An application by a finance company for the return of an impounded HGV has been refused by the traffic commissioner (TC), who said its failure to check it had a valid O-licence went “well beyond mere negligence”.
Haydock Finance applied for the return of a 3-axle Scania tractor unit after it was stopped near Winchester by the DVSA without a valid O-licence. The driver said he was employed by RFS Hire, which had its licence revoked in August 2021.
At a subsequent hearing, Westbrook Commercials, a local collection agent for Haydock, said it was normal procedure to check that an O-licence was in place, but on this occasion it had not happened.
TC Kevin Rooney said that once unlawful use is proved, the burden of satisfying a TC that a vehicle should be returned on the grounds that the owner did not know it was being used illegally rested firmly with the vehicle owner.
Rooney said that although there was no legal requirement for Haydock to have made all reasonable enquiries as to its legality, the case law was clear that enquiries must be made.
“It is accepted that no such enquiry was made here,” he said. Rooney said it was “unconscionable” that it failed to do this and he added: “I find that they have exhibited a wilful and reckless failure to make such enquiries as an honest and reasonable person would make.
“That goes well beyond mere negligence and I find a high degree of fault on the part of Haydock Finance.”