AN ACCIDENT which led to a pedestrian being killed by a bin lorry in Alloa could have been avoided if the commercial waste contractor involved had not sent a vehicle "with extensive blind spots" to collect refuse, a sheriff ruled last week.

Margaret Johnstone had chosen a "a bad place to cross the road"– right in front of the 19-tonne Iveco truck, Sheriff Alastair Brown said as he concluded a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

But in his written determination issued last Thursday, Sheriff Brown said the lorry had "significant blind spots" around its front and nearside where the driver's direct vision was obstructed.

The FAI heard that Mrs Johnstone, 52, had stepped off the pavement, in High Street, Alloa, the very moment the lorry, operated by the Perthshire-based Binn Group Ltd., private waste contractors, began to move off.

She crossed less than 18 inches in front of the lorry, and would have been invisible to the driver, who had just got back into his cab after picking up waste bags, the inquiry at Alloa Sheriff Court heard.

She died at the scene of "catastrophic" injuries.

Sheriff Brown ruled that two precautions could reasonably have been taken and might realistically have resulted in Mrs Johnstone's death being avoided.

One was that Mrs Johnstone could have chosen to cross the road at a point which was not directly in front of a stationary vehicle.

The other was that "Binn Group could have chosen not to send a vehicle with extensive blind spots to collect refuse on the High Street in Alloa".

Sheriff Brown said: "The conclusion I reach is that this vehicle was unsuitable for the task which [the driver] was carrying out.

"He had to keep stopping outside commercial premises, collect rubbish, get back in and drive on before stopping again and repeating the process.

"He had to drive down a street which was busy with pedestrians, with shops on both sides. The carriageway was so narrow that the lorry occupied its whole width.

"The extensive blind spots which characterised this lorry made it difficult for him to be sure that pedestrians were not in danger."

He said the truck was fitted with "an array of mirrors", which alleviated but did not cure the problem.

He said that if the Binn Group had used a "low cab" lorry for the collection, its low windscreen and side windows would have given the driver much better visibility and that might well have avoided the accident.

In an affidavit, Irvine Morrison, transport director of the Binn Group, said that "in an effort to avoid similar accidents occurring in the future" the Binn Group had have "heavily invested" in low cab vehicles.

Mr Morrison said: "Following the accident, all eight or so of the refuse or bin lorries purchased by Binn Group have been low cab models.

"If a pedestrian was to walk in front of one of our new vehicles, they would be readily identified by the driver.

"The new cabs are designed to fundamentally improve driver's field of vision. Moreover, the side panels on the new vehicles are also split which effectively creates a different and additional window."

Mr Morrison added: "I would say that this is the crux which would have prevented the fatality occurring."

Collision investigator PC Fraser Mitchell told the evidence stage of the inquiry in October, 2022, that Mrs Johnstone, who walked with the assistance of two walking aids, had just withdrawn money from a cash machine but by the time she showed any signs of intending to cross the road, near Specsavers in the town, she was in a position where the lorry driver would have been unable to see her, either directly or in any of his mirrors.

CCTV showed her "picking up pace" to try to get to the other side of the road before the lorry struck her, but Mrs Johnstone, who was less than 5ft 4ins tall and was thought to have walked with a stoop, would have been below the bottom lip of the lorry's windscreen because she was so close.

The accident happened at 3.52pm on November 13, 2020.

The 30-year-old driver, who was described as "emotional and in a state of shock", was breathalysed after the accident found to be clear.

He said that he had checked all his mirrors before moving off, had never seen Mrs Johnstone in front of the lorry, and had no idea where she had come from.

Sheriff Brown offered his condolences to Mrs Johnstone's family.