The owners of a North Wales waste collection firm have been hit with a 25-year ban from operating HGVs after participating in “sustained and serious dishonesty and total disregard for the law”.
Traffic commissioner (TC) for Wales, Nick Jones (pictured), said that it was difficult to envisage Andrew Hughes and Elizabeth Carolyn Hughes, partners at a Rhyl, Denbighshire business that traded as Waste Eaters, from ever being fit to hold an O-licence again.
DVSA evidence presented at a public inquiry (PI) in February, which the partnership did not attend, showed that it had committed a significant number of offences, including operating more vehicles than the maximum number authorised on its O-licence; operating vehicles without insurance, tax, MOT, and tachographs; and operating vehicles that had not been registered to any owner.
The partnership had also attended PIs in 2011 and 2013. The former saw in its O-licence being curtailed from three vehicles to two as a result of an unsatisfactory maintenance investigation, and its O-licence authorisation was reduced again in 2013 to one vehicle after it failed to adhere to an audit undertaking.
A traffic examiner told the PI that it was extremely difficult to determine how many vehicles the business was running at any one time. He suggested that it was difficult to understand how 163 collections could be made in one day by the one vehicle on its O-licence.
He estimated that the operator was running between three and six vehicles, based on vehicle registrations found in its yard, which was not an authorised operating centre.
A driver also alleged that Andrew Hughes told him to abandon the scene of a DVSA spot-check last year. The driver, Christopher Jones, also alleged that Andrew Hughes was unhappy that he had divulged his details to the examiner.
Prohibitions had been issued for a number of defects, including inoperative indicators, an insecure brake valve, damaged exterior body panels and fuel leaks.
Of the 10 vehicle checks carried out since 2010, six encounters resulted in immediate prohibitions being issued.
Tachograph analysis also suggested that drivers were not using the mode switch correctly and had driven for more than four and a half hours without a break.
The traffic examiner told the PI that he had never seen a more blatant, consistent, comprehensive and wide-ranging disregard for road safety and the law.
TC Jones said there had been “deliberate and sustained illegal activity” from the business and both Andrew Hughes and Elizabeth Carolyn Hughes sought to hide their “often criminal” commercial practices.
“I need to disqualify both partners for a very period of time as this is an appalling case by any standards. Anything other than a very long disqualification will send totally the wrong message to compliant operators and industry,” he added.
Driver Christopher Jones had his vocational driving licence revoked and is banned from applying for a new one for 18 months from 19 June.