Highlands & Islands

Warning to Scottish hauliers after fatal crash

A fatal accident three years ago has led to a Scotland-wide warning being issued to hauliers.

Kevin MacIver, 19, from Invergordon, died after his car was involved in a crash with an HGV being reversed off a road into a haulage site.

The crash happened on the B9175 Arabella to Nigg Road in January 2014.

Following an inquiry, Scotland's Traffic Commissioner Joan Aitken has urged that all hauliers' practices be "safe and suitable" at all times.

The Tain-based haulage firm involved in the accident, Alex Campbell Haulage Ltd, has been found to have breached "a fundamental principle" of operator licensing by not making sure its operating centre was safe and suitable.

Ms Aitken has suspended the firm from running vehicles for two months because practices at its operating centre - where HGVs are parked - had compromised road safety.

She noted that the company's centre had improved and been cleared "beyond all recognition" of what was observed at the site by the commission in 2014.

'At speed'

During the inquiry, Ms Aitken found Alex Campbell Haulage Ltd's operating centre had become so cluttered that it was not possible for vehicles to turn around safely inside the yard.

This led to HGVs reversing into the site from a public road.

The traffic commissioner said: "It is patently clear to me that the reversing manoeuvres into the access road to the operating centre were inherently less safe than taking entry in forward gear.

"The operator had significantly breached the safe operation of its vehicles and trailers by engaging in this reversing manoeuvre and expecting the driver to reverse in.

"The tragedy of this case is that this operator compromised road safety by allowing the operating centre to deteriorate and change in use such that it was no longer suitable.

"The deterioration in the suitability of the operating centre was all of the operator's doing and goes to the operator's repute."

During the inquiry in Inverness, which concluded in April this year, Ms Aitken heard from a former driver for the company, Alasdair MacLean.

Mr MacLean told the commissioner that on 30 January 2014, the day of the accident, he was driving back to the firm's operating centre on the B9175.

Although he could have turned into the site in a one-movement forward gear manoeuvre, he chose to reverse in because he knew the yard was confined by other vehicles, trailers and materials.

He began the manoeuvre at a time when there were no approaching vehicles on the road.

Before the trailer reached the position of being in the access road, it was hit by Mr MacIver's car "at speed".

Oncoming vehicle

In a written decision issued following the hearing, Ms Aitken said her role was not to determine who, if anyone, was to blame for the collision.

She said it was not clear why Mr MacIver did not see and interpret the vehicle and trailer lights and that the road was blocked.

The regulator also noted that while Mr MacLean fully expected an oncoming vehicle to slow down, he had created a hazard given the length of the trailer and the narrowness of the road.

She recorded a warning on his professional driving licence in respect of safe practices at work and said he should have tackled his employer about the issue with the yard.

Ordering a two month suspension of vehicle operations for Alex Campbell Haulage Ltd from 23:59 on 30 June, Ms Aitken said "road safety had been compromised and another road user had come to grief".

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