Coventry-based Bedworth Haulage Co has been suspended from operating for two weeks after it was found to have been “seriously negligent” in its oversight of drivers’ hours compliance.
The firm was called to a public inquiry (PI) in March after six drivers were convicted of a total of 34 drivers’ hours offences in January. A further 11 drivers received a warning.
Its O-licence has also been voluntarily reduced from 42 vehicles and 47 trailers to 30 vehicles and 47 trailers.
Drivers claimed they had been put under pressure to complete work on tight schedules, as its work involved transporting fish. As schedules were "at the limit" of what was achievable within the rules, drivers’ hours and rest break offences were often committed.
A DVSA investigation last year identified a wide range of drivers’ hours and tachograph infringements, including a driver who had driven without a card for almost 900km; a driver who had been using three different cards; exceeding maximum driving periods; and breaching daily or weekly rest rules.
Driver cards were not being downloaded regularly, and infringements were not being communicated with drivers properly to ensure they did not commit them again.
The firm’s director and transport manager, Robert Thacker, told the examiner that a former transport manager had been dismissed from the company as he had failed to notice drivers had been committing infringements. He had also removed himself from the O-licence in June 2016, but had not informed the company.
It was the second hearing Bedworth Haulage Co had attended in less than a year. It came before former West Midlands traffic commissioner (TC) Nick Jones last June had agreed to an O-licence curtailment from 75 vehicles and 50 trailers to 42 vehicles and 47 trailers.
At the PI in March, drivers told West Midlands TC Nick Denton they had been "pushed to the limit" by the company, with one driver stating the firm had interrupted a 45 hour rest break to call him in to do a job.
Thacker told the TC that, since the January hearing, one driver had been dismissed, four had left the company, and two were on a final written warning.
He said he wanted to put a second transport manager on the O-licence; put a member of staff from the traffic office through his transport manager CPC exam; and put drivers through a drivers' hours course.
Denton said either the company deliberately scheduled drivers' work when it knew when they were out of hours, or had no systems in place to make sure they took adequate rest breaks.
"Neither explanation is credible to the company, especially after it had given assurances on drivers' hours to TC Jones at the June 2016 preliminary hearing," Denton said in his written decision.
He said the only positive in the firm’s case was its 100% MoT pass rate and absence of maintenance issues.
The TC found Thacker's repute was "severely tarnished".
The suspension will come into effect on 1 June.