical guidelines needed to avoid another Glasgow bin lorry crash

There needs to be changes to driver licensing legislation and DVLA medical guidelines if a repeat of Glasgow's fatal refuse-truck accident last year is to be avoided, the sheriff that oversaw the Fatal Accident Investigation has said.

Sheriff John Beckett QC outlined eight “reasonable precautions” which, if taken, could have prevented the accident that saw six people killed by the out of control HGV nearly a year ago. He also made 19 recommendations to a series of regulatory bodies to stop it happening again.

His report, released today (7 December), followed a five-week hearing into the incident earlier this year. Its predominant finding being that the incident could have been avoided if the driver, Harry Clarke, had not lied about his medical history prior to passing out at the wheel on 22 December last year - a finding that prompted Backhouse Jones to emphasise the importance of operators having a health disclosure clause in drivers' contracts.

Beckett's recommendations include calling on local authorities to consider retrofitting refuse vehicles with advanced emergency braking systems (AEBS).

He also called on the DVLA to address whether its section on the loss of consciousness/altered awareness in its “At a glance” guide is clear enough to medicalprofessionals who have to make professional judgements on the information. The report also questions if it gives enough weight to early symptoms of illnesses that could cause blackout further down the line.

Beckett also suggested that the secretary of state for transport should consider a legislative change around the information the DVLA is provided with when making fitness to driver licensing decisions.

Although it was not included in the sheriff’s official recommendations, he also made a case for annual checks on drivers’ health, especially for older drivers.

He said: “From the age of 45, a group-2 licence only has to be renewed every five years and much could change in a driver’s state of health in that time. Employers ought to be alert to that.” 

The General Medical Council recently issued draft guidelines to doctors informing them they had a duty to report concerns in regards a driver's health to the DVLA.

Image: Press Association

Alleged cartel investigation continues

Investigations into an alleged cartel involving truck manufacturers continue, more than a year after the European Commission (EC) first said it suspected anti-competitive behaviour.

In November 2014, truck makers including Volvo, Daf, MAN, Daimler and Scania confirmed that they had received a statement of objections from the EC.

The EC said it had “concerns that certain heavy- and medium-duty truck producers may have agreed or co-ordinated their pricing behaviour in the European Economic Area”.

The statement of objections is a formal step in EC investigations into suspected violations of EU anti-trust rules. The addressees can examine the documents in the investigation file, reply in writing and request an oral hearing.

If the EC concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, then it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine of up to 10% of a company’s annual worldwide turnover.