Frenchman Eric Boulonne accidentally drove his 8ft-wide juggernaut down a narrow street in Fulham and smashed into a bollard, puncturing his fuel tank and spilling 600 litres of diesel all over the road. The road will now have to be repaired and resurfaced, at a possible cost of £100,000. And it’ll probably still smell of diesel.
According to Boulonne, the blame for the mishap lies firmly with his satellite navigation system. Apparently it was meant for cars, not lorries, so it neglected to inform him not to drive down the road in question. Which rather begs the question: why on earth was he using it in the first place? What’s more, he then proceeded to avoid all the signs saying that the road was too narrow for lorries, before attempting to plough through a 7ft gap in an 8ft wide vehicle. ‘I saw the posts and thought I could get through but ... bang,’ he explained helpfully.
So it’s tres difficile not to agree with the verdict of the local council, which said it was ‘flabbergasted by this hair-brained action’. As driver errors go, this is almost as stupid as a leading motoring journalist chatting away on his mobile phone while driving down the M40.
However, it’s also an indication of how much we rely on technology to think for us these days. How often have we blindly followed a mellifluously-voiced satnav’s directions, only to end up marooned in an industrial park just south of Barnsley? It won’t be long before the spread of GPS devices and mobile mapping means that we’ll navigate pretty much everywhere with our eyes glued to a phone – and before we know it, nobody will have any idea where anything actually is…
On a more positive note, we were cheered by the sterling response of the Fulham locals, who apparently were very kind to the hapless Frenchman and even offered him a cup of coffee. We’re guessing that if an English driver smashed up the Rue Charles de Gaulle with a 44-tonne lorry, he probably wouldn’t get many people plying him with Camembert.
Even more remarkably, Boulonne’s boss was equally sanguine about the whole thing. He told the Evening Standard that his manager’s response was merely ‘C’est la vie’, no doubt to the accompaniment of a Gallic shrug and an extra drag on a Gauloise. This might sound incredibly understanding. But with Boulonne being a French lorry driver, his boss is probably just glad he’s driving it at all – as opposed to parking it across the motorway or blockading senior management in factories.