Knowle Transport loses O-licence for multiple counts of AdBlue evasion

Commercial Motor
February 15, 2018


A Solihull-based haulier has lost its o-licence after being caught avoiding AdBlue use on numerous occasions, in the latest in a string of decisions against AdBlue evaders.

Denise Maxwell, trading as Knowle Transport, holds a standard national licence for 14 vehicles and four trailers. The transport manager was Paul Horsburgh.

West Midlands TC Nicholas Denton ruled last week that the firm would lose its O-licence, effective from 10 March. Both Maxwell and Horsburgh were also told that they had lost their good repute in a written decision of 7 February, which followed a public inquiry (PI).

The PI heard that in December, Denton had received a report from the DVSA which told him that a vehicle operated by Maxwell was stopped in August and found to be fitted with an AdBlue disabling device.

Multiple offences

A day later another vehicle operated by Maxwell was found to be fitted with a similar device. In September another was stopped and it was discovered that a fuse had been removed which made the AdBlue system inoperative.

A subsequent visit to the firm’s premises found that Maxwell refused on solicitor’s advice to answer the questions of DVSA examiner Paul Matthews.

A later letter from the solicitor explained that the emulator devices had been fitted because the vehicles involved had experienced severe difficulties in operating with the AdBlue system. Replacement AdBlue systems were being sought.

At the PI the TC asked the transport manager if he had been aware of the fitting of the AdBlue emulators.

He said he was responsible for tachographs and drivers hours, not vehicle maintenance, and had not been aware of the AdBlue problems.

System error

Horsburgh added that he was paid £400 a month in cash for the tacho analysis. When the TC asked him to show details of infringements committed by a couple of named drivers he said he was not too familiar with the system.

The TC said: “It quickly became apparent that although Mr Horsburgh had been downloading the driver card data, he did not know how to use the software to analyse the data for infringements.

He was simply looking at information on screen and then laboriously counting up driving minutes, break minutes et cetera.”

Downloads had not been performed at the required time of at least every 28 days and the TC said he was “frankly shocked” by the transport manager’s presentation.

Diesel fraud

The PI also heard that the operator’s previous record included a 21-day licence suspension in 2015 after it had been fined £79,000 for illegally using rebated fuel under a case brought by HMRC.

HMRC said at the time that the operator had evaded paying £239,900 – a sum that it was then charged. HMRC also categorised the operator as an “habitual offender”.

Denton said: “Coming on top of the diesel fraud, the AdBlue issue is a clear demonstration that Ms Maxwell has not learned her lesson and has continued her fraudulent behaviour through her manipulation of the devices which are meant to ensure that the vehicles stay within their permitted emission levels.

"Such persistent dishonest conduct has destroyed any trust I could have in her.”

Denton revoked the operator’s licence from 10 March, to give time for the business to be wound down in an orderly manner. Maxwell was disqualified for five years as an operator while Horsburgh was disqualified indefinitely.

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