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Council says it's not liable...

A Devon man is planning to sue the county council after he became the  victim of a pothole in Exeter that had already put two other riders in hospital.

Lee Bingham, 43, was on his way to collect his son from school in October last year when he went over the handlebars after hitting the hole on Pinhoe Road.

He was knocked unconscious by the crash and woke to find himself surrounded by paramedics in an ambulance, according to Adam Walmesley of the Express and Echo.

He was treated for minor head and shoulder injuries at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and his £1,000 road bike was declared “unrepairable” by a local bike shop.

Devon County Council has refused to accept liability for the crash.

But on August 20 two other cyclists ended up in hospital after crashing in the same spot.

John Thacker, 72 was injured when he came off his road bike and in hospital met a young woman who had apparently been injured in the same location just an hour earlier.

Mr Bingham has vowed to fight for compensation payments to all three pothole victims and is prepared to take his own case to court.

“I am building-up a negligence case against the council,” he said.

“The road surface should have been impeccable in the summer. I’d like to know why nothing was done about the pothole between August and October.”

Mr Bingham took pictures and measurements of the hole, and is contacting local councillors and businesses in an effort to gather as much information as possible about the state of the road.

A council spokesman said: “We cannot comment on individual cases.”

“Devon County Council is very good at promoting cycling, But unless it repairs the roads properly, people will be put off cycling,” Mr Bingham added.

Potholes can be reported via the Fill That Hole site and its associated iPhone app.

Update: As commenter allaboutadam writes below, this hole's tally of crashes is at least four.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

34 comments

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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A council spokesman said: “We cannot comment on individual cases.” - We hope this will go away, please shut up about it.

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STATO [497 posts] 2 years ago
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Always worth reporting potholes, especially ones on your commute. If you ride pasat it every day you can afford 5min to stop and use the Fill that Hole app. Once reported the council are more likely to a) Do something, b) Be held accountable for not acting.

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cryocon [10 posts] 2 years ago
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Good luck to him. I've had an ongoing case against my council for nearly a year now from a pothole incident, was knocked out and broke collar bone. Luckily bike was ok, but clothing was ruined. Just got a letter the other day from solicitor saying they are denying responsibility as the pothole was within acceptable limits. Surely acceptable limits are no potholes at all.  14

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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cryocon wrote:

Good luck to him. I've had an ongoing case against my council for nearly a year now from a pothole incident, was knocked out and broke collar bone. Luckily bike was ok, but clothing was ruined. Just got a letter the other day from solicitor saying they are denying responsibility as the pothole was within acceptable limits. Surely acceptable limits are no potholes at all.  14

http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=2156

This is for Gloucestershire, other councils will have similar. note a defect is not actionable until it is over 40mm deep!

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jacknorell [963 posts] 2 years ago
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I wish the Fill That Hole app wasn't just for iPhones...!

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Simon_MacMichael [2450 posts] 2 years ago
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jacknorell wrote:

I wish the Fill That Hole app wasn't just for iPhones...!

Your wish will be granted. Now choose the other two carefully  3http://road.cc/content/news/104730-goodwill-gesture-dft-pledges-%C2%A330...

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bikebot [1894 posts] 2 years ago
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I suspect some councils are fighting these cases because of the amount of cash they've had squeezed out of them by ambulance chasing lawyers every time some pedestrian tripped on a paving slab.

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alexholt3 [53 posts] 2 years ago
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"Devon County Council has refused to accept liability for the crash."

Liability suggests that it was the CC's fault. Granted they are negligent; but it's not entirely their fault. Of course those involved should be given some sort of compensation for the poor road conditions that we pay for, however I don't feel that the council should be put to blame. I recently destroyed my bike and rear wheel in a collision with a pot hole - but it was my own fault; I didn't ride around it.

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allaboutadam [3 posts] 2 years ago
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Annoyingly that is the exact same pothole that knocked me off my bike. Headfirst into a lamp-post at speed. If wasn't wearing my helmet I really wouldn't be here to complain.
I smashed my wrist up pretty good and will be luck to get 50% use of it back.
They've known about that hole for a LONG time (registered for well over a year), but don't consider it dangerous. An increasing number of us would beg to differ...

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jacknorell [963 posts] 2 years ago
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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
jacknorell wrote:

I wish the Fill That Hole app wasn't just for iPhones...!

Your wish will be granted. Now choose the other two carefully  3http://road.cc/content/news/104730-goodwill-gesture-dft-pledges-%C2%A330...

Saw that, just taking bl**dy ages to get it done. If the app had been made with a framework to begin with, the porting would have been more or less automatic  2

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shearer27 [23 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd be interested to know how many councillors commute by bike or motorcycle and if they agree that our roads are in a poor condition?

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jacknorell [963 posts] 2 years ago
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alexholt3 wrote:

"Devon County Council has refused to accept liability for the crash."

Liability suggests that it was the CC's fault. Granted they are negligent; but it's not entirely their fault. Of course those involved should be given some sort of compensation for the poor road conditions that we pay for, however I don't feel that the council should be put to blame. I recently destroyed my bike and rear wheel in a collision with a pot hole - but it was my own fault; I didn't ride around it.

Whoever maintains a public road actually has a legal obligation to ensure it is safe for its intended purpose. If the hole caused hospitalisations in August and still wasn't repaired by October... the CC is likely liable for at least the later incident.

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Luminosity [76 posts] 2 years ago
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bikebot wrote:

I suspect some councils are fighting these cases because of the amount of cash they've had squeezed out of them by ambulance chasing lawyers every time some pedestrian tripped on a paving slab.

My mother tripped over a paving stone in an area of uneven paving and broke her hip resulting in a year in and out of hospital. It was very detrimental to her health and extremely painful for her. And we sued. No ambulance-chasing lawyers. This was not "squeezing out" money from councils. It was their responsibility. They didn't fix it and it has happened a couple of times to other people. Often times councils are negligent and it is their fault.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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It's a vicious cycle ('scuse the pun).

Cyclist fails to see the pothole.
Injury lawyers swing into action.
Bike shop gets excited.
Claim is paid.
Injury lawyers get paid even more.
Less money in the kitty for road repairs.
Even more potholes.
More accidents happen.

But there is a better way.

Accept the need for more caution at the moment.
Expect the unexpected.
Slow down, look ahead, consider it your civic duty to report holes you see.
If you ride fast, on an expensive bike, consider taking out personal insurance for the common good.
Each local authority claim saved allows another 300 potholes to be filled, on average.
Less injuries means hospitals can treat more sick people.
Accident claim lawyers end up doing something more useful instead.
Councils have more money to do good things.

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bikebot [1894 posts] 2 years ago
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Luminosity wrote:

My mother tripped over a paving stone in an area of uneven paving and broke her hip resulting in a year in and out of hospital. It was very detrimental to her health and extremely painful for her. And we sued. No ambulance-chasing lawyers. This was not "squeezing out" money from councils. It was their responsibility. They didn't fix it and it has happened a couple of times to other people. Often times councils are negligent and it is their fault.

No offence meant if you thought there was any, it was just an observation. I've worked in the states which of course invented the ambulance chaser. As an American friend once explained it to me, Europeans tend to have lots of health and safety laws, whereas Americans just sue.

As a system it does actually work sometimes, in that once the threat of a lawsuit is established the danger has to be managed.

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Luminosity [76 posts] 2 years ago
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bikebot wrote:

No offence meant

None taken Bikebot. I just believe that sometimes councils (and of course the government) need to "man up" and get some of the decaying infrastructure fixed rather than relying on defending their decisions not to do anything about it when people (cyclist'n'all) are getting hurt - sometimes killed - because nothing - or little - is being done.

Just back from the garage were the car needed work due to pothole damage. Ironic eh? Devon County Council. Sheesh.

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earth [287 posts] 2 years ago
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cryocon wrote:

Good luck to him. I've had an ongoing case against my council for nearly a year now from a pothole incident, was knocked out and broke collar bone. Luckily bike was ok, but clothing was ruined. Just got a letter the other day from solicitor saying they are denying responsibility as the pothole was within acceptable limits. Surely acceptable limits are no potholes at all.  14

If riding through the pothole caused you to suffer a broken collarbone then how can that be acceptable?

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earth [287 posts] 2 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

It's a vicious cycle ('scuse the pun).

Cyclist fails to see the pothole.
Injury lawyers swing into action.
Bike shop gets excited.
Claim is paid.
Injury lawyers get paid even more.
Less money in the kitty for road repairs.
Even more potholes.
More accidents happen.

But there is a better way.

Accept the need for more caution at the moment.
Expect the unexpected.
Slow down, look ahead, consider it your civic duty to report holes you see.
If you ride fast, on an expensive bike, consider taking out personal insurance for the common good.
Each local authority claim saved allows another 300 potholes to be filled, on average.
Less injuries means hospitals can treat more sick people.
Accident claim lawyers end up doing something more useful instead.
Councils have more money to do good things.

And there is a third way:

Fix the pot holes before people are injured.

People don't get injured.

Nobody has a case against the council.

Council does not get sued.

Council still has money to fix further pot holes.

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spen [127 posts] 2 years ago
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alexholt3 posted "Liability suggests that it was the CC's fault. Granted they are negligent; but it's not entirely their fault."

What do you base your claim of negligence on? In neither this story or the one on the link is there any suggestion of the depth of the hole! The linked story has a picture of Mr Bingham standing near a new looking patch in the road but there is no indication that this is the actual location of the accident. If it is, however, the fact that ht ecouncil has now fixed the hole could go against them in court.

As mrmo found the common itervention level for a pot hole is a depth of 40mm. As long as the CC's inspection and repair regime conformed to that then they will not be held liable or negligent. Inspection of the highway is always and will always be aimed at maintaining the surface in a condition considered "safe" or the majority of users. Cyclists are a minority of users and no council could possibly hope to implement a 10mm or 20mm intervention level or ever hope to have roads free of holes.

Most councils will denie liabilty as they know most people will not take the case any further. In cases such as this the cost of lawyers fees would be much greater than the damges awarded. Councils have a duty to protect the public purse, they simply cannot pay out on every claim

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djpalmer32 [80 posts] 2 years ago
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Try fixmystreet they have an Android app.

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allaboutadam [3 posts] 2 years ago
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As I hit the same pothole I can tell you for sure it was over 40mm (I had to take pictures with rulers). Seems this doesn't mean a lot in reality though.
Just sucks that multiple people get seriously hurt in exactly the same place and even though we all logged it - it was still there 5/6 months on probably catching more people out. If they'd let me fill it myself I would have. (With my one working hand  103 )

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TheCyclingRooster [29 posts] 2 years ago
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Hi to you all following this item. In the style of Ricky Tomlinson 'Acceptable limits',MY ARSE.
In the past I have reported potholes to FillThatPotHole,FixMyStreet,Lancashire County Council,West Lancashire Borough Council,The Ormskirk Champion and my local Labour MP.
Many of the potholes and severely sunken grids and manhole covers that I reported along with images that accompanied the report were/are on very frequently used rural lanes used by cyclist to avoid the main routes and the early morning Brain Dead Drivers.
A great many of them are still as I reported them but with additional depth/width/length and are getting larger by the day as they slowly but surely become more and more unavoidable by vehicles.
I have been 'Close Called, many times because of vehicles swerving to avoid potholes and nearly taking me out of the cycling population.
In all of my 57yrs of cycling and 50yrs as both a driver and motorcyclist I have never seen our roads in such an deplorable state of disrepair and neglect.
White lining that is difficult to see in the dark; never mind in misty/foggy or conditions of heavy rain.

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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earth wrote:

And there is a third way:

Fix the pot holes before people are injured.

People don't get injured.

Nobody has a case against the council.

Council does not get sued.

Council still has money to fix further pot holes.

according to Glos county council, working flat out it would take 10 years to sort the current list of problems!

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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This whole compensation thing really pees me off. Very few people realise that this whole compensation culture is having a seriously detrimental affect on our ability to compete in a global market place, an ability on which we so utterly depend.

If it's clinical negligence then fair enough, but potholes? Come on guys. The clues are there. The country's on the verge of bankruptcy, we know the roads are in a poor state, we know that in town the potholes tend to be where vehicles brake and accelerate, where heavy vehicles turn, and where contractors dig up roads. We know that darkness reduces visibility, we know that sitting on someone's wheel may prevent us from seeing the road ahead, we know that speed increases our stopping times, and we know that looking at our Garmins or checking our reflections in plate glass windows may not be such a good idea if we come a cropper.

Ok, that's a bit of a moan, but I have a lot of sympathy with councils who are being starved of central government cash; who are doing their best to keep essential services going, and are being sued by cyclists who would almost certainly have avoided potholes if only they accepted the reality of the dire financial situation this country is in, and just rode more with a little more circumspection.

Unless the tarmac suddenly gives way beneath your wheel, riding into a pothole is simply a result of one or more errors of judgement given the state of the road ahead.

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jova54 [651 posts] 2 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

This whole compensation thing really pees me off. Very few people realise that this whole compensation culture is having a seriously detrimental affect on our ability to compete in a global market place, an ability on which we so utterly depend.

If it's clinical negligence then fair enough, but potholes? Come on guys. The clues are there. The country's on the verge of bankruptcy, we know the roads are in a poor state, we know that in town the potholes tend to be where vehicles brake and accelerate, where heavy vehicles turn, and where contractors dig up roads. We know that darkness reduces visibility, we know that sitting on someone's wheel may prevent us from seeing the road ahead, we know that speed increases our stopping times, and we know that looking at our Garmins or checking our reflections in plate glass windows may not be such a good idea if we come a cropper.

Ok, that's a bit of a moan, but I have a lot of sympathy with councils who are being starved of central government cash; who are doing their best to keep essential services going, and are being sued by cyclists who would almost certainly have avoided potholes if only they accepted the reality of the dire financial situation this country is in, and just rode more with a little more circumspection.

Unless the tarmac suddenly gives way beneath your wheel, riding into a pothole is simply a result of one or more errors of judgement given the state of the road ahead.

You have written some challenging items in the past Neil753, but this is biggest loads of bollocks I have ever seen on this site.

I don't have a Garmin, and neither are any of the roads I regularly use lined with plate glass windows, but all of them have pot holes; most of which are on the line that I would normally take and therefore try to avoid. But if they are full of crap and water as many are the chances of avoiding them are severely reduced.

To suggest that cyclists should stop claiming compensation for damage occasioned by potholes when drivers still can and do shows you in your true colours.

You say you are a cyclist, you're not; you are an HGV driver who sometimes rides a bike.

If the councils spent the money they waste on fighting compensation claims on fixing the potholes that cause them then they would be meeting their 'Duty of Care' towards the public that they bang-on about so much.

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matthewn5 [760 posts] 2 years ago
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I was under the impression that users have to take the highway as they find it. There was a high court judgement a few years ago that decided as much. It was intended to stifle the growing incidence of litigation.

Can't remember the name but it was a case of someone who drove off the road at a corner that used to have 'slow' written on the road, but it hadn't been replaced.

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paulfg42 [387 posts] 2 years ago
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"Very few people realise that this whole compensation culture is having a seriously detrimental affect on our ability to compete in a global market place"

Maybe very few people realise it because it's a load of Daily Mail inspired nonsense?

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stefv [211 posts] 2 years ago
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cryocon wrote:

. Luckily bike was ok

he he, true cyclist  1

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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@ Jova54

If I may, I'll respond to some of what you've said.

"they (potholes) are full of crap and water as many are the chances of avoiding them are severely reduced"

Resist the temptation to take a chance. If there's a murky puddle of water ahead, assume it's deep and just ride round it.

"To suggest that cyclists should stop claiming compensation for damage occasioned by potholes when drivers still can and do shows you in your true colours."

Er, I didn't say that just cyclists should stop claiming. Everyone should stop claiming, including drivers.

"You say you are a cyclist, you're not; you are an HGV driver who sometimes rides a bike."

That's a bit tribal isn't it? I thought we were all trying to move away from being labelled as cyclists, drivers, or indeed lorry drivers. Surely we're people who get just around in various ways? FWIW, I've done around 200,000 miles on a bike, including road, time trial, track, cross, hill climb, touring, off road, club runs, Audax, mass participation charity rides, have been an event organiser, and I'm a community cycling advocate. I also choose not to have a car, so despite my age I actually still cycle quite a lot, certainly at least once or twice a day and my longest daily ride recently has been 150 miles. I may be slower these days than you fast boys, but I'm still getting the miles in. Claiming I'm not a cyclist because I drive an hgv for a living is an accusation I've not come across before. I showed your comment to the guys at work and they found it "interesting"  39

"If the councils spent the money they waste on fighting compensation claims on fixing the potholes that cause them then they would be meeting their 'Duty of Care' towards the public that they bang-on about so much."

The reason councils fight cases is to reduce the overall number of claims. Indeed, it is their "duty of care" to do so, since each claim reduces funding elsewhere for essential services like schools, libraries and care for the elderly. If organisations didn't fight then the floodgates would open, so it's a sensible fiscal position to take over the long term, particularly because it suppresses the number of false claims submitted.

Jova, since you bring up the "hgv" thing, let me tell you something about what I see from the cab. I see huge numbers of cylists and motorists driving so close to other vehicles that each pothole they hit comes as a total surprise. I also see cyclists and drivers travelling to fast to be able to avoid potholes. I also see cyclists and drivers regularly place themselves alongside each other, such that their opportunity to avoid potholes is very much reduced. And finally, and I don't mean to criticise cyclists per se, but I see large numbers of riders riding so close together that they cannot possibly see the road in front of them, relying solely on time honoured hand signals from riders in front to keep them from running into potholes, a procedure that may be ok in a race where the route has been freshly tarmacced, but is ultimately doomed to failure on our crumbling roads here in the UK.

I'm a realist; I know that telling cyclists (and drivers) to slow down, be more circumspect, and spread out a little so they have time to see potholes coming towards them, is not going to be popular on a forum like this, but my view is shared not just by safety campaigners such as myself, but by virtually everyone in a position able to affect policy.

Slow down, give yourself more space and, if you do find your chances of avoiding potholes (as you say) "severely reduced", then slow down some more.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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There is one person talking crap here and it isn't him, do you want a hint Mr HGV "driver"? ; )

*waits for witty "yeah it's you comment"* unless you aren't that witty.

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