Lorry firm fined £300,000 after driver’s death

File shot of a Nightfreight depot
File shot of a Nightfreight depot

A lorry firm has been fined £300,000 after one of its drivers was killed by a runaway lorry in an accident in December 2010.

Russell Homer, 44, had just started his night shift at Nightfreight Ltd, based in Doddington Road, Earls Barton, when he was crushed against a stationary vehicle when his own lorry moved off while he was coupling the tractor unit to the trailer.

After striking him the HGV rolled down a slope before crashing into a wall.

Had it not been stopped by the wall it may have rolled directly out on to a public highway.

Mr Homer, a father of two from Overstone, died at the scene from a serious chest injury.

Northampton Crown Court was told on Monday (January 7) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified issues with Nightfreight drivers coupling up vehicles without following the company’s rules. They were not applying the handbrake to the tractor unit or turning off the engine.

This dangerous practice was known to Nightfreight who failed to effectively monitor its employees and ensure they followed the correct, safe working procedure.

The HSE investigation also found that there were no appropriate measures in place to prevent vehicles parked on the slope from rolling away, such as flattening it out, installing road bumps in front of the vehicle wheels, or using chocks.

Nightfreight, of Birches Rise, Willenhall, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The company was fined £270,000 and £30,000 for the two breaches, as well as ordered to pay costs of £26,000.

HSE inspector Judith McNulty-Green said: “Mr Homer’s death was entirely preventable and his life has needlessly been lost.

“It happened because of a poor and dangerous practice that the company was aware of but did nothing to stop. Appropriate controls should also have been in place to ensure vehicles did not roll away.

“What is so disappointing is that there had been previous similar incidents at this company and at the same site. Lessons should have been learned from these but weren’t.“