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Council faces bin wagon safety rap; COMMISSIONER COMPLAINS OF 'INCOMPETENCE AND IRRESPONSIBILITY' ON OVERLOADING.

Byline: SIMON KUKURUZOVIC

A TRAFFIC watchdog has strongly criticised Coventry City Council's road safety record for allowing the overloading of dustbin wagons.

West Midlands Traffic Commissioner David Dixon made his comments at a public hearing in Birmingham yesterday.

He cut the number of goods vehicles the authority can operate from 101 to 70. Nine operational vehicles have been banned from the roads for 14 days.

The commissioner, a government-appointed watchdog, has the power to alter, cut or remove the council's licence to operate goods and passenger carrying vehicles.

He said: "This whole sorry saga shows a high degree of incompetence and irresponsibility in regard to road safety.

"I expect all operators and particularly a public body such as the City of Coventry with its fine traditions, not to get into this sort of mess."

Yesterday's hearing heard how Vehicle Inspectorate traffic examiners had found refuse wagons had been overloaded 87 times in a 14 day period. Last May, the council was prosecuted and fined pounds 6,000.

This May, the authority was again fined, this time pounds 2,000, in allowing the driver of a dustbin wagon to exceed the number of hours he was allowed by law to be on duty.

Mike Rawson, head of services of Coventry Contract Services, told the commissioner overloading had not been perceived to be a problem until the investigation.

He admitted random checks were not made and conceded the overloading could have been going on for some time.

He said there was no way of knowing how much weight was in each household's wheelie bin, which he said people tended to use "as skips".

Mr Rawson said the council's new fleet of refuse wagons, replacing the old vehicles, which were "stuck together with Super Glue", had in-cab devices to warn their operators of overloading.

But the devices had not been calibrated at the time of the offences, as it was felt the vehicles needed time to settle down first.

The devices were now calibrated every six months and checks were regularly made said Mr Rawson. There was probably just one instance of overloading a week, of the wagons collecting in total 120,000 bins.

A council spokesman said the ruling should not affect collections.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 12, 2001
Words:371
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