A food transport company that did not identify missing mileage and then falsified records to make it look like the issue was being addressed, has had its licence revoked and its director disqualified.
Stoke-on-Trent haulier The Pentagon Food Group attempted to give the impression that instances of drivers not using a tachograph had been brought to the attention of its staff. But when a senior team leader working in traffic commissioner Nick Denton’s office raised suspicions about the signatures on the driver infringement letters, its director William Bullock admitted to a “massive error of judgement”.
The company appeared at a virtual public inquiry because it wanted to add two new directors, Ashfaq Khan and Arfat Khan to its licence, which authorised 20 HGVs and five trailers, plus new transport manager Roger Key. The Khans had been disqualified for 12 months in 2015 and had their operator licence for Freshways Wholesale Foods revoked after a TC found it had failed to maintain vehicles properly or analyse drivers’ hours.
In 2020, a court ruled that the Khans could act as directors of Pentagon under various conditions, one of which was that Bullock must also remain a director. However, in his written decision, TC Denton said letters to the company drivers warning them about not using tachographs included some signatures that were similar. Despite initially insisting that each driver had signed the letters, proposed transport manager Key admitted he had not witnessed them signing the infringement reports and Bullock admitted that due to time and other pressures, he had signed one of the letters and his assistant signed five of them.
TC Denton said the PI had been called to consider whether two previously disqualified directors had now been rehabilitated: “It is particularly difficult to comprehend therefore how – in seeking to convince me that the directors were rehabilitated - the company could so mismanage matters as to present false documents in an attempt to cover up its inadequate monitoring of drivers’ hours,” he said. “It is especially ironic that the director in whom the court appears to have placed some degree of trust, William Bullock, was the director primarily responsible for the act of falsification.”
As a result, he revoked the licence and disqualified the company and Bullock for two years, but decided not to disqualify the Khans.