The family of a man killed when a rock from a lorry smashed through his car windscreen have been praised for their determination which has now seen serious changes being promoted within the transport industry.
Today, an open letter to industry has been released, supported by a number of Police forces across the country, as well as DVSA, National Highways and Office of the Traffic Commissioner, calling on everyone involved in a vehicle carrying a load – be it the company, driver and loader – to ensure that every item being transported is secured appropriately.
It is an issue which has been raised repeatedly by the family of Steven Oscroft, who died when a block of concrete fell on to his car from a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.
The 60-year-old was taking his two grandchildren out strawberry picking in Ollerton when the incident happened in Netherfield Lane in Perlethorpe cum Budby.
He died instantly at the scene on 7 July 2020 when the concrete smashed through the windscreen of his Hyundai IX35 while his wife and two grandchildren who were also in the car were unharmed.
His widow Denise Oscroft and two daughters, Becky Marsh and Kelly Kirby, were left in a pure state of shock but as time went on, the shock turned to anger as they came to terms with the understanding that Mr Oscroft’s death could have been prevented had the concrete been better secured.
This was further confirmed on Tuesday 4 May 2021, when an inquest determined that Mr Oscroft died as a result of a road traffic collision after a piece of concrete fell from an uncovered part of a lorry from Paul Wainwright Construction Services, of Hucknall.
Assistant Coroner for Nottinghamshire Gordon Clow also said he would be preparing a ‘preventing future deaths’ report and would be requiring Wainwrights to supply evidence that actions are being taken, including improved driver training and working practices. He said he would also call for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to clarify legislation around securing lorry loads.
This outcome fuelled the family to seek serious changes within the industry in order to prevent anyone else experiencing the loss of a loved one in this way.
They worked with Nottinghamshire Police’s roads team to support various operations, including one at the DVSA test centre in Main Road, Watnall, on 9 July 2021.
The multi-agency event was held around the one-year anniversary of Mr Oscroft’s death and included the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency and National Highways. The three family members attended and watched on as several vehicles pulled into the testing site having been stopped by police on the M1. Three were found to have insecure loads, three were overloaded, one had no tax and two had defective tyres. One driver was also reported for driving hour offences.
Steven’s family had previously spoken of how often they had seen vehicles which did not appear to have their loads safely secured and encouraged agencies to work together to improve regulations.
The letter today coincides with the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Commercial Vehicle Week of Action.
In a joint statement, Steven Oscroft’s family, said: “Steve was killed in totally preventable incident. Had the load in the tipper been adequately secured it would not have happened.
“We live every day knowing this, we could still have him here with us- we should still have him here with us.
“He was the centre of our family, he doted on each and every one of us and we miss him immensely.
“Nothing can bring Steve back, but we hope that his tragic death can somehow help raise awareness of the importance of securing your load and ensuring the same doesn’t happen to another family.”
Detective Sergeant Adam Cooper, who led the serious collision investigation following his death, said: “We’ve all been touched by Mr Oscroft’s case and his remarkable family who haven’t stopped thinking about others despite the pain and suffering they have gone through.
“They’ve been so strong and supportive to the investigation and have thrown themselves into trying to make a difference to unsafe loads so that this doesn’t happen again.
“I hope they feel proud that their efforts have been recognised by leading figures from within the industry.
“As a force, we have been working with our partners at the DVSA and National Highways to improve the safety of vehicles carrying loads on the roads which has included several multi-agency operations.
“We know that from the results of these and from speaking to drivers, the Oscrofts’ message is getting through and we hope the family can gain comfort from knowing what they’ve achieved so far.”
National Highways assistant regional safety co-ordinator Marie Biddulph said: “Carrying out simple safety checks on vehicle loads can prevent devastating tragedies such as that which claimed the life of Steven Oscroft and took a much-loved grandfather from his family.
“Before setting off, drivers need to be confident that their vehicle is appropriate for the load being carried, that it is not overloaded and has been loaded properly, using the appropriate securing system.
“Anyone carrying a load, whether a commercial or private vehicle, has a responsibility to make sure that load is properly secured. Unsafe vehicles are a threat to all road users.”
Gordon Macdonald, head of enforcement policy at DVSA, said: “DVSA has always, and continues to see load security as one of our roadside priorities. Drivers, operators and consignors all have a part to play in the safe loading of vehicles and the importance of this has been further highlighted by the tragic loss of Steven Oscroft.
“DVSA is revising the guidance available on load security to ensure that those involved in loading vehicles are fully aware of all safety requirements, and the implications of choosing to ignore the guidance.’’
The open letter, being released today, urges everyone to play their part in preventing road deaths.
It says: “Nobody goes to work to intentionally harm or kill someone, but the reality is that unless you make sure the loads you carry are safe you are putting yourself and other people at risk during your journey and when you come to unload.
“Any item capable of being thrown from or bouncing out of a vehicle needs to be secured whatever vehicle it is being carried on, whether it’s a plastic bucket or wheelbarrow, steel beams, or heavy plant equipment. Even small items can kill or seriously injure someone if they come off a vehicle at speed. Delays and disruption on the road network because of load debris cost the UK economy millions of pounds every year.
“Load shift incidents on the road and in the workplace are both foreseeable and completely preventable. Police forces, the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), National Highways and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are working together to protect people, but we can’t do it alone. Drivers, vehicle operators, and those loading vehicles or trailers for others (consignors) must also play their part in preventing deaths and injuries.”