Cockermouth based EW & PA Nicholson, trading as Eric Nicholson Transport, has appeared in front of Traffic Commissioner (TC) Simon Evans over its use of AdBlue emulators.
At the public inquiry at Golborne on 20 February, DVSA vehicle examiner Anthony Wilson said that he had carried out an investigation after two vehicles were found to have emulators in a roadside check at Cuerden in August 2017.
He then examined a number of the company's vehicles on a followed up visit and found evidence that emulators had been fitted to four more DAFs.
Eric Nicholson the firm's former director and transport manager told Wilson initially that seven vehicles had been fitted with emulators because of a problem with the DAFs. However pushed by the examiner, Nicholson admitted that it was 15 or 16 vehicles.
The firm holds an O-licence for up to 35 vehicles and 34 trailers.
For the company, Scott Bell from Backhouse Jones said that it was a generally compliant operation. The current management were unaware the devices had been fitted by Nicholson.
Nicholson’s position as a director was untenable and it was time to leave the business to the younger generation, something he had done ahead of the PI, which he nevertheless gave testimony at.
Nicholson told the PI that when the Euro-5 DAFs got to a certain age they could not stop the AdBlue light coming on. There was an ongoing wiring problem that they were unable to sort out and they had spent a 'small fortune' to get the vehicles right, even replacing the turbos.
He said that he'd paid someone cash to fit the emulators, although did not know who he was.
Nicholson told the TC that nobody else in the family knew they had been fitted, adding that AdBlue usage per vehicle was not monitored. About 10 or 11 of the vehicles were fitted with emulators, he subsequently claimed at the PI.
Prior to the vehicles being checked at Cuerden Nicholson said he was aware that DVSA were looking at emulators as it was highlighted in Commercial Motor magazine and he had given instructions to remove them.
He added that the fitting of the devices had not been motivated by cost saving as the cost of using AdBlue was insignificant.
Though his son and daughter were now the directors he and his wife still held the shares in the company, he added.
The TC said: “Fitting emulators is a matter of trust; the words cheat and fiddle come to mind.”
TC Evans said he was struggling to understand why second transport manager David Yates - who took up his role in 2014 - did not know about the emulators, although Nicholson said: It was something I didn’t want to make public.”
Nicholson said he had been trying to keep the vehicles on the road without keep coming up with faults. He accepted he knew it was not a legitimate method. “It was a massive mistake,” he added.
The TC will announce his decision in writing at a later date but warned that the company will be facing regulatory action with all options open.
- Knowle Transport loses O-licence for multiple counts of AdBlue evasion
- AdBlue emulator loses second haulier its O-licence
- Haulier has O-licence suspended for using AdBlue emulator
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By Michael Jewell