Lorries carry a deadly cargo: Cost-cutting haulage companies breach safety laws

MORE than half the vehicles carrying hazardous cargoes such as explosives, acids, and chemicals on Britain's roads breach safety regulations.

In tests on the M62 near Manchester last month more than 60 per cent of the tankers and vans stopped had defects. The Health and Safety Executive calculate that up to two- thirds of all hazardous substances are transported through this region.

The police fear the problem is getting worse as unscrupulous haulage operators, fighting to survive the recession, cut costs and ignore safety procedures.

The majority of faults found by health and safety officers and the police are considered to be relatively minor, such as unqualified drivers, incorrect labelling of dangerous goods and failure to have documents about the cargo. Others are more serious. They include: corroded and faulty equipment which has resulted in chemicals escaping or leaking on to the motorway, dangerously stored goods, and failure to carry fire-fighting equipment.

Earlier this year a military tanker was found leaking helicopter fuel on to the hard shoulder of the M62 between Manchester and Warrington. At about the same time a police officer and a driver were taken to hospital after they were overcome by fumes from chemicals leaking from a vehicle travelling on the M602, Greater Manchester.

Hazardous substances that are transported by road include chlorine and ammonia, which produce poisonous gas when exposed to air; toxic materials such as arsenic and cyanide; hydrochloric acid which can cause severe burns; and wastes from chemical plants. Petrol and liquid gas are among the most common dangerous goods.

About three weeks ago checks were made at two sites, near Rochdale and Eccles on the M62 which links Hull to Manchester. Forty-seven of the 74 vehicles inspected registered offences. Of these, 23 were in connection with not carrying safety equipment or labelling - seven failed to display orange hazardous warning plates. Three were prevented from moving further. One was carrying 23 tons of ammonium nitrate, which is used in explosives, but failed to have a fire extinguisher.

An HSE spokesman said: 'I'm disgusted that despite all our efforts the regulations and public safety are being so blatantly ignored by a number of operators in the North-west.'

Chief Inspector Neil Longsden, of Greater Manchester Police's motorway group, said: 'Dangerous goods that are not labelled or properly identified put the lives of firemen and motorists at risk.

'The large operators are extremely responsible, but at the bottom end of the market some cut costs by reducing maintenance, and ignoring safety and training. They are cutting corners left, right and centre.'

In November last year at Bradford magistrates court, F T Morrell, a haulage firm, and New Plan Furniture, a furniture manufacturer, were both fined pounds 2,050, with pounds 300 costs, after an unventilated van was stopped on the M62 and found to contain several open drums with highly inflammable solvents inside. The police reported vapour 'pouring' out of the back of the closed van.

At Bury magistrates in February, Fragrant Oils International, of Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, was fined pounds 400 for operating a vehicle without a trained driver, a fire extinguisher, orange cargo information plates and a trem (information) card.

Some drivers have told police that when they complain about dangerous conditions their bosses threaten them with the sack.

In one recent case an employer advised a driver to continue with his journey after the driver had reported the emission of white vapour from his load of aluminium off-cuts, even though this meant going through a city centre.

Cleveland police force, which runs the only national course on hazardous chemicals, makes at least one big roadside inspection each month as well as smaller, more frequent checks. They find that about half the vehicles

examined have defects. This figure on roadside checks is confirmed nationally by the HSE.

Peter Morgan, a HSE spokesman, said: 'The cowboy end of the market is the real problem rather that the blue chip companies.' He said the main areas for transportation were in the North-west and North-east of England, Fawley in Hampshire and Canvey Island, Essex - areas where the big refineries and chemical plants are located.

He added that most of the HSE inspections are done at the haulage firm depots - although not all the operators are known because they do not have to register with the HSE.

Tony Cook, controller for hazardous goods at the Road Haulage Association, believes recent changes in the law have confused some operators. New European Community safety measures are to be introduced by 1995, including retraining for tanker drivers.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz