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By now, you are likely familiar with the tragic story of the six people killed in Glasgow by an HGV driver who blacked out behind the wheel. The accident in December 2014 might have been avoidable had the driver been forthright about medical conditions he was suffering from. Unfortunately, he was not, leading to the question of whether or not something needs to change with HGV medical testing.

The driver, 58-year-old Harry Clarke, lost control of his bin lorry after fainting while behind the wheel. Less than four months after the accident, he petitioned the DVLA for the return of his licence. Despite medical experts telling Clarke he should not be driving professionally, he insisted that his health was fine and that he should be allowed to go back to work. Clarke apparently has a history of dizzy spells and fainting dating back to the 1970s.

According to an article published by HGV UK, the process of HGV medical testing needs to be more restrictive than it is now. Current regulations require drivers to undergo medical testing every five years unless certain medical conditions are already known to exist. In the latter case, a driver may have to surrender his/her licence on an annual basis in order to force him/her to undergo additional medical testing. Whether or not this applied to Mr Clarke is unknown.

The problem with the current system, according to HGV UK, is that disclosing medical conditions is voluntary. In other words, medical records or not made available to examiners for the purposes of ensuring a driver’s good health. They rely on drivers telling them of any past and/or persistent health problems that may jeopardise their safety behind the wheel. If drivers do not speak up, as was the case with Clark, there is no way for an examiner to know whether that driver is fit to operate a commercial vehicle.

Responsibility to the General Public

As a leading provider of HGV training in the UK, we are acutely aware of the pressures professional drivers are under. We also appreciate the fear of losing one’s job as a result of a medical condition. However, we also believe HGV and PCV drivers have a responsibility to the general public; a responsibility to voluntarily take themselves off the road if they pose any significant risk to pedestrians, cyclists, or other drivers.

As we have said before, the size and weight of lorries and buses makes them much harder to control even under the best of conditions. When you add health impediments to the equation, you are creating a potentially deadly situation like the one that occurred in Glasgow. Drivers should always keep this in mind. It is far better to risk one’s job than to risk the lives of innocent people.

It would not surprise us to see changes coming to the HGV medical testing system currently in place. No one wants to see a repeat of the Glasgow accident.

Sources:

  1. Mirror – https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/glasgow-bin-lorry-crash-driver-6229409

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