Firm punished for use of unauthorised operating centre

Commercial Motor
August 3, 2022

An east London firm that used an unauthorised operating centre for three years and based its compliance on FORS standards has been criticised by a traffic commissioner (TC) as “unforgivable”.

AJ (UK) lost its licence to run four HGVs after TC Sarah Bell said not having safe systems in place to ensure vehicles were roadworthy was “a gross breach of trust”.

An unsatisfactory maintenance investigation into the restricted operator prompted a site visit by a vehicle examiner, who discovered no trace of the company at the Dagenham address.

Initially, sole director Eliott Baily lied to the examiner about where the vehicles were being parked, before he admitted the truth and said he was now using an address
in Upminster.

The vehicle examiner also found fundamental failings in the operator’s maintenance systems in terms of PMIs, drivers’ abilities to undertake effective walk-around checks, and no retorque register being produced.

In her decision, the TC said: “Mr Baily has based his operator licence compliance on FORS standards, which is unforgivable. Traffic commissioners have made it clear for longer than Mr Baily has held a licence that FORS is a procurement standard with a safety element, but it is not an operator licence safety standard.”

She said: “Mr Baily refers to doing an HGV and PCV fleet management essentials FORS course when asked about an operator licensing awareness course. They are not the same thing.”

The TC referred to a FORS course narrative available online and cited one example of a question: “‘Explain the complementary nature of the operator licence undertakings and requirements of the FORS standard.’

“This is a misnomer,” she said.

“They are not the same thing. The course refers to managing an operator’s licence and compliance with the undertakings and the latest guidance from the TCs, but at the time Mr Baily took the course he was operating from an unauthorised operating centre and his maintenance systems were deficient. Attendance on this course in May 2021 appears to have added no value to Mr Baily’s business.”

TC Bell added that the case was too serious to step back from revocation, but she stopped short of making an order for disqualification.

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