A Devon-based operator has won the right to have his case reheard after a judge ruled that a deputy traffic commissioner’s (TC) decision was flawed.
Alistair Walter had his O-licence curtailed from four vehicles and four trailers to three vehicles and three trailers in July 2017. He was also found to have lost his repute as a transport manager, but deputy TC for the West of England Fiona Harrington did not go on to disqualify him as she was required to.
He was required to nominate a suitable transport manager by 20 November, or face losing his O-licence.
The decision was made after the Holsworthy-based operator had been given numerous chances to be compliant.
He had agreed to a number of undertakings on his O-licence in 2011, following the revocation of a licence issued to the operator’s predecessor, Alistair Walter Transport. These included the requirement to have safety inspections carried out by a third party; a nil defect daily driver reporting system; random audits of drivers’ walk-around checks; and wheel security inspections.
The deputy TC found that many of these undertakings were not met and standards began to slip.
In March 2014, the Office of the Traffic Commissioner received a letter from then transport manager Robin Cooke explaining that he had resigned due to the operator’s partner’s “attitude to authority and compliance”. Walter was then named as transport manager on the O-licence after regaining his CPC.
The operator came to the DVSA’s attention again when a vehicle driven by Walter was stopped in November 2016. His category C+D licence entitlement had expired in July 2016 and he was fined £500.
A further investigation revealed no evidence that Walter checked infringement reports. All of the drivers’ hours infringements were committed by Walter himself, including mode switch offences; and all of the business’s working time records related to another driver.
At a public inquiry earlier this year, the deputy TC found that the skip and poultry transport business failed to comply with several of Walter’s O-licence undertakings.
In his appeal to the Upper Tribunal, Walter said the deputy TC had failed to give sufficient weight on the extended period of compliance between 2012 and 2016, and placed too much emphasis on when standards slipped in 2016/17. It was argued that she failed to undertake a proper balancing exercise.
Judge Jacqueline Beech, however, disagreed with the claim and found that the deputy TC was entitled to take a dim view of Walter’s lack of compliance in recent years.
However, the judge raised concerns with some of the deputy TC’s reasoning. She said having found that Walter had lost his repute as a transport manager, the deputy TC was required to disqualify him in that capacity, which she did not do.
The case was referred to another TC for a rehearing and it was suggested that a further vehicle inspection was arranged before the operator was called to a public inquiry.
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