Derek Mackay orders safety probe after lorries blown over

A SAFETY investigation has been ordered by ministers after a spate of lorries were blown over in storms, including an incident in which two people were injured when their car was crushed.

An overturned lorry on the A96 near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, after Storm Gertrude. Picture: Hemedia
An overturned lorry on the A96 near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, after Storm Gertrude. Picture: Hemedia

Police Scotland and officials from the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency will examine possible measures to cut the number of crashes in strong winds.

Among the latest Scottish incidents were several lorries blown off roads during Storm Gertrude last month, with one falling on top of a car on the A96 in Aberdeenshire.

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Others were toppled on the same day on the A90 near Forfar and the M9 near Dunblane.

Transport minister Derek Mackay, who ordered the study, told Scotland on Sunday: “There is an issue here over volatile weather. We will look at incidents and that will inform next steps.”

The minister said “great progress” had been made to improve weather warning information, such as on social media.

However, he added: “It is up to drivers to act responsibly. People should not chance it.”

The investigation was welcomed by Caroline Munro and Martin Bayliss, whose Dacia Duster was hit by a falling lorry near Huntly. Police said factors involved included high winds, snow and slush.

Munro said: “It is not reasonable, fair or in the public interest to say the accident was unavoidable.”

She said the crash had left her anxious on the roads: “My fractured ribs and collarbone mean my right arm is still out of action and in pain. Worst of all is how it feels in the car – dread and fear and nausea are a horrible combination.”

Munro said empty lorries with curtain sides should have them tied open on each side during storms to reduce the risk of being blown over – unlike the one which hit them.

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She said: “Whichever organisations have a responsibility or vested interest need to ensure all heavy goods vehicle (HGV) operators and drivers have the right attitude, knowledge and skills to effectively manage the risks associated with driving large, empty curtain-side lorries in high winds.

“I keep thinking about the day another family will sit powerless in their car watching a massive out-of-control lorry hurtle towards them and they know they are about to die.”

Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “As well as improving roadside warnings, Transport Scotland needs to develop a prevention strategy that ensures lorries don’t set off when the weather is bad.

“This can be done by early sharing of weather forecasts with freight bodies who in turn will get the information out to their members. This has worked well in England.

“Any rogue operators who consistently ignore warnings should be reported to the Traffic Commissioner and have their operator licences revoked.”

Road Haulage Association (RHA) Scotland director Martin Reid said: “During high winds, the RHA recommends that drivers do not drive across exposed areas or structures, particularly when advised or instructed not to do so.

“Unladen high-sided trailers are particularly vulnerable to high cross winds and there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the chance of being blown over.

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“However, any advice from the police, highway officers or local authorities advising drivers not to travel should at all times be heeded. “If there are any doubts, park up the rig and wait. An hour’s delay could save considerable distress, injury and time.”

Reid also called for wind deflectors, like those being fitted to the Queensferry Crossing, on the most wind-prone roads.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We already have wind management arrangements in place at our most exposed bridges, and additional safety measures at specific locations across the trunk road network, but with the widespread nature of such events we will also consider whether more can be done to educate drivers and businesses about the dangers of driving in high winds.”