A Swindon breakdown and recovery firm’s application for extra vehicles and trailers has been refused by Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney due to compliance concerns.
The regulator said it would be inappropriate to allow any growth in fleet operations until there is clear evidence the company had eradicated overloading and drivers’ hours issues.
His decision follows a public inquiry in Bristol on 06 October, which was called to consider the company’s application and evidence from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
The enforcement body’s investigations into the business began after a vehicle encounter at Boston Spa Weighbridge on 06 January this year. An analysis of data from the driver’s card and the vehicle unit revealed four separate dates where it appeared the driver had exceeded 4.5 hours driving without a qualifying break. There was also one instance of knowingly making a false record.
A second encounter, on 12 January and at the same location but with a different driver, revealed a number of offences, including exceeding 10 hours driving and insufficient daily rest within a 24 hour period.
Additionally, the vehicle was overloaded – exceeding the 7500kgs permitted gross weight by 500kg (6.67%).
After hearing evidence from the company during the public inquiry, Mr Rooney noted that one driver appeared to have been falsifying records almost habitually.
“The company did not have systems in place to identify these offences. There is no evidence before me today that they have these systems now,” he remarked.
He found that the firm’s director, Nigel Hannon, did not pressure his drivers to falsify records. However, the Commissioner did not accept the company’s position that the overload was a miscalculation, as it the offence was repeated in July.
The inquiry also identified issues with PMI sheets, where brake efficiencies and tyre tread depth were not recorded, and driver defect reporting, where defects were not signed off as rectified and appeared on repeated inspection sheets.
The Traffic Commissioner did give the company credit for bringing additional resource in to the business, specifically a new transport manager, an external trainer/consultant and company secretary with background in systems and controls. He also noted that the firm had the financial resources to put things right.
Ruling that it would be disproportionate to take any action that would put the firm out of business, Mr Rooney concluded:
“Any future application to increase licence authority will be more likely to succeed if accompanied by a comprehensive third party audit of all compliance systems and with specific attention paid to journey scheduling, tachograph analysis, unaccounted driving and maintenance.”