CARELESS or luckless Wigan Council staff drivers have been involved in almost 150 road smashes, costing more than £360,000 over the last four years.
Figures released under Freedom of Information rules show that between 2010 to date there have been 148 recorded incidents where employees had damaged the authority’s vehicles when out on council business.
The number of accidents has fallen from 63 in 2010/11, with a total of £115,055 in insurance pay-outs, to 34 in the last financial year, costing £93,620.
To date, payments for the 2013/14 financial year are relatively low, at £5,240, with only two incidents.
The smallest claim was £43 in 2012/13 and the largest pay-out was £20,854 in 2011/12, when a driver was in collision with another vehicle in front after it braked sharply, in Greenough Street, Wigan.
Some of the more prominent ones include a refuse wagon colliding with a car and dragging it some distance round the corner in Greenland Avenue, Standish, in December last year, with an insurance claim of £4,023.
Another authority driver had an accident with a parked vehicle in Leigh Street, Ince, which cost £11,671 in May last year.
A total of £17,026 was stumped up in May 2012 after an employee was turning right into Clarington Grove, Ince, and a car pulled out and ploughed into the side of the council vehicle.
A sum of £3,259 was claimed when a member of staff reversed onto a farm track and hit a parked car with the tow bar on the pick-up, damaging the stationary vehicle on Billinge Road, Orrell, in September last year.
More recently, in April this year, a recycling lorry was travelling on Farm Meadow Road in Orrell, and as it approached the junction with Church Street it needed to reverse to make way for a car turning into the road.
As the driver was manoeuvring past parked cars on either side of lorry, he failed to notice another one that was parked behind him on the left and ran into it damaging the driver’s door and post. Another £2,821 was claimed.
And several days before, a vehicle veered into the wrong lane while overtaking and hit the front driver’s side of another car in Brentwood, at the junction of Enfield Street, creating an insurance pay-off of £2,419.
A spokesman for Wigan Council said that some of the higher figures relate to claims for personal injury.
The tally can also include vehicle repairs, car hire (if the damaged vehicle is off the road), other damages (loss of earnings etc) and solicitors’ costs, which can form a sizeable chunk of such claim payments.
The council operates an internal insurance fund coupled with commercial insurance in order to protect its finances.
This means that the while the council finances the first £125,000 of any one incident, the total annual risk to the council is capped at £550,000.
The total commercial premium payable has not increased.
Wigan Council director of environment, Terry Dunn, said: “We have a fleet of around 500 vehicles. These include light vans and larger vehicles such as gritters, gulley tankers, tippers, integrated transport unit buses and bin wagons.
“In the course of day to day activities, our drivers can be faced with having to manoeuvre these vehicles along narrow roads or turn in small spaces.
“Further issues can be caused by parked vehicles which can partially obstruct access and make negotiating both residential streets and busy business areas difficult.
“Our drivers also have to contend with driving in adverse weather conditions, particularly of course our gritter and snowplough operatives who are fundamental to keeping our roads open and traffic moving.
“All drivers of vehicles over the three and a half ton range undertake training which is delivered by a specialist external accredited trainer, as required for the driver Certificate of Professional Competence.
“A high percentage of our vehicles are fitted with tracker systems which are used in a variety of ways to understand our vehicle movements across the borough and the type of activity they are undertaking
“Wigan Council endeavours to carry out a planned schedule of operations each day, for example, collecting our residents’ waste and recycling bins.
“To ensure a minimum of disruption to service (more than 99 per cent of bins are successfully collected as scheduled – that’s around 44,000 of them each working day) our drivers may carefully negotiate areas where access may be restricted for any of these reasons - as long as it is not considered to be dangerous.
“While every care is taken to avoid collisions, some incidents, usually at low speed, do occasionally occur.”