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Fatal accidents and "buzzed" riders - Thames Materials responds

"We understand your concerns" says company. But do they have blind spot mirrors? ...

Thames Materials, the firm whose driver, Dennis Putz, killed cyclist Catriona Patel while he was at the wheel of one of their trucks, drunk and talking on a mobile phone, has responded to a series of questions posed by

That’s “responded” as opposed to “answered.” We contacted them after a reader questioned the sincerity of their suggestion that they were “very sorry” after one of their trucks was involved in a second fatal accident.

The latest tragedy occurred last month and involved the death of a 51-year-old Japanese businessman who had just arrived in the UK. He was a passenger in a taxi making its way from Heathrow which was struck by a 32-ton Thames Materials tipper truck that smashed through the central reservation of the A4 in Chiswick.

Reader Toby Lovern was less than impressed by the company’s apology, claiming that he and another rider were subjected to dangerous driving by one of Thames Material’s trucks but were unable to identify it as both its registration and fleet numbers were obscured by mud. We contacted the firm and asked for a response to that issue as well as to the following questions:

• Given that your vehicles have been involved in two fatal collisions in a relatively short space of time, what are your procedures for checking the competence and fitness to drive of your employees?
• Are your drivers paid on any form of piece rate or simply by the hour?
• What efforts have you made corporately to express your condolences to the family of Catriona Patel?
• What efforts have you made corporately to express your condolences to the family of the deceased Japanese businessman?
• What procedures do you have to ensure your individual vehicles are easily identifiable by members of the public and what are your procedures for dealing with reports of poor driving?
• Do you subscribe to a "How's my driving?" 0800-number scheme? If not, why not?
• Do all of your vehicles have blind spot mirrors to allow drivers to see cyclists? If not why not?
• How many accidents and incidents which have been reported to the police have your drivers been involved in over the course of the last two years.
• What is the size and nature of your vehicle fleet and how many drivers do you employ?

Having initially spoken to an executive at the company who refused to identify himself and despite emailing the questions as requested it was only after some prompting that we eventually got the following response from “a spokesman”:

“The tragic accident in June 2009 led to the prosecution and subsequent conviction of a driver who had been employed on the basis of his qualifications, certified experience and first class references obtained from previous employers. Quite properly the courts have recently dealt with this individual – the case was finally heard shortly before the most recent accident, which occurred approximately 18 months after the first incident.

"These were completely unrelated – and the police investigation is continuing into the circumstances surrounding last week’s accident. It would therefore be wrong to discuss any details relating to this matter while those investigations continue. We are cooperating fully with the Metropolitan Police and continue to vigorously review all our safety processes, as well as our recruitment and training procedures.

"The safety and security of all road users; and the safety of our customers – and our own employees – is the overarching priority of this business, and we work every day to ensure that message is at the forefront of everything we do.

"Nevertheless, the facts are that two tragic fatalities have occurred in the last two years and we understand the concerns these awful accidents have raised. Our thoughts are with the families and friends who have lost loved ones and we are determined that the lessons learned from these events are applied in every area of our business - so as to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent anything like this happening again.”

So there you have it. We still don't know if Thames Materials' vehicles are fitted with blind spot mirrors, or whether they have apologised to the families of Catriona Patel and the Japanese businessman. In fact we don't really know the answers to any of our questions.

We’ll leave it to you to decide what the response to what we feel are fair and legitimate questions says about the company.

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