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Company accidentally forwarded email conversation to victim discussing whether to answer questions on safety after cyclist was left too traumatised to cycle for five months

A cyclist who was the victim of a terrifying road rage ordeal by a FedEx driver has accused the company of dismissing his concerns because his blog was not deemed high profile enough, after an internal email conversation discussing the incident - which happened days after a FedEx driver was filmed driving apparently asleep at the wheel - was accidentally forwarded to him by a FedEx Managing Director.

James Avery, who cycles regularly in London, says he was too scared to get back on his bike for five months after a driver in a FedEx branded van drove aggressively at him near Kings Cross station last August, an act he described as “terrorism”.

Avery chased FedEx for safety procedure and driver training information for more than three months before the company claimed it had investigated the issue, without answering specific questions. Road.cc also contacted FedEx about the incident at the time, to which they provided a general statement.

Cycling UK says the company's failure to respond to Avery's questions, in effect dismissing his concerns and hoping they will go away, disregards corporate responsibility. They say the company should, in such circumstances, examine its driver training systems and the time pressures placed on drivers. FedEx has not responded to further requests from road.cc for safety procedure information.

VIDEO: Cyclist's 'terrorist attack' from intimidating FedEx driver

"Specialist website, not high engagement / very few comments"

FedEx provided a statement to road.cc on 24 August simply saying they hold their drivers to "stringent standards" and were investigating the matter, after which Avery continued to chase the company with ten questions* on safety procedures, from driver targets to training. When FedEx responded to Avery on 20 January, after five months of chasing, its Customer Services Managing Director, William Martin, claims “the matter was fully investigated and the appropriate action taken”.

However, Martin had accidentally forwarded an internal email conversation to Avery dating back to August, in which company staff decide not to answer road.cc’s and Avery’s questions on driver training because one or both were deemed “specialist website/not high engagement/very few comments”.

The conversation began with an email from road.cc journalist, Laura Laker, to FedEx on August 21 2016, following the incident, asking what training its drivers are given regarding vulnerable road users, and what action the company planned to take following the ordeal, which left Avery in shock and too afraid to cycle on the roads.

At the time Avery told road.cc: “It is very clear that this thug wanted nothing other than to intimidate. His actions were highly intimidatory, and they have achieved the desired effect of making me too scared to go out.”

FedEx Vice President describes two driver safety lapses within a week "social media incidents"

The accidentally forwarded emails reveal what was discussed between the road.cc email and FedEx's most recent response to Avery in January – and how the company decided not to disclose its safety procedures based on readership of those requesting the information, even though this appeared to have been the second major safety lapse that week, following what they describe as a “sleeping driver issue”. 

Just days earlier a FedEx driver, who had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel was caught on camera driving on the wrong side of the road, narrowly missing an oncoming car.

On 22 August at 15.27 Senior Communications Specialist at FedEx Express Europe, Heather Wilson, forwarded an email query to Lynette Hay from road.cc, in which she described Laura Laker [the author of this article] as “a London blogger with a special interest in cycling.”

She wrote: “Laker is requesting comment on a video shared with her by a fellow cyclist claiming that a FX truck was aggressively tailgating him. The cyclist is threatening to go to the police with the video Wednesday. She has specifically asked the following question:

'Can you confirm what training drivers receive re driving [near] vulnerable road users and what Action you will take?'"

On 22 August at 15.56, in discussing a potential response Hay, whose email signature describes her as an External Communications Expert for FedEx Express Europe, mentions another incident which happened within the same week. She says: “We can draft a statement similar to the ‘sleeping driver’ issue highlight safety but to address her question about training our drivers  can you please let us know what training drivers / contractors receive so we can include some bullet points along with the statement.”

At 16.38 that day, Senior Vice President Northern Europe Operations (FedEx Express & TNT), Trevor Hoyle, wrote: “Given we have had two social media incidents within a week it may be appropriate to re-issue expectations for conduct in public whether it be driving standards, procedural compliance etc.”

The company’s Lead Legal Counsel, Stephen Adnam, adds the incident was “not helpful off the back of the other recent issue”. He says: “Agree we may need to consider something in the light of the two issues”.

Emails reveal FedEx communications expert also requested driver training information

Hay chased information on driver training again. In an email sent at 09.45 on the morning of August 24 she wrote: “conscious we have to get back to the reporter by EOP today and I haven’t received info about driver training – can someone send this info to me so we can draft something.”

However, no training information was provided to road.cc by FedEx, nor were specifics regarding training mentioned in the email conversation. In a reply to road.cc later that day, a short statement simply referred in the abstract to “stringent standards”.

In a statement, FedEx said: “Safety is a core value and something that we take extremely seriously at FedEx.

"We hold our drivers to stringent standards and they are required to abide by all road traffic laws and conduct themselves in an appropriate and courteous manner at all times. We are investigating this incident and are taking the appropriate action."  

On the morning of 5 September Hay referred to a road.cc article, written by Sarah Barth, in which she says she feels "letting said driver go" was all the action required, despite this apparently being the second incident within a week.

Hay said: “Please find a piece below regarding the tailgating incident on road.cc.  Given the thorough statement provided, I feel no additional action required. Necessary action has been taken in the form of letting said driver go.”

Later that day Customer Relations Manager, Matt Griffiths, referred to an email sent on 3 September by Avery chasing a response on driver training and safety monitoring within the company.

Griffiths asked Hay if they should “engage any further with this individual or leave it at this point?”

FedEx decide not to engage further with Avery 

Hay replied: “After reading his article (below) my recommendation remains the same and not to engage with him any further.  This looks like a specialist website, not high engagement / very few comments.

“Do you all agree?"

Avery continued to chase the matter with the company’s customer experience Managing Director, William Martin, for another four months.

On 14 January Martin wrote: “I will check with Matthew to find out who followed up on the incident, to ensure the appropriate action has been taken.”

A final response was sent from Martin on 20 January, when he wrote: “Dear Mr Avery, further to my email of the 14th January I have reviewed the matter with the team. The matter was fully investigated and the appropriate action was taken. Safety is integral to everything we do at FedEx. We understand and take seriously our responsibility to operate in the safest possible manner.”

There is no mention of safety procedure investigations in the email conversation seen by road.cc.

In January Avery told road.cc he feels FedEx “dismissed answering my own questions as I’m 'not very important – not high engagement'.

“They also revealed that the driver was sacked, but they still refuse to answer any of the core questions I’ve asked them about driver safety," he said.

“The incident caused me very serious distress, and I have only started cycling again (very hesitantly) on UK roads this week.”

Avery reported the incident to police at the time, and the driver was sent on a driver awareness course by the Metropolitan Police.

Cycling UK: FedEx response "disregards corporate responsibility"

As the law currently stands, anyone with a driving licence can operate a commercial vehicle of this size, and no additional training is required by law.  However, campaigners say the rapid increase in commercial traffic, thanks in part to the growth in online shopping, means more stringent safety standards should be expected from companies operating commercial vehicles, and FedEx's failure to respond to safety questions is to "disregard corporate responsibility".

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns officer said: “There has been a huge increase in the number of vans on our roads in recent years. These vehicles are not subject to the operator licence regulations that apply for instance to HGVs and can be driven by someone who has just passed their driving test. Cycling UK believes employers who operate and manage commercial van fleets should adopt a similar approach to work related road safety as we now expect from responsible HGV operators.

“In this particular case, we would expect FedEx to be examining their own systems for driver training, the time pressures their drivers are placed under and also they respond to road safety concerns raised with them by vulnerable road users. Just dismissing such concerns and hoping they will simply ‘go away’ is to disregard corporate responsibility, not to mention poor customer service.”

Avery's questions to FedEx  

FedEx has still not responded to the following questions from Avery, nor has the company responded to a further request from road.cc for comment on the emails and its driver safety procedures:

Was there a dash cam installed and running? If so, could I please see the footage.

Is there an interior camera in the cab to monitor driver alertness?

Does the van use a “black box” – ie telematics, to monitor driver behaviour?

How does your recruitment process screen out potentially dangerous drivers?

What sort of ongoing training is provided for your drivers, and is this mandatory, or only post-incident?

Was this driver a direct employee of Fedex, an employee of a subcontractor, or a freelance operative?

Are Fedex signed up to safety reporting initiatives, such as FORS or CIRAS?

What expectations are placed on your drivers in terms of the number of deliveries or pickups they are expected to make each day?

Are drivers either penalised or rewarded for late or on-time delivery performance?

What specific training is given, in a city such as London, towards driver awareness of more vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians?

FedEx's corporate brochure contains a section on road safety, which says: "We use our expertise and resources to protect communities by supporting pedestrian and road safety initiatives. For example, we help Safe Kids Worldwide bring pedestrian safety programs to over 200 U.S. cities and 300-plus cities in nine countries worldwide.”

This article was updated on 13 February to include that the driver was sent on a driver awareness course by the Metropolitan Police.

24 comments

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CXR94Di2 [1504 posts] 2 months ago
10 likes

Oops FedEx caught out. When the driver was sacked, did they tell him what the reason for being dismissed? Hopefully they did and he now knows it could cost him his job at the very least in the future to harass and threaten a vulnerable road user.

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Bob F [29 posts] 2 months ago
8 likes
CXR94Di2 wrote:

Oops FedEx caught out. When the driver was sacked, did they tell him what the reason for being dismissed? Hopefully they did and he now knows it could cost him his job at the very least in the future to harass and threaten a vulnerable road user.

Drivers actions inexcusable. However, did FedEx provide any guidance or training to him prior to, or after the incident? There appears to be a lack of duty of care/ responsibility which is at odds with their Corporate public safety 'commitment'. 

Asleep at the wheel!

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Yorkshire wallet [894 posts] 2 months ago
4 likes

Too scared to ride his bike but not bothered about faffing about with his camera whilst riding and then potentially having a tear-up having chased after the driver. 

The driver is clearly a cock and got what was coming to him but I don't believe for a minute that Avery didn't ride his bike for 5 months. 

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unconstituted [2270 posts] 2 months ago
6 likes

Caught red handed being slime.

 

Love it laugh

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racyrich [277 posts] 2 months ago
6 likes

So did the rider report this to the police? If not, why not? Yes, I know the police are as dismissive as FedEx have been. Next step is then newspaper.

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HalfWheeler [573 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

At least the driver got the sack. FedEx still being cowardly though.

Here's their twitter page;

https://twitter.com/FedExEurope?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7...

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handlebarcam [892 posts] 2 months ago
5 likes

The impression I got from this description of their email conversation is that at least some of FedEx's vast legions of PR, marketing and communications employees around the world genuinely did try to get answers on what safety training the driver in this case might have had. It is just that what I am guessing are the one or two staff members actually employed in the provision of such training were probably too busy to answer them. If true, this would run contrary to the message they are promoting that "Safety is a core value" for FedEx. But, once again, this is just my interpretation, not an assertion, if their doubtless even larger legal department is reading this.

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Ush [873 posts] 2 months ago
11 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Too scared to ride his bike but not bothered about faffing about with his camera whilst riding and then potentially having a tear-up having chased after the driver.

Never had an adrenaline rush in a dangerous situation when someone was endangering you, never mind attacking you?

Yorkshire wallet wrote:

The driver is clearly a cock and got what was coming to him 

It's now not about the driver.  The highly-paid professionals in the FedEx  "Manipulating the media" department have just done the corporate equivalent of accidentally sharing a dick-pic with Avery.

Tangentially, to your point: did the driver get what was coming to him?  What do you think that means?  That he's now working delivering flowers for a funeral company somewhere?  I hope for your sake he's not re-employed somewhere where you ride.

Yorkshire wallet wrote:

but I don't believe for a minute that Avery didn't ride his bike for 5 months. 

Yeah, I think you're a little too cynical for your own good.

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Daveyraveygravey [489 posts] 2 months ago
4 likes

This is just another example of how marginalised and "insignificant" we as cyclists are seen by the rest of the world. That a massive, recognisable company whose business relies on road use see cyclists as unimportant and fringe that they don't have to respond when their training and safety is called into question is shameful

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rggfddne [220 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Ush wrote:

Tangentially, to your point: did the driver get what was coming to him?  What do you think that means? That he's now working delivering flowers for a funeral company somewhere? hope for your sake he's not re-employed somewhere where you ride.

Yes. What do you want, FedEx to hire Agent 47?

It is their responsibility not to knowingly enable bad behaviour. Not to go around fixing the world's ills. (That's closer to the government's remit). They may decide if it is up to them to add training, but that's very much their decision rather than an obligation.

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WillRod [160 posts] 2 months ago
5 likes

I'm not saying it's legal, but a brick through the vans window is probably the only thing that would get their attention.

 

I have enough trouble with delivery drivers when driving my car, let alone when cycling. One-hour deliveries and crazy amounts of online shopping don't help either, if you buy from a local shop they will get a few vans/lorries a week but if you buy online you end up with hundreds of un-evolved chimps in vans paying more attention to their phone or satnav than the actual road ahead.

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ChairRDRF [350 posts] 2 months ago
6 likes

Good journalism Laura. Exactly what we need.

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rnick [120 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

You can write all you want "demanding" answers to your questions..but why waste your time, the company have no obligation to respond, what were you hoping for, some FedEx gift vouchers? Hand the file to the police, let them investigate and get over it.  I  bet the van was full of chawiggribtredmer deliveries.

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OldRidgeback [2730 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

Wow, great article and it looks like FedEx has really tried to brush this aside. Given the greater interest by police across the UK on close passes and aggressive driving, it's likely that future incidences of this nature are less likely to get swept under the carpet.

 

I know soemeone who was a delivery driver for a while and I was told that drivers were expected to exceed the speed limit, although this was an unwritten rule obviously.

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A V Lowe [603 posts] 2 months ago
7 likes

The van is I suspect operated by a sub contractor, as the only liveried part is the front bonnet - rest of the van is white, unliveried. These sub contractors are paid  per drop rates, driven down by the competition for business, whuch saw the collapse last year of CityLink, and the less than satisfactory behaviour encouraged by the no delivery-no payment and other failings in the operational structure, whilst the sub contractors especially have to earn perhaps £12K/year just to operate the vans, before they make any living wage.

This is growing road danger issue - over the past 20 years sales of 'light commercial' vehicles have risen at more than 5 times the rate of private car sales, and 2003-2013 mileage figures for this cless of vehicle have grown at more than twice the rate of private car mileage.  DVSA/Police safety checks reveal vehicles in this class being routinely overloaded and that the 3 years before the first MOT from new is seriously inadequate, given the high mileages and abuse the vehicles receive when used commercially where the imperative of profit is clearly suppressing the corporate duty of care to prevent harm from a company's  commercial activities.

One motoring journalist went under cover to drive for a major supermarket on their home delivery service, and was appalled by the standards for safe and responsible management of the drivers and vehicles, a detail compounded by the executive overseeing the service practically boasting of the money being saved by not having to hold an operators licence or employ qualified and licensed Transport Managers to maintain vehicle and driver records, and ensure both were fit to be sent out on the roads daily.

HGV's MUST have a recorded daily driver's visual check, a record of defects & repairs kept, weekly and monthly workshop checks - all recorded and at least 4 periodic  brake tests with suitable testing equipment per year, one of which will coincide with the annual MOT test.  Moves are afoot to incrase the 'First MOT' period from 3 years to 4, but for commercially used vans (and cars) there is a strong case to reduce this to an annual test - a detail that needs to be pressed on MP's, along with the need to get a version of HGV licensing rolled out for smaller vehicles being used commercially.

Returning to this company in particular their CEO Fred Smith has an interesting history in the transport field, notably in road transport including 2 fatal car crashes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_W._Smith#Forgery_indictment_and_...

You may draw your own conclusions on the corporate ethic from further reading.

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50kcommute [59 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

Ahh fed ex, blissfully unaware how many 'influencers' ride bikes and read bike blogs!

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unconstituted [2270 posts] 2 months ago
4 likes

Tip off the Graun, maybe they'll run the story. See if 'engagement' is high enough then.

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ajft [24 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
CXR94Di2 wrote:

Oops FedEx caught out. When the driver was sacked, did they tell him what the reason for being dismissed? Hopefully they did and he now knows it could cost him his job at the very least in the future to harass and threaten a vulnerable road user.

Perhaps they did tell him, perhaps they worded it like this, "We're sacking you because a cyclist complained about your driving".  Perhaps he'll now be a perfectly law abiding driver, or perhaps he'll now have a major chip on his shoulder because "some prick on a pushbike got me sacked". The company is more concerned with their image than your safety, so zero guarantees of how any of it was worded, or if he was "sacked" and then quietly re-employed on a new contract.

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Laura Laker [20 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

racyrich wrote:

So did the rider report this to the police? If not, why not? Yes, I know the police are as dismissive as FedEx have been. Next step is then newspaper.

Hi Racyrich, Avery did report the matter to the police and our understanding is the driver was sent on a safety course by the Metropolitan Police. The previous article mentions this but I'll add it to this story, too, for clarity.

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scouser_andy [12 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes
HalfWheeler wrote:

At least the driver got the sack. FedEx still being cowardly though.

Here's their twitter page;

https://twitter.com/FedExEurope?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7...

 

That Twitter account has this Tweet where the driver is parked on double red lines in a bus stop on Southwark Street according to Google Street view.

 

It seems their attitude to sharing road space with others leaves a lot to be desired - even when they're doing promotional activity!

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Bike Swanky [66 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

Is this pertinent to what happened?

Seems similar in terms of liability maybe?

I'd say Fedex probably want to take note: http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/morrisons-vicariously-liable-for-employees-attack-on-customer/

 

A caveat might be that couriers often recruit self employed drivers so vicarious liability may not be relevant.

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RMurphy195 [69 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

Fedex clearly does not understand that thier drivers are the public face of theier company - or simply don't care.  Now on my list of companies with which I will no longer do business.

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Piltdown_Man [5 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

The phrase "Specialist website, not high engagement / very few comments" is worth copying. Then, if you are on any social media, search out FedEx and paste it in and make a comment. Two people should have lost their jobs. The Rsole who chased the cyclist and the utter scum who came up with that phrase. I'd like to meet them to explain. I've left my deposit on their Facebook page.

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brooksby [2068 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

Do FedEx honestly not care how this makes them look, whether to the end user (ie. Us!), or to potential customers?