The directors of a caravan haulage firm who had a “deep-seated drive to prioritise commercial gain over compliance” have been disqualified from holding an O-licence.
North East traffic commissioner (TC) Kevin Rooney said Graham and Michael Holgate, directors of R&M Vehicle Services, pressurised drivers into satisfying the firm’s customers, which resulted in false tachograph records being created.
The Hull-based company’s O-licence will be revoked from 10 September. Graham Holgate will be disqualified from holding or applying for an O-licence and acting as a transport manager for three months from that date. Michael Holgate will also be disqualified from holding an O-licence for three months, but the date on which his disqualification will begin will be decided by the TC after a connected operator, R&M Leisure Homes, has attended a public inquiry (PI).
Several of the firm’s drivers were convicted for creating false tachograph records and some told the TC they had felt pressurised by the directors to remove their cards.
Graham Holgate, who was also the transport manager at the company, and Michael Holgate were also convicted. The TC was not informed of the convictions.
A PI last month was told that a truck had also been stopped by the DVSA for attempting to pull a 4.15m-wide load on a road with a 3.2m width limit. It was required to have a police escort through the road but this had not been arranged by the operator.
A maintenance investigation carried out by the DVSA in 2014 found that the company: had exceeded its vehicle inspection frequencies; had not signed inspection records; had an insufficient driver defect reporting system; and had received eight roadworthiness prohibitions for vehicle defects in a year.
The directors accepted they had taken on too much work and the company had expanded too quickly – from two vehicles in 2013 to 19 vehicles specified on its O-licence at the time of the PI. The company claimed there was no incentive offered to drivers to create the false records.
The TC looked favourably on the operator’s attempts to address maintenance issues since the DVSA’s investigation. Michael Holgate and fleet manager Duane Harrison had also completed their transport manager CPC, and the directors had stepped back from driving to focus on their duties.
In his written decision earlier this month, Rooney said he was concerned that the ethos of satisfying customers above all else persisted, but found that the directors had not specifically instructed drivers to falsify records.
He said: “It is still a work in progress three years after the significant false records offences were committed.
“I find that the directors put drivers under undue pressure to satisfy commercial requirements and should, at the very least, have had concerns at the ability to do so legally. They should also have had systems in place to detect offending of that nature and did not.”
- This article was published in the 25 August issue of Commercial Motor. Why not subscribe to get 12 issues for £12?