Traffic Commissioner said that the company was “irredeemably tainted” by its falsification of maintenance records and deserved to go out of business.
Pembrokeshire operator Mansel Davies & Son Ltd has had its licence revoked at a public inquiry after a director ordered a junior member of staff to create false maintenance records to make it look as if HGVs were being given regularly safety checks. In fact, tachograph and other records showed that some vehicles were not being safety-checked but were instead out on the road completing journeys.
Regular safety checks are at the heart of the UK’s operator licensing system as they help ensure that HGVs remain above minimum roadworthiness standards at all times.
The falsified records were discovered as part of a DVSA investigation in 2018. The company pleaded guilty to 19 charges of making a false instrument and was fined £380,000 by Swansea Crown Court in February 2020. A junior staff member was sentenced to a suspended 9 months prison sentence.
At the public inquiry in Caernarfon on 24 and 25 November no one at director level took responsibility for the company’s dishonesty. Instead they resigned as directors just days before the hearing and did not attend.
Presiding traffic commissioner Nick Denton said that directors David Kaye Mansel Davies and Stephen Mansel Edward Davies had presided over a toxic maintenance culture. He was particularly critical of the fact that, although one of them had clearly ordered a junior employee to falsify maintenance documents, they had left that employee to face a prison sentence while failing to take responsibility themselves. This was the antithesis of good leadership.
Both the order to falsify the maintenance records and the falsification itself were “disgraceful acts”.
Denton added that the trust which he and the public had placed in transport managers Rhodri Wyn and Stephen Mansel Edward Davies had been betrayed. He revoked the company’s operator licence with effect from 1 February 2021.
The traffic commissioner disqualified both the company and its directors David Kaye Mansel Davies and Stephen Mansel Edward Davies from holding an operator’s licence again. Rhodri Wyn and Stephen Mansel Edward Davies were disqualified indefinitely from acting as transport managers.
Denton concluded that company’s maintenance malpractice had put “its employees and other road users in danger, as well as constituting grossly unfair competition against those hauliers who run compliant maintenance regimes”.
The traffic commissioner was made aware of an application by a linked company to take over the revoked company’s operation. This application, involving a younger generation of the Mansel Davies family, was not formally considered as part of the public inquiry. But the traffic commissioner did hear from the new directors and transport manager and agreed that they could represent a marked and necessary shift in the culture of the business. That application is still under consideration.