Bus company fined £2.3 million after unfit driver killed two people

Written by: Abaranji Sivakumar, Last updated:14th February 2022

Telematics has the ability to flag up dangerous and unfit drivers, but a bus company has just been fined £2.3 million for failing to act on these warnings after an overworked driver crashed into a supermarket, killing two people.

Fleet News reports that Midland Red (South)’s telematics system had repeatedly raised issues over the standard of Kailish Chander’s driving.

In October 2015, Mr Chander mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal, leading to the fatal crash.

Mr Chander, who was 77 at the time and working more than 70 hours a week, was found to have been driving dangerously at a fact-finding trial in September. However, he could not be found guilty as the 80-year-old was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.

Instead, he was subjected to a two-year supervision order, which means he will be under a social worker and a psychiatrist for the order’s duration.

Midland Red (South), which is part of the Stagecoach group, admitted breaching health and safety standards during a two-day hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.

At sentencing, judge Paul Farrer insisted that Midland Red (South) was well aware of Mr Chandler’s long hours and that this was affecting his quality of driving.

The company’s third-party telematics provider constantly flagged up issues with Chander’s driving, sending numerous letters to him on the matter. Eventually, a disciplinary process saw an instructor from the company’s driving school carry out a ‘mystery shopper’ style journey on one of his buses.

This resulted in Mr Chander being referred to extra training with a driving school.

During the training, he told the instructor he felt he was being asked to work too many hours. The instructor responded by advising Mr Chandler to refuse the work if he didn’t feel fit.

After the sentencing, Midland Red (South) managing director Phil Medlicott, accepted there had been multiple failings at his company.

“We bear the weight of our responsibility for this terrible tragedy; that’s why we made early guilty pleas,” he said, adding that “safety is and always will be our first concern”.

Mr Medlicott admitted there were “failures at an operational level in driver supervision and we deeply regret the opportunities that were missed to act decisively on emerging warning signs”.

Since the accident, Midland Red (South) has introduced a significantly more robust safety regime than what is required by law. Medical testing is now more frequent and there is a pre-medical review for older drivers, with appropriate checks being carried out every six months rather than on a statutory annual basis.

Stronger measures controlling working hours have also been put in place.

Jez Strong, general manager for Tele-Gence, commented: “All these changes following the accident don’t erase the fact that this whole episode may never had happened if warnings from the telematics company had been acted upon.”

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