SOE Haulage fined £1,100 for tachograph offences

A Dungannon, County Tyrone, operator has been fined £1,100 for tachograph offences that included failing to check that it was complying with the law.

SOE Haulage, which has an O-licence authorising up to 10 vehicles and 10 trailers from two operating centres in Portadown and Benurb, Antrim, appeared at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court on 9 February following an investigation by the Driver and Vehicle Agency.

It was fined £700 for four counts of employing a driver who failed to take a daily rest; £200 for two counts of employing a driver who exceeded the daily driving limit; and £200 for not carrying out regular checks to ensure the business was complying with EU drivers’ hours rules.

The company was also charged a £15 offenders levy.

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?