Friday, October 10, 2014

Road Haulage HGV Operators Must Act On Load Security to Avoid More Deaths

Each Road Freight Carrier and Driver Bears Responsibility for Reducing Appalling Accident Toll
Shipping News Feature

US – UK – WORLDWIDE – One subject which comes to the attention of the freight community at regular intervals is the security of loads carried by road haulage outfits. Unfortunately this normally occurs because of some horrific incident or near miss when cargo has fallen from a moving vehicle causing a serious accident. In the past week the ‘Fast Lane’ blog, which United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and his staff use to keep the public informed of current events, has an excellent piece by David Friedman highlighting the issue.

The article explains how in 2004 a young lady, Maria Federici, was blinded for life when the car she was travelling in was struck by a piece of furniture falling from a moving truck. Under legislation at the time the driver responsible received just a citation for littering. The incident prompted Maria’s mother, Robin Abel, to lobby for a change in the law which now sees drivers facing a prison sentence and/or fines for a similar offence. The law however does not compensate for cases which occur, usually as a result of stupidity or ignorance, and still accounted for 440 deaths due to insecure loads and road debris in 2010 across America.

This appalling figure is matched by the 10,000 plus injuries caused in the same year, on the same roads and although UK figures are massively lower, in 2012 twelve people were killed by falling or moving loads whilst 275 were seriously injured, much could still be done to reduce these. With the onus for safety being placed more firmly every year on the driver and the vehicle operator it is essential that all professional drivers are trained regularly in matters of load security.

In Britain the HGV driving population is rapidly ageing with an average age now said to be around 53 years. This means that there is a mix of mostly older drivers, many of whom are resistant to training because of their perceived depth of knowledge, and younger staff who come to the matter as virtual novices. Whilst the compulsory driver CPC training has been constructed to deal precisely with this problem it has been found that the reinforcement of important data is best served by further on-site training by the goods vehicle licence operator in short, sharp but informative bites.

Transport for London (TfL) advocates this type of ‘Tool Box Talk’ when applicants are trying for Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) accreditation whilst the Road Haulage Association (RHA) offers members some excellent training tools such as its ‘Safe and Sound’ practical guide to loading trucks.

The guide presents information in a simple format which is likely to include data unknown even to the most experienced driver, for example the definition of a ‘light pallet’ allowed to be secured by internal straps only, as opposed to one needing securing separately to the vehicle body, when a full risk assessment should be carried out, how to legally secure goods on a double-deck trailer etc.

Without this type of training being given to a company’s drivers, the operator could find themselves complicit in any accident brought about by inattention to detail when a vehicle is loaded. For Maria Federici this type of information comes too late, with a little extra care more unnecessary suffering to other individuals and families could be avoided.