A Dutch refrigerated haulier has lost an appeal for the return of an impounded HGV after it was unable to demonstrate that it had put steps in place to prevent cabotage breaches.
Van der Gaag Transport De Lier (VDG) continued to fall foul of cabotage rules after it had set up a UK subsidiary, HZ Logistics UK, to carry out work in the UK. However, a Dutch-registered truck, owned by VDG, was impounded for cabotage breaches before HZ Logistics UK became operational.
HZ Logistics UK was to replate two Dutch-registered trucks a month, converting them into UK-registered vehicles, but as a result of delays by HMRC and the DVLA, no conversions had taken place when the truck was impounded in October 2015.
VDG claimed it had struggled to be compliant with both cabotage and drivers’ hours regulations as a result of the delays, particularly as it had won a supermarket contract.
VDG had received letters from the DVSA warning about the consequences of cabotage offences.
Following a public inquiry in December, North East traffic commissioner (TC) Kevin Rooney said the establishment of a UK operation was a positive step and looked favourably on its attempts to minimise breaches through training and discipline.
However, he said he had not received any explanation why planning staff wanted drivers to return cabotage documents to the Netherlands when they were required to be held by the driver. This made the cabotage immediately non-compliant.
Appealing the decision, VDG said it took issue with some of the TC’s decision, including suggestions that it could have declined work that put it at risk of breaching cabotage rules, and that there was nothing preventing HZ Logistics UK from purchasing or hiring its own vehicles while replating was delayed.
In the Upper Tribunal’s decision, judge Jacqueline Beech said VDG’s record of unlawful operation in the UK was “appalling”.
She said the Upper Tribunal was effectively being asked to consider returning the vehicle to HZ Logistics UK, rather than VDG itself, despite it being owned by the latter.
The judge said: “We would have expected to see documentation demonstrating, as a result of the new management structure, a thorough overhaul of VDG’s international operations along with significant management oversight and compliance checks.”
- This article was published in the 11 August issue of Commercial Motor. Why not subscribe to get 12 issues for £12?