A bus company that failed to act on numerous warnings about the driving of one of its employees, who went on to kill two people when he crashed into a supermarket, has been fined £2.3 million.
Midland Red (South)’s telematics system, driver trainer and passenger complaints had consistently raised issues over the standard of Kailish Chander’s driving.
However, it allowed him to continue to work and on October 3, 2015, he mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal leading to the fatal crash.
Midland Red (South), which is part of the Stagecoach group, admitted breaching health and safety standards and was sentenced – alongside Chander (80) yesterday after a two-day hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.
Chander, who was also working in excess of 70 hours a week, was found to have been driving dangerously at a fact finding trial in September. He could not be found guilty as he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.
He was subjected to a two-year supervision order, which includes conditions of being under a social worker and a psychiatrist for the entire time of the order.
At sentencing, Judge Paul Farrer said: “Midland Red (South) was well aware that was working long hours and the quality of his driving was diminishing.
“And if he did, the consequence would be the deterioration of his driving.”
The hearing heard the Ecodriver telematics constantly flagged up issues with Chander’s driving, the judge says.
The company sent numerous letters to Chander about this and 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 led to Chander being referred to extra training with the driving school.
During the training, he told the instructor he felt he was being asked to work to many hours.
The instructor told him he had to say ‘no’ to work if he didn’t feel up to it, and suggested Chander should not be working excessive hours as his ability to drive seemed to get worse when he was fatigued.
In September 2015, Chander was seconded to the Rugby depot and the Leamington depot managers did not pass on any warnings about his capabilities or the need to avoid working excess hours.
The court heard that on October 3, 2015, Chander became confused by the controls of the bus and pressed the accelerator instead of the brake as the bus pulled off, which led to the fatal accident.
After the sentencing, Phil Medlicott, managing director of Midland Red (South), said: “Safety is and always will be our first concern, and we take our responsibilities extremely seriously.
“We have made it our continuing priority to work very closely with the authorities to help fully understand and learn detailed lessons from what has happened.
“We know and fully accept that there were a number of failings at our company and we bear the weight of our responsibility for this terrible tragedy. That’s why we made early guilty pleas.
“While we met in full all the regulations around driver working hours and had all of the relevant checks in place, our own detailed policies were not followed as closely as they should have been.
“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.
“Following the accident, our priority has been to put these matters right. We carried out a comprehensive review of all of our policies and have made several key changes.
“This means we have in place a significantly more robust safety regime than is required by law.
“This includes more frequent medical testing and a pre-medical review for older drivers, with appropriate checks being carried out every six months rather than on a statutory annual basis.
“We have put in place stronger measures to control working hours and have improved communications with our operational teams. We have also provided additional training to all drivers and strengthened the application of our accident reduction processes.
“We cannot turn back the clock in this case, but we have sought to do everything possible to learn lessons and ensure that this kind of accident does not happen again.”