With hindsight, it’s probably not a good idea to stand in front of a lorry…

This content is 13 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Imagine the situation: you’re just stepping out onto a Zebra crossing (you have right of way) and you see a seven-and-a-half-ton truck, 10 or 20 metres away, still moving at around 30mph with the driver looking down as if he is reading a newspaper, a text message on his phone, or something similar; you shout a warning (“Oy!”) and step back, slapping your hand on the side of the truck as it drives past but it continues its journey, as if nothing had happened.

That’s what happened to me this morning and it made me angry. I’ve spent enough years driving cars (and developing a sixth sense when I was a motorcyclist) to watch out for things like this, but imagine if I had been an elderly person crossing the road, or a child. I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.

A few seconds later, the truck stopped at a set of traffic lights so I ran down the road and challenged the driver. I may have used a few choice words (I almost certainly did) but he denied that I was on the crossing as he approached (how would he know – he wasn’t even looking ahead!). Standing in front of the truck, I got my phone out to take a picture of the registration plate and the driver actually drove the truck at me as if to push me out of the way! There was no way he would deliberately run me over but he jumped out of his cab and grabbed my phone, telling me he would give it back (throw it under the truck more like) when I moved. For the next few minutes he refused to give it back to me, driving the truck at me once more as I protested to get my phone back. At one point he got out of the cab again and grabbed me by my jacket collar to move me out of the way (I’m seventeen and a half stone – but he was taller than me, stronger than me, and bloody annoyed with me). Eventually, after calming down and noticing I was shaking (showing some humility at least) the truck driver returned my mobile phone and we agreed that we would go our separate ways. I was still shaking, and I didn’t manage to record the registration number of the truck but it belongs to Biffa, a waste management and recycling company, and I’m sure they will be able to track it, should they so desire…

Throughout the incident, which probably lasted at least five minutes and was right outside a busy London railway station, during the rush hour, people stood and watched. Some took pictures with their mobile phones but no-one called the police when I called out and asked them to, on at least two occasions. I may have been stupid to pick an argument with someone who was prepared to drive a lorry at me but really, London commuters, are you really that self-absorbed that you won’t help someone out after seeing them being subjected to threatening behaviour bordering on physical assault?  Even if you didn’t want to “get involved”, you could have asked me if I was alright after the truck was driven away.

After travelling a couple of stops on the tube, I saw some British Transport Police officers and I asked for advice. The officer I spoke to was very helpful, including giving me the number for the Metropolitan Police but, I honestly think that reporting the incident will be a waste of my time and theirs. I have no evidence (only a blurred, shaky camera phone picture of the truck driving away, in which there are no identifiable markings) and, despite the city being littered with CCTV, the police have much bigger priorities.

Looking back, with slightly less adrenalin being pumped around my system, I can see it was not wise to put myself in a dangerous position but there is no excuse for deliberately driving a lorry at me. I’m sure the driver is a decent guy, just as pumped up by the situation as I was but, more to the point, if Biffa’s operatives are driving without due care and attention, the next person to cross the road in front of them might not be so lucky. As one of my (female – i.e. not testosterone-fuelled) colleagues observed, hopefully the incident will make this truck driver think more carefully about his actions, even if he won’t openly admit that he made a mistake. And I should be grateful that the worst thing to come out of this for me, was needing to replace my damaged iPhone headphones.

10 thoughts on “With hindsight, it’s probably not a good idea to stand in front of a lorry…

  1. Have you made a call to Biffa’s PR department? At the very least, you should make them aware of it.

    Of course, this might lead to the driver being punished in some way, but regardless of the cause of the event, driving his truck towards you, and then grabbing you is probably not in Biffa’s “How to deal with members of the public” operating manual…

  2. Biffa will be able to track it, but I doubt they’ll bother unless you report the incident to them. Probably not even then. It’s not worth their effort when the driver will undoubtedly deny any allegations you make.

    Reading your account of the incident made me pretty angry on your behalf. I’d imagine most people have been in a dangerous situation of someone else’s making where there are no witnesses, or bystanders refuse to get involved.

    You would think that it would be easier to capture evidence when everyone has a video camera on their phone, but most of the time incidents are over before you can even think of activating the camera. And who wants their camera confiscated as evidence anyway?

  3. My advice is don’t work in London – it’s a stinking hole full of quite unhelpful people. I work there on a regular basis and am always glad to get back up north where people actually give a s**t.

  4. I didn’t… but I did think most PR departments monitor social media these days and will pick this up. I don’t know if I can be bothered with the hassle now. Although it would be nice if they would pay for the new headphones at least…

  5. Mark, this is assault and/or threatening behaviour, if nothing else. If he was carrying a firearm (a similarly dangerous item) and threatening you with it I’m sure someone would care. It is imperative that you communicate with Biffa and the Met. Regardless of whether it is taken seriously by either of them, it should be recorded.

    Cycling QC Martin Porter (http://thecyclingsilk.blogspot.com) has had similar experiences while commuting and, while he has struggled to find anyone in officialdom that cares his knowledge and well-written blog is informative. The more people stand up and refuse to accept this kind of behaviour the sooner the pen-pushers will do something about it.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to respond Simon. Even though I’ve calmed down now, I may well be writing to Biffa (and will cc the Met, although I don’t expect them to take action). Martin Porter QC’s blog also looks very interesting – thanks for the tip.

  7. Just for the record, Biffa Waste Services’ Collection Director has been in touch, after their PR team saw this post. Biffa will be investigating the incident, so I don’t think it’s right for me to comment any further here for the time being; however thanks to everyone who expressed their support via this blog, and via Twitter.

  8. I know this is a couple of weeks old now, but I just wondered whether it was intentional or completely ironic that the ad beneath this post is for HGV driving tuition?

  9. Wow, sorry to hear about that mate.

    Sad that no-one came to your aid, but I think it’s an example of something known as the Bystander Effect. Or the diffusion of responsibility.

    It certainly gives a different interpretation to safety in numbers!

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