View from the cab: Lorry firm boss tells of effect of cyclist's death on the driver and the company (+ video)

Despite ELB Partners commitment to cycle safety video of one of its trucks was recently reported to Metropolitan Police

by Simon_MacMichael   December 7, 2013  

ELB Partners YouTube still (YouTube user Evo Lucas)

With the issue of the safety of cyclists around lorries in the spotlight in recent weeks, a haulage industry magazine has spoken to the owner and a senior manager of a Wimbledon-based haulier, one of whose drivers was involved in a crash that claimed a cyclist’s life. Despite the company's commitment to cycle safety footage of one of its drivers passing close to cyclists and undertaking a car was reported recently to the Metropolitan Police.

The article, in Commercial Motor magazine, focuses on the death of 22-year old cyclist Eleanor Carey, known as Ellie, originally from Guernsey and who had moved to London to study an art foundation course.

She was killed at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street, Bermondsey, in December 2011 when she was hit by a left-turning lorry belonging to ELB Partners.

It talks about the effect of the fatality on the driver involved and the staff at the firm, which outlines the safety features it has fitted to its lorries since then, and also outlines what the business saw as biased reporting in the media and commentary on social media.

The company points out that its drivers are all required to undergo Transport for London’s safe urban driving course.

But a video uploaded to YouTube less than two months ago shows one of its vehicles being driven dangerously close to cyclists as it passes them, illegally entering a bus lane then undertaking a car.

Carlton Reid, writing on BikeBiz, reports that Chris Druce, deputy news editor at Road Transport Media which publishes Commercial Motor and Motor Transport magazines said on Twitter: "I'll send this [the video] on to the firm. They will genuinely be interested in seeing it."

But Evo Lucas, the cyclist who posted the video to YouTube, told Druce that the firm had already had it drawn to their attention by the Metropolitan Police.

In the Commercial Motor article, the ELB Partners’ managing director, Peter Eason, recalls hearing about the fatal incident, which happened on the morning of Friday 2 December 2011 and involved one of the company’s trucks being driven by David Johnson, aged 31 at the time.

“Johnson was in a terrible state,” Eason recalled. “He was in tears and screaming, ‘I’ve just killed a girl’.

‘He didn’t actually know he’d done it when he had the accident. He thought he’d clipped the curb [sic] and pulled a wheel arch off.

“So he pulled over to inspect the vehicle and some chap came running up to him and said ‘you’ve just run over a cyclist.’”

By the time the coroner’s inquest into Ellie’s death took place in May this year, the driver had died from stomach cancer.

ELB Partners transport manager Mark Norman told Commercial Motor that following the fatal crash, the company had paid for Johnson to undergo counselling, but he left it at the end of February.

Two months later, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, dying six months later, and Norman said: “Clearly the stress he was going through played a massive part in this.”

Eason took exception with what he saw were ill-informed comments on social media at the time, saying: “You can’t stop it, but you just don’t need people painting an even blacker image of haulage than already exists.”

He wrote to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, saying, “enough is enough,” adding, “the media was relentless. ELB Partners were written about in newspapers and on social websites. These reports were totally misleading, and this is often the trend.”

The mayor replied that he too was concerned about the “damaging nature of media coverage both in terms of the impact this can have on those involved and in discouraging people from cycling.”

Eason told Commercial Motor that in the aftermath of Ellie’s death, he considered walking away from the business.

“I was absolutely distraught,” he said. ‘She was 22, the same age as my daughters. It’s your worst nightmare. I can’t explain it.”

But he added: “I had 70 mortgages to pay and a responsibility to my staff – 70 mortgages to look after.”

Following the inquest, which established the cause of Ellie’s death as a road traffic collision – there is a comprehensive report on the London Cycling Campaign’s website – Eason promised Ellie’s father he would do all he could to improve the safety of his lorries when it came to cyclists.

According to ELB Partners, safety measures introduced by the firm to its 30 HGVs include CCTV, side bars, warning stickers and top-specification blind spot mirrors, while audible warnings stating “caution truck turning left” are also being rolled out across the fleet.

“None of this is mandatory,” said Eason, but I believe cameras should be.”

He also told the magazine: “I’m not against cyclists, I am a cyclist myself as well as a motorcyclist and we have to learn to live together. However, training would be top of my list for cyclists.”

But he insisted some riders put themselves in danger, saying: “I can’t believe the risks cyclists take.

“I was pulling away at a junction at the bottom of Park Lane the other day and a cyclist has come up the side of me, gone straight through the red light and he’s grabbed hold of the curtain of the lorry that was already going around.

“So he’s being pulled around by the curtain next to the wheels of the truck. It’s just crazy.”

He urged that cyclists be required to undertake training, and said he didn’t think a ban on lorries being driven in London at rush hour would work.

“Some groups are calling for lorries to be banned in London at certain hours,” he explained.

“I know that’s what they do in Paris. It won’t work here as the delivery points will not remain open overnight. We found that during the Olympics.

“We tried to switch some of our day deliveries to night delivers [sic] and no one wanted to know.

“Some of the ideas being bandied about are absolute lunacy,” he added. “We need a clear direction of how to move forward, because the incident could have happened to any one of us.”

Since Ellie, who had undertaken voluntary charitable work overseas, died a Guernsey-based foundation has been set up in her name, and earlier this year delivered its first consignment of refurbished bikes to Africa.

Besides the article on her death, the current issue of Commercial Motor also covers the Mayor of London’s Safer Lorry Charge, how Asda is training its drivers to share the road safely with cyclists, as well as shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh’s recently announced HGV Safety Charter.

An editorial on that topic is headed “Vote Labour and pay over £2k,” a reference to the estimated cost per lorry to fit the safety equipment the Labour Party wants to see on HGVs.

The magazine's website also has a 'Trucking Britain' poll, with the main focus on cyclists.

Questions include:

Do you feel the national and local media is biased against trucks in its reporting of accidents involving trucks and cyclists?

Do you feel the government is right to promote cycling without appropriate safeguards in place? For example compulsory training for cyclists, physical segregation of cyclists from other road users.

Do you send your drivers on vulnerable road user awareness training?

Which of the following methods should be used to reduce risks for cyclists on roads?

- Physical segregation of cyclists from other road users

- More training for cyclists on large vehicle blind spots More training for drivers

- Proper enforcement (including fines) of cyclists ignoring the rules of the road

- Mandatory fitment of safety equipment to vehicles

- Voluntary fitment of safety equipment to vehicles Redesign junctions to be safer

- Ban cyclists from the rush hour period

- Ban trucks from the rush hour period

- Lift bans to allow trucks to deliver before and after the rush hour period

- Other

- No methods required to reduce risks for cyclists on roads

 

20 user comments

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All economic arguments against measures are void if you hear the story of the grieve stricken driver who accidentally killed a cyclist. (Of which we can't know if it was by careless driving by either of the two) These story's are avoidable with proper camera's and mirror's.

That said last holiday in italy we had 2 similar (but far more dangerous) cases as the show video. the argument that cyclists take risks is void: it happens (a lot and that's wrong too) but it's the lorry's and hgv's that are the potential murder weapons and as such they carry a the bigger responsibility of driving safely and predictable because if they drive unpredictable there's nowhere to go as a cyclist then in the gutter or under the vehicle.

posted by KnightBiker [39 posts]
7th December 2013 - 22:00

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The driver of the lorry in the video should simply not be on our roads.

posted by jacknorell [169 posts]
7th December 2013 - 22:13

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Are the drivers paid incentives or (more dangerously) managed against targets that would encourage risk taking?

posted by IanW1968 [98 posts]
7th December 2013 - 22:14

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IanW1968 wrote:
Are the drivers paid incentives or (more dangerously) managed against targets that would encourage risk taking?
In my experience, what normally happens is an experienced driver, doing a regular run, has more deliveries added to that run if he consistently gets back to the yard early. Transport planners add more destinations to the run, to increase productivity. Then, either because of an unexpected delay, or because a different driver is doing that run (and unfamiliar with that run), time pressures cause the driver to take chances. This is extremely common with "multi-drop" operations, simply because margins are tight, customer expectations are tight, and competition is fierce. Speeding is far rarer amongst artic drivers, but the problem still exists.

In my opinion, and contrary to what many people assume, the smaller the truck the greater the risks.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [420 posts]
7th December 2013 - 23:21

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The comments in that article are shocking from the MD.

posted by northstar [937 posts]
7th December 2013 - 23:24

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I would very much agree with Neil on this one. I have found that artics in both rural and urban scenarios to be pretty much courteous towards cyclists. They make use of lane two and will make full use of the oncoming lane on single carriageways when passing. On the other hand I feel more uncomfortable with the drivers of rigid vehicles. I find that these are the ones who pass uncomfortably close and will roll right up to my wheel when I'm waiting at lights placing me in their blind spot. My brother who does logistics is more prone to checking his drivers tachos when they roll into the yard early as he knows the region like the back of his hand and every possible shortcut.

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posted by giff77 [963 posts]
8th December 2013 - 0:06

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This is terrible. We should all send a collective guilt bouquet of flowers to the poor lorry drivers and their manager. They sound lovely.

posted by Ush [360 posts]
8th December 2013 - 7:24

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If the MD's of these haulage companies are held personally responsible and face jail time for the crashes and deaths caused by their drivers, the drivers will see time restraints and pressures to deliver more and faster change for the better. Knowing big business owners, they value their life and their freedom more than they value the rest of the population.
In the end it's always down to money, how much is a life worth and is one life worth more than another.

posted by Mart [86 posts]
8th December 2013 - 9:53

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Rigid lorries one worse than artic's but I've had some close ones with Polish artic's these guy should not be on UK roads. At Wits End

Delivery vans are on occasion a nightmare due to agressive overtaking and tailgating Angry

But to be fair it's a minority who cause the problems the vast majority are no problem at all. I've seen some truly mental cyclists who really are "asking for it" so you cannot just blame the drivers everytime. Because we, the cyclists are most at risk, we must look after ourselves by riding defensively and sensibly . . . its not always a race!

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [149 posts]
8th December 2013 - 9:59

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Mart wrote:
If the MD's of these haulage companies are held personally responsible and face jail time for the crashes and deaths caused by their drivers, the drivers will see time restraints and pressures to deliver more and faster change for the better. Knowing big business owners, they value their life and their freedom more than they value the rest of the population.
In the end it's always down to money, how much is a life worth and is one life worth more than another.

Not being a lawyer, I really don't know how far one could go with this before it would become unjust in the other direction (or against the spirit of our legal system), but it certainly seems like the law could be greatly tightened up here.

There _has_ to be some burden on the employers to ensure, for example, that the drivers they employ don't have an existing long record of road-traffic offenses, and, as you say, there needs to be an examination of how far employment terms and financial incentives contribute to a culture of impatient and bad driving.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [505 posts]
8th December 2013 - 10:30

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Quote:
“I had 70 mortgages to pay and a responsibility to my staff – 70 mortgages to look after.”

Rubbish he's only responsible to the shareholders, anything else is his choice

Quote:
“I’m not against cyclists, I am a cyclist myself.....

This just sounds like "I'm not a racist but...." prior to an individual stating a racist position.

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posted by Hamster [66 posts]
8th December 2013 - 10:42

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banzicyclist2 wrote:

But to be fair it's a minority who cause the problems the vast majority are no problem at all. I've seen some truly mental cyclists who really are "asking for it" so you cannot just blame the drivers everytime. Because we, the cyclists are most at risk, we must look after ourselves by riding defensively and sensibly . . . its not always a race!

Whilst I largely agree, I feel people shouldn't HAVE to ride in any particular manner just to avoid being killed. I'm getting sick of having to take primary position just to stay alive - every time I have to it's because the road infrastructure is anti-cyclist. Should I expect kids and old people to do similar? Fix this, and more people will ride and fewer will be killed.

posted by teaboy [123 posts]
8th December 2013 - 10:48

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Artics are driven by Class E - a tougher regime than Class C and with retail/logistics work doing regular hours, clean conditions, good rates. That leaves a hierarchy and a pool of drivers for agency/spot work and in any pool there is a range of quality. There are also good regular jobs for Class C so the sporadic work, typical for construction projects, potentially draws on what is left over. Perhaps it isn't so surprising that the worst driving is reported as coming from construction industry vehicles.

There is also interesting feedback from the people who should be listened to - the drivers - about the solutions being 'invented' for them. It can take 5 seconds to do a scan of every mirror currently specified for an HGV, time in which a person can 'disappear' after passing through the viewed areas. Drivers are also beginning to voice concern at the extent of distraction created by having so many demands for attention other than driving the truck forwards.

You might notice that refuse trucks have low driving positions - you can look in the window and actually see the driver - full torso, and they can look back at you - no mirrors , just a full view direct vision. So why (for most councils - but not Glasgow my local one) do they pay 15-20% more for the truck with the special low cab? Not for cyclist safety, but to avoid the injury claims from the crews who slip and fall climbing up the steps into a high cab.

Now when asked about their experience of driver injury on tipper trucks, the indication comes back that drivers, slip & fall climbing up into the high cabs, as one of the maion caused of driver injury. So it would seem that delivery of an employer's duty of care both to employees, and to the public (Section 3 offences), could be achieved through spending a bit more on the truck to have a low position cab. So what is stopping this move? (aside from most of the main truck suppliers not at present building vehicles like this - and making the excuse that there is not the demand for them)

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [433 posts]
8th December 2013 - 12:56

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@ A V Lowe - lower cabs may be fine on refuse vehicles but, as an artic driver, the higher the cab the better, as far as I'm concerned.

If I can see over the tops of cars that swerve into my braking zone, I have more chance of stopping.
If some chav in a Corsa overcooks it and slams into my cab, I get to stay alive.
With COPD affecting many lorry drivers, and rapidly becoming the third biggest killer in the UK, I don't want a face full of diesel particulates thank you very much.
With hijacking and robberies from truckers becoming ever more common, the extra height gives me the edge over an assailant.
And finally, and cyclists should hear what I'm saying, the higher the cab the less mirror dazzle I get from roadies using "off road" lights with circular beam patterns.

But apart from anything, being high up means that I can not only see the first cyclist squeezing up the inside, but all the others doing it too, so I have a much clearer situational awareness of all, sometimes numerous people around my lorry, and my view extends (crucially) to the back wheels of my trailer.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [420 posts]
8th December 2013 - 16:12

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A young girl was brutally killed by a HGV. The aftermath of the accident appears to have been, possibly, a contributory factor in the death of the driver. But the real person we should feel sorry for is Peter Eason?

posted by johnnytoobad [5 posts]
8th December 2013 - 19:49

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Two very sad stories of loss wrapped up here - belated condolences to the families and friends of both the student and the driver.

Looking at the treatment of this story in the haulage magazine, I'm actually very pleased to see the range of measures they've asked readers to comment on - in particular, the physical segregation of cyclists from more dangerous vehicles. This is what happened in the Netherlands and is viewed from here as a upotian solution. If it's just cyclists calling for it, it's never going to happen here. But if important sectors of industry begin telling the government this is what they want, there's a chance they'll be heard. I'd be curious to know how strong support is for that option in the haulage industry. Being very optimistic, I can see an opportunity for starting to build a cyclist/non-cyclist consensus in support of Dutch-style infrastructure.

posted by CapriciousZephyr [21 posts]
8th December 2013 - 23:44

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Looking at the apologist comments above, no wonder no "progress" has been made.

posted by northstar [937 posts]
9th December 2013 - 11:27

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teaboy wrote:

Whilst I largely agree, I feel people shouldn't HAVE to ride in any particular manner just to avoid being killed. I'm getting sick of having to take primary position just to stay alive - every time I have to it's because the road infrastructure is anti-cyclist.

Out of interest, what's the reaction of drivers when you're in primary position? I've found that it only makes them more aggressive.

Earlier on this year, my partner and I were cycling in Central London on a road with cars parked on both sides. We had no choice but to hold traffic up, but the driver of the car behind us started sounding his horn, revving his engine and shouting obscenities at us.

When we eventually pulled over into a space between two cars, he stopped just ahead of me, and asked, 'Want a piece of that?' I didn't see what he meant by 'that', as I was looking at his registration number to try to memorise it, but am absolutely convinced that at that moment, he was brandishing either a knife, or a firearm.

We reported this to the Met, and the response to this date has been utter effing silence.

'Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling' (James E. Starrs)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [138 posts]
9th December 2013 - 12:02

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cyclingDMlondon wrote:

Out of interest, what's the reaction of drivers when you're in primary position? I've found that it only makes them more aggressive.

I personally find that I have very little trouble with drivers behind me. What can help is looking back at them as you are then acknowledging them. What I think can annoy drivers is seeing this person in front of them and ignoring them. If you look back at them the driver can at least feel you are aware of their presence.

Having said that you are always going to get the odd nutter like the one you described. However it is worth pointing that for every person like that you are probably passed by many hundreds of other drivers who don't give you any problems at all.

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
9th December 2013 - 13:31

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cyclingDMlondon wrote:
Out of interest, what's the reaction of drivers when you're in primary position? I've found that it only makes them more aggressive.

I think it depends on HOW you take that primary position.
Bimble along in the middle of the road looking as though you don't care, not acknowledging anyone behind and you're likely to cause a lot of aggro.

Glance back, indicate your intentions, be assertive, make the effort to speed up a bit (so it's obvious you're trying to minimise any hold up to them) and then pull back to the left when clear/safe and most drivers will understand what you've done and why.

Certainly with lorry drivers, I do that all the time and I've never had any problems. Usually get a friendly left/right/left on the indicators when they come past.

posted by crazy-legs [437 posts]
9th December 2013 - 15:17

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