London Cycling Campaign asks "Why was Dennis Putz allowed to kill?"

Cash sought to continue campaigning efforts as LCC raises concerns over Catriona Patel case

by Simon_MacMichael   November 25, 2010  

LCC No More Lethal Lorries

As part of its No More Lethal Lorries appeal the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) is demanding to know how a lorry driver with a string of convictions was allowed behind the wheel of a lorry. The organisation says it will continue its campaigning efforts to ensure that drivers with a string of motoring convictions such as Dennis Putz cannot get behind the wheel of an HGV and present a risk to bike riders as part of its five point HGV safety plan .

LCC is also querying why Putz’s employers, Thames Materials Ltd, which they say “failed in their responsibility to protect the public” by employing a dangerous driver with a history of convictions for driving-related offences.

It added that it “is lobbying every decision-maker in the chain, asking why Thames Materials isn't being sued for corporate manslaughter,” saying: “We've been making the case for a long time that companies have a duty to ensure their drivers are competent and capable of doing their work in a way that doesn't endanger the public.

“This was a crash waiting to happen because the regulations are too lax and they're not properly enforced.

“Our "No More Lethal Lorries" campaign will continue until every single operator takes full responsibility for keeping drivers like Putz off our streets.”

Last week, as reported on road.cc, Putz was jailed for seven years at Inner London Crown Court and banned for driving for life after being convicted of causing the death by dangerous driving of cyclist Catriona Patel close to Oval tube station.

The court heard that Putz, who had been drinking and was also using his mobile phone at the time of the fatal collision, had twice been jailed for previous driving offences.

The first of those sentences was in 1995, when he was imprisoned for six months after being convicted of reckless driving. Then, in 2003, he received another prison sentence following 16 counts of driving without a licence.

LCC points out that no company has yet been convicted of corporate manslaughter, now covered in England and Wales under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, as a result of a death on the road, and says that the culture of safety in the road transport industry lags behind that of other sectors such as air, sea and rail.

It also says that 800 people died on the country’s roads following work-related crashes during 2008.

The No More Lethal Lorries campaign is headed at LCC by former lorry driver Charlie Lloyd, and the organisation is seeking donations, which can be made here, to enable it to continue its work in this area. So far, it has raised £16,000 of its £20,000 target.

No More Lethal Lorries five point safety plan

1 Cyclist-awareness training for drivers

All city lorry drivers should be have ongoing cycle-awareness training, including on-bike experience.

2 Drivers must take more responsibility

Authorities must recognise driver responsibility for doing everything practical to reduce risks. Blaming a ‘blind spot’ should be an admission of guilt.

3 Safer design for London lorries

Lorries designed for off-road use should be taken off city streets. The best mirrors, cameras and sensors should be fitted as standard.

4 Higher standards from lorry operators

Quality-assurance schemes such as London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) should be mandatory, and the police encouraged to crack down on rogue operators.

5 More responsible procurement

Companies must only buy haulage services from reputable firms, with government taking a lead in encouraging best practice.

Plus: Better education for cyclists

Cyclists must be given the most accurate and up-to-date information on riding safely around lorries.
 

11 user comments

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How do you get insurance for someone who has been convicted of driving 16 times without a licence? Surely that person would be *completely* uninsurable?

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
25th November 2010 - 13:14

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I hope Catriona's family sue these reckless bastards!! Angry

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
25th November 2010 - 16:26

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londonplayer wrote:
How do you get insurance for someone who has been convicted of driving 16 times without a licence? Surely that person would be *completely* uninsurable?

Fair point. I used to work in insurance many years ago and had clients including haulage firms, any sniff of points on the license or a return from a ban and the underwriters wanted full details and would impose special terms on the policy.

Haulage fleet insurance is a specialised market anyway, but when you're talking about skip or tipper lorries, that's even more limited in terms of the number of insurers prepared to write the risk in the first place.

It's difficult to know exactly what went on here, and I wouldn't want to speculate on this specific case, but suffice to say I'd have been very surprised if I'd managed to secure cover for a driver with that kind of history, assuming I'd been informed of it.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [7922 posts]
25th November 2010 - 18:16

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But Simon, if the insurance company didn't know about the past convictions, that suggests either the driver or the firm failed to declare them. If it was the haulage company that didn't declare the convictions and this can be proved, then the insurtance firm could sue the haulage company for fraud surely?

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
25th November 2010 - 23:11

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Well I suppose it's more likely that Putz didn't declare them to the company and maybe they didn't push him on producing the paperwork to prove he had a valid, clean licence. It would certainly seem that Thames Materials have some awkward questions to answer.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
25th November 2010 - 23:46

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WIth a list of conviction like those why was he ever given a licence back? (Let alone an HGV licence).

The insurance story sounds fishy as I agree most insurers would not want to cover someone like Putz.
We will probably only find out if Catriona Patel's family sue Thames Materials.

posted by thereverent [296 posts]
26th November 2010 - 9:57

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…or perhaps if the insurance company take action against Thames Materials. Presumably there is an insurance claim going through and they will surely be looking at the information given to them about Putz, if that doesn't match up with what came out in court someone is going to have some explaining to do.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
26th November 2010 - 12:12

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In the case of corporate manslaughter, it would be the police and the CPS who take action

Let's pray the police push for it - can they tolerate more people like Putz on our roads?

The sad fact is that a road transport company has never been prosecuted for corporate manslaughter - maybe a case as awful as this can change that

posted by fluffy_mike [79 posts]
26th November 2010 - 18:59

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I would imagine the insurance company has more muscle to sue the firm than Ms Patel's family. Normally I wouldn't favour insurance companies cracking down in such a fashion but in this case I think the power of an insurance company could be to good effect for all. If it gets round the industry that insurance firms will kick the hell out of any firm pushing the boundaries too far then there will be a general benefit to safety. The safety record of tipper trucks isn't great. There are certain firms in the business that are run on a less than scrupulous basis.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
26th November 2010 - 23:25

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My company takes a photocopy of my licence every 6 months, if they do the same which they should they would have known about putz's previous offences. Its drivers like him that give the rest of use proffesional drivers a bad name.

Although I agree with most of the Five point safety plan these are the problems I can forsee:

1 Cyclist-awareness training for drivers

All city lorry drivers should be have ongoing cycle-awareness training, including on-bike experience.
**Who would pay for this? and what constitutesa city lorry driver (I drive in to london on the odd occasion but dont see myself as a city driver)**

2 Drivers must take more responsibility

Authorities must recognise driver responsibility for doing everything practical to reduce risks. Blaming a ‘blind spot’ should be an admission of guilt.
**Lorry design shouldnt be the fault of a driver, more training should be given to cyclists to make them aware of the blind spots of a lorry**

3 Safer design for London lorries

Lorries designed for off-road use should be taken off city streets. The best mirrors, cameras and sensors should be fitted as standard.
**This is a stupid comment, Off road vehicles wouldnt be registered so therefore wouldnt be able to go on the roads, unless they are talking about shunter vehicles used at most ports and distribution centers, they are usually restricted to 15-20mph so surely they would be more safer in town.**

4 Higher standards from lorry operators

Quality-assurance schemes such as London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) should be mandatory, and the police encouraged to crack down on rogue operators.
**This I agree with whole heartedly, the police and VOSA should be cracking down on rogue companies**

5 More responsible procurement

Companies must only buy haulage services from reputable firms, with government taking a lead in encouraging best practice.
**Again this i agree with, there are more and more companies subbing the work out to foreign companies whos drivers in some cases only need to be able to driver a tractor to drive an HGV**

Plus: Better education for cyclists

Cyclists must be given the most accurate and up-to-date information on riding safely around lorries.
**THIS WOULD SAVE THE MOST LIVES! If more cyclists understood that coming up the left side of a truck thats turning left is a dumb move the less fatalities there would be, also using cycle lanes properly would help, the ammount of times I have seen a cyclist on the main carrigeway instead of in the cycle lane is unbelievable.**

posted by DABenji [3 posts]
5th April 2011 - 23:54

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DABenji wrote:
using cycle lanes properly would help, the ammount of times I have seen a cyclist on the main carrigeway instead of in the cycle lane is unbelievable.**

A clear demonstration that cycle training for lorry drivers would help. Those cyclists are following their training and staying alive; they are not out to annoy you or, still less, riding dangerously.

posted by cyclinglawyer [9 posts]
9th November 2011 - 13:26

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