Thursday 26 February 2015

Responding to a Complaint Letter - The Very Good, the Good and the Ugly

Unfortunately over the years I have had plenty of experience at writing to companies about the conduct of their drivers. On the very odd occasion I have written to praise a driver, however, the vast majority have been to complain about about a drivers 'road skills'.

I've had a variety of responses from companies, and I thought I would share three recent examples. One I think is very good (Chubb), one good (Clockwork), and one....well, downright ugly (Wellocks). Let's start with the very good....

The Very Good: Chubb

Cycling home one night on the Switchback Road I was approaching some traffic lights. This particular section of road is going uphill, so I'm not going my fastest, but I'm not dilly dallying either. As I approach the lights they start changing so, being the responsible road user that I am, I decide to stop. Unfortunately the driver behind me has other ideas...

That was terrible driving. So I wrote to Chubb, and my message was as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Unfortunately I writing to you with regard to the driving of one of your employees. On the evening (approximately 6pm) of the 10th February as I was cycling home heading north on Switchback Road I was very nearly hit at speed by a car marked as Chubb. Unfortunately I did not get the full registration of the car, as it passed me at speed. I only got BG64....
and it is possible that this could be wrong. However, I suspect that you will still be able to identify the driver from the location and approximate time.

As I approached some traffic lights they started to change from green to Amber. I therefore came to a stop. At this point I heard a car approaching fast behind me. I turned and saw that rather than stopping behind me it was going to continue through the light, in the lane I was in. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to get out the way before the car shot through the red light. I shudder to think what would have happened had I not moved out of the way.

For a number of reasons, I use cameras whilst cycling. I have one on my helmet and one on the rear of my bike. Thus, the footage of the incident can be viewed here (

Please could you investigate this incident and deal with the driver appropriately. I would be well within my rights to take driving such as this to the police, however, on this occasion I feel that you could perhaps deal with this incident and this driver. I would be particularly interested to hear the drivers side of the story and what he thinks when he views the footage.

Thank you for your help in this matter.

Best regards

Dr David Brennan

 Here is the response I received a week later:

Dear Dr Brennan,

Thanks for contacting Chubb and bringing this incident to our attention. My colleagues in our fleet department and in our Glasgow branch continue to investigate the matter to try and identify the driver concerned and take the appropriate internal action. As we have a large vehicle fleet and partial plate information we have not yet been able to identify the driver involved. Nevertheless, as the safety of our employees and other road users is of paramount concern, we take this report seriously and propose to use the information you have provided to conduct re-training of our whole team. We have already scheduled “toolbox talks” with our engineers in the area. We would like to use your video footage within this re-training, could you grant your permission for that?

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yes, I was disappointed that the driver could not be identified, however, the fact that they wanted to use my video for driver training was impressive. I questioned them a little further to find how they would use it.

It will be shown to drivers of company vans and service cars at their monthly EH&S briefing by their line managers.  I trust the personal nature of this particular EH&S briefing will reinforce our safe driving policy.
 I'm certainly pleased with this outcome.

The Good: Clockwork

 The letter that I wrote for this particular incident can be read here. The incident itself can be watched here:

A short while afterwards I received the following letter:

Dear Dr Brennan,

Firstly I would like to apologise on behalf of Clockwork Removals and the driver in question. I have watched your footage online and as you say in your email the driver did start his overtaking manoeuvre safely but the overhang at the back of his vehicle certainly does come closer to you than I am sure any of us would have liked. Having spoken to our driver, he certainly did not intentionally move closer to you, but on this occasion has misjudged the relative speeds between our van and your cycle, whilst also fully moving into the left hand lane.

The driver is an experienced HGV driver and has completed his Drivers Certificate of Professional Competence as well as other driving assessments. He is fully aware of his responsibilities for his vehicle and other road users and these have been reiterated to him and all our drivers.

I do hope that you accept our apology in the spirit it is intended for what was clearly a distressing incident for you.

A good and thorough reply. They had obviously spoken to the driver who it would seem, admits that he did come too close. Ok, he didn't entirely answer the issue surrounding me 'not being in the cycle lane' but at least the company itself was contrite. I did write back though:

Dear Jamie,
Many thanks for your reply, it is appreciated. The issue that most annoyed me with regards to the incident was the drivers suggestion that I should be in the cycle lane, and how that somehow justified the incident (be it through intent or through fault). Have you made it clear to your drivers that cyclists do not have to be in a cycle lane if they feel safer elsewhere? A fact that is clearly stated within the Highway Code itself in rule 61.

No road users (including cyclists), have entitlement over others. Unfortunately though, I find that some of the worst driving I experience tends to result from a misunderstanding that cyclists should not be in the position they are in, and that the cyclist is in that position to try and antagonise other road users. Nothing could be further from the truth. I personally have changed the route previously to try and avoid conflict.

I am more than happy to take you or any of your drivers on a cycle along that route to demonstrate the issues as I see them. Perhaps that would be a good way to get some positive publicity for your company from this. Let me know if you are interested.

Once again thank you for your reply.

Best regards

David Brennan

I received the following reply:

Dear David,

I understand your annoyance and I have asked all my managers and operations managers to reiterate to all our drivers the need to give cyclists a good safe space throughout any overtakes. I have also clarified that the use of cycle lanes is not mandatory for the reasons you and the highway code give and pointed out the lack of real protection cyclists have against impact. The last thing I, or any of my team, want is for anyone to be injured or killed in an incident involving one of our vehicles.

We have no cyclists in our Milngavie Branch so I will decline your offer of a demonstration ride along that route.

All the best.

A good response I think. Hopefully the driver with think twice about passing like that, and making comments about cyclists' road position in future. Just a shame that no-one in that Clockwork branch cycles. Perhaps they think the roads are too dangerous.....

 The Ugly: Wellocks

I was very surprised by the response from Wellocks, especially considering the very professional responses from the two companies above. First watch the video:

I'm sure you'll agree that this video displayed not only poor driving, but a terrible attitude. I sent the following letter to Wellocks.

Dear James,
Unfortunately I am contacting you about one of your drivers that I came across whilst on my way home on last week.

It was whilst I was cycling home past the ASDA in Mingavie (just outside Glasgow) that I noticed a van pass by me. I could see that the driver was driving along whilst paying attention to his phone. At this point I called out to the driver that he shouldn't be on his phone, to which the driver gave me two fingers.

I wear a helmet camera on my cycle journeys to and from work. Therefore I have video footage of the incident which you can watch for yourself here (

As I am sure you are aware, driving whilst using a mobile phone is not only illegal, but particularly dangerous. I'm sure the driver is fully aware of this as well. However, his reaction to my request only serves to demonstrate how much contempt he has for this law, and the safety of others on the road. It is road users such as myself that drivers like this put at the greatest risk. His driving and attitude do not reflect well on your company.

Please could you investigate this incident and this driver and inform me of your conclusions.

Best regards

David Brennan

A reasonable letter I thought. So here was the reply:

Dear Mr Brennan

Thank you for your email and link to your you tube. 

Having seen the film on twitter over the weekend the matter is already in hand. It is however, disappointing that you have published this against our companies name publicly rather than allowing us as a responsible employer to deal with the matter in the appropriate way in accordance with employment law, as this is one individual out of over 250 employed at wellocks I would therefore ask that you kindly remove our company name from the postings as this is grossly unfair to our other employees who could be tarred with the same brush.

We are acutely aware of our responsibilities as an employer and of the responsibilities of our employees to drive within the laws and the matter is being dealt with, with this employee.

Once again thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.


Jo Wellock

They are disappointed in me.


I must admit I was pretty angry when I received that reply. I decided, wisely, not to respond straight away. In fact I let it sit for a while. What I did decide very early on, was that I would not remove the companies name.

To some extent Jo is quite correct. This was one driver and yes, their company may have 250 other drivers who all act entirely responsibly (although I know one person in Edinburgh who is having ongoing issues with Wellocks vans parking inconsiderately). However, on this occasion this driver driving a liveried vehicle decided to act in an irresponsible and rude manner.

Remember though, they are disappointed  in me.

So why do I publish company names? I do it because companies have corporate responsibility for their drivers. They have a duty to ensure that they drive in an appropriate manner. It is entirely possible that this company does everything in its power to ensure that its drivers behave, although this is not evident from the letter above. It is also possible that the company does not give a toss and that their drivers are regularly causing trouble for other road users.

Imagine if myself and others kept company names out of our videos. How then would we ever discover that there was a problem with company x (I can think of one particular cab company in London that fits this description) and how it instructs its drivers to behave on the road?

I put company names on my videos so that when others have issues, they can find my videos and use that as leverage against the company to have action taken.

What I also do and have certainly done in the past is highlight companies that respond well. From the above responses I am happy that both Clockwork and Chubb have dealt appropriately with my complaints. The fact that the video and this blog are now searchable means that others can discover this. It's a bit of good press for these companies.

Unfortunately this has somewhat backfired against Wellocks.

Am I saying that Wellocks are a bad company? I'm sure they aren't. However, in my opinion, their response to my complaint shows a poor understanding of how to deal with complaints of a driving nature, and it concerns me that they don't take complaints seriously in general. Again, that may be wrong, but I and you can only go on the evidence before us.

No Wellocks. You should not be disappointed in me. I, and I am sure many others, are disappointed in you. Not your 250 employees who I am sure are upstanding citizens, and I wish them well, but with you and your management style, approach and your generally condescending letter.

You may understand your responsibilities under the law, but do you understand your responsibilities to the communities that you interact with on a daily basis, and your responsibilities for taking complaints from the public and the public themselves seriously?

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. You didn't force Wellocks to issue a motorised billboard to their sole (?) scofflaw employee so that they could go joyriding around the public streets of Glasgow where any random bystander could have seen, or fallen victim to, the consequent dangerous and illegal activity. If they are so highly concerned about their company name being associated with such lawbreaking, then the solution is in their own hands---simply stop painting it on their vans!

    OTOH, for the sake of completeness; you should also offer to post the criminal employee's name in addition to that of the company so that their other employees are not `tarred with the same brush'...