Freight First fined after worker crushed by runaway truck

Freight First has been ordered to pay £157,500 in fines and costs after a worker, who was untrained in the coupling and uncoupling of trailers, was crushed to death by a runaway truck.

Employee Tony Schulze died after he tried to connect a trailer to a cab at Freight First’s site on the Astmoor Industrial Estate in Goddard Road, Runcorn, in January 2011.

A hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on 28 January was told that Schulze had been asked to line up the trailers in the company’s sloping yard, so they were ready for collections and deliveries to be made on the Monday morning.

He did not normally drive HGVs for the company, nor had he received training on the coupling procedure.

Having attached a trailer to the tractor unit, he released the brakes on the trailer and the vehicle began to roll forwards. The handbrake in the cab had not been applied before the coupling took place.

He ran alongside the trailer to the front of the cab and attempted to jump up into the open door to stop it from moving, but while doing so the HGV struck another vehicle that was parked up in the yard and Schulze was crushed between the door and the cab frame.

Other employees attempted to free Schulze but he died at the scene before the emergency services arrived, having suffered fatal crush injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted the operator, found that there was no written procedure in place for the type of work being done. There was no safe system for the coupling and uncoupling of vehicles, and a general risk assessment carried out the year before the incident took place did not cover the connecting of vehicles to trailers or highlight the risk of runaway vehicles on the sloping ground.

An external health and safety adviser had also made the company aware of the lack of risk assessment in December 2010, a month before the incident, but Freight First did not take any action.

HSE inspector Adam McMahon said: “The case highlights the need for transport companies to ensure their employees have the correct training. They should also act on advice from health and safety experts and make sure safe systems of work are in place.

“If Mr Schulze had pulled the park button on the trailer when it started to move then it would have activated the trailer brakes. However there is no evidence to prove that Mr Schulze had received training on coupling the HGVs, so may well not have known this.”

Freight First, of Whitehouse Industrial Estate, Aston Fields Road, Preston Brook, Runcorn, was fined £90,000 and must pay £67,500 in prosecution costs after being found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The company has an O-licence authorising up to 43 vehicles and 30 trailers.

McMahon added that Schulze had lost his life as a result of the failings of his employer. If Freight First had acted on the recommendations made by its health and safety adviser shortly before the incident, the fatality could have been avoided.


This article was published in the 11 February issue of Commercial Motor. Why not subscribe today?

Eurotunnel boosts freight capacity at Folkestone

Eurotunnel has boosted capacity at its Folkestone terminal in a move that promises to increase traffic flow to up to 300 vehicles per hour.

The five new access lanes and check-in facility for trucks are part of Eurotunnel’s Terminal 2015 Project, launched last July.

The project aims to expand capacity and increase flow rates at both terminals, provide greater security for trucks at the Coquelles terminal, in response to the migrant crisis, and improve traffic flow in Kent.

Eurotunnel has also bought three new freight shuttles which will be launched later this year.

This latest phase comes as the operator continues to struggle with migrants attempting to break into the tunnel area at its Coquelles terminal in France. It was forced to delay shuttles this weekend after the discovery of the body of a teenage migrant on the roof of one of its trains.

The five new access lanes at Folkestone aim to improve local congestion by speeding up traffic flow off the M20 at junction 11A.

The new check-in facility has a capacity of up to 300 vehicles per hour and will allow Eurotunnel to process enough trucks to fill a shuttle departure every seven and a half minutes, once the new shuttles come into service later this year.

Eurotunnel, which saw its revenues rise 5% year on year to £930m in 2015, is predicting its truck carrying rates to rise from 1.5 million a year to 2 million a year over the next ten years.

Jacques Gounon, chairman and chief executive officer of Groupe Eurotunnel SE said: “The UK economy continues to grow and trade with Europe is a huge part of that.

"This new access and check-in facility for trucks will ensure that Eurotunnel is in good shape to carry the commercial loads that the UK economy generates and will help keep traffic flowing in Kent”.


Image: Press Association