Smart motorway deaths result in jail sentence

An HGV driver that caused the deaths of two motorists on the M1 has been jailed for 10 months.

Prezemyslaw Szuba, 40, from Hull, was charged with two counts of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving following the collision on the ‘smart’ motorway stretch in June 2019. Szuba, who pleaded guilty to the charges at a previous hearing, was travelling along the M1, near to Junction 34 when he collided with Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu, killing the two men instantly.

Both drivers had been involved in a minor road traffic collision moments earlier and they had pulled over to exchange details.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that at the time of the incident the motorway was open and all four lanes were subject to the national speed limit of 70 mph.

The forensic collision investigator concluded that, while both drivers breached the Highway Code by not moving to a hard shoulder area, the primary responsibility lay with the defendant’s failure to recognise the stationary transit van.

Investigating Officer Mark Bradey said: “Szuba pleaded guilty to the charges, accepted responsibility and spared the families further distress by going through a trial process. “I hope today will bring some element of closure to Jason and Alexandru’s loved ones.” As well as the 10-month sentence, Szuba was banned from driving for four years and five months and ordered to take an extended re-test.

Following the collision, Mercer’s widow has pursued a campaign to halt the use of all-lane running motorways.

Suffolk firm’s licence trimmed after significant failures

HMRC

An Ipswich transport firm had its licence curtailed for four weeks after a traffic commissioner heard about a large number of historic drivers’ offences and occasions when driver cards were not used.

TBF Scaffolding had wanted to increase its authorisation from 10 HGVs to 15, but Eastern traffic area TC Richard Turfitt said the application could not proceed after a Cambridge public inquiry analysed significant failures.

A traffic examiner request for documents following the issuing of a fixed penalty notice revealed occasions when two of its lorries were being driven without cards inserted.

The operator’s arrangements for drivers’ hours was also found to be unsatisfactory and although systems appeared to be in place, one vehicle had been driven 71 times without a card inserted.

Failings in reporting systems were also identified.

Following a Cambridge PI, TC Turfitt said it was particularly concerning that the DVSA investigation was left to the workforce manager and none of the company’s directors engaged with it.

However, he also noted that the call to PI had prompted an internal investigation even during the restrictions arising from the Covid-19 outbreak.

“There has been an acceptance of failures in the governance arrangements with too much reliance on reactive reporting rather than proactive monitoring which the board employs across other areas of regulatory performance,” he said.

“I accept the operator’s admission that it had ‘failed to live up to the commitments undertaken when the company was granted an operator’s licence.’”

Turfitt also said that he accepted records were now being kept, brake tests were being carried out and all results recorded and tacho and WTD hours’ checks were being conducted every week.

He said he believed he could trust the operator to comply in the future, but he added: “There is a need for deterrent action so that improvements are sustained.

“The application cannot proceed at this time and will need to be renewed.

“Representations indicate that the current 10 vehicle authorisation could be reduced to no less than eight vehicles but that will create some difficulty.

“Having assessed this case as falling within the starting point of ‘moderate’, I make that direction but for a period of four weeks only."