Trucker for Bathgate firm died after lorry toppled in high winds and landed on wall

A 62-year-old man was killed after the lorry he was driving overturned in high winds and landed on a dry stone wall.

John Docherty died following the accident - involving a Mercedes Actros articulated lorry and no other vehicles - while travelling north on the A73 Roberton to Lanark road, shortly before 2am on March 13 in 2019.

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) determination by Sheriff Nikola Stewart said the cause of death was multiple injuries due to the collision.

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The sheriff’s report said: “The accident was caused by the impact of adverse weather conditions involving heavy rain, poor visibility and strong gusts of wind of up to 75 mph which caught the lightly loaded curtain sided tri-axle trailer being drawn by the Mercedes Actros articulated lorry… causing the lorry to topple onto its offside.

John Docherty worked with JBT Distribution Limited, Bathgate and had been working with the firm since 2013.
John Docherty worked with JBT Distribution Limited, Bathgate and had been working with the firm since 2013.

“It landed on top of a dry stone wall on the south side of (redacted) and continued along the wall causing extensive damage to the offside of the cab before coming to rest. The deceased’s vehicle was travelling at 55mph at the time.”

The FAI report said the driver worked with JBT Distribution Limited, Bathgate and had been working with the firm since 2013 and was regarded by his employers as a competent and skilled driver with no previous accident since his employment there began.

On the night before the accident he was returning from Carnforth to JBT Distribution’s East Kilbride with a standard box trailer - about 13.6ft in height and carrying a light load of about 5.96 tonnes.

The report described weather conditions as “challenging” with a yellow weather warning in place for parts of the UK including the north of England, south of Scotland and Strathclyde. The accident happened on a rural section of the road with a single carriageway and two lanes of traffic.

The report said there is a 40mph speed limit on this section of road for articulated lorries and, while the speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes had increased to 50mph in April 2015, no such increase was implemented in Scotland. Vehicle tracking evidence recovered showed the lorry was travelling at 55mph immediately before impact.

A colleague from JBT Distribution was travelling on the same route and came across the overturned lorry and contacted emergency services. Mr Docherty was located in the cabin, obscured by bricks from the wall with which the vehicle collided.

Police collision investigators concluded the road was in a generally good state of repair and was free from obvious defects, as were the lorry and trailer. Mr Docherty had been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident.

The report said the height and weight of the trailer and lightness of the load made the vehicle more susceptible to the unusually strong gusts of winds in what was an open stretch of road with little shelter. Mr Docherty had also negotiated a slight left hand bend shortly before the accident which would have resulted in the vehicle leaning naturally to the offside. The speed of the vehicle, in excess of the applicable limit, would have also made it less stable.

The report added: “These factors in combination resulted in Mr Docherty’s vehicle toppling onto its offside with the driver’s cabin landing on top of a dry stone wall.

“The cabin was extensively damaged as a result and penetrated by rocks all of which resulted in the fatal injuries to Mr Docherty.”

The report made no recommendations which might realistically prevent other deaths in similar circumstances.

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