A LORRY driver who killed two soldiers after crashing into their Army ambulance will be back on the roads within two years following an Appeal Court ruling.

Lance Sergeant David Gartland, 40, and Private James 'Jimmy' Austin, 24, who were based at Catterick Garrison, survived the initial impact after their Land Rover crashed into the trailer of a lorry which had broken down in a cloud of thick smoke on the A66 at North Stainmore, near Brough, Cumbria, on September 1, 2011.

But they were killed when trucker Colin Pattison, 53, drove into the smoke at 30mph and crashed into their vehicle, crushing it to half its size.

Pattison, of Goole, North Humberside, was jailed for 18 months and received a six year driving ban after being convicted at Carlisle Crown Court of causing death by careless driving last October.

Judges sitting at London's Criminal Appeal Court dismissed Pattison's appeal against his jail sentence - but slashed the driving ban from six to two years.

The court heard Pte Austin, of Catterick, and L Sgt Gartland, of Greater Manchester, were returning to the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick Garrison from Warcop Training Centre near Appleby.

Pattison, an HGV driver of more than 30 years, admitted seeing the smoke from about 500 yards away but continued at normal speed without braking, assuming the smoke was from roadside stubble burning.

Lord Justice Davis dismissed an appeal that the sentence was excessive, saying: "He caused their deaths by driving in a manner found by a jury to be careless. The judge found that his conduct fell into the highest category of careless driving, not far short of dangerous driving.

"This was a most horrible, unfortunate, combination of events, but Pattison has to take his share of the responsibility.

"He saw the thick smoke from some distance away but chose not to slow down to any appreciable degree.

"There were here not one, but two, deaths because he had driven too fast for the circumstances.

"We are unable to say that 18 months was manifestly excessive."

However, slashing Pattison's driving ban, Justice Davis concluded: "It was not necessary or appropriate to disqualify him for anything like as long as six years."