Scotland’s traffic commissioner (TC) Joan Aitken has said she has no doubt an O-licence application by a West Lothian-based company was a means to allow a disqualified director to re-enter the haulage industry.
An application for four vehicles and six trailers by Broxburn-based Purves Haulage was refused following concerns about director Marshall Purves’ links with a man who was last year given a five-year ban from being a director at any firm holding an O-licence.
A public inquiry (PI) in Edinburgh last month was told Purves was a director and equal shareholder in Total Logistics Recruitment along with the former director. The company was incorporated 10 days after Purves Haulage sent its O-licence application.
Although Purves claimed he had since distanced himself from the former director after discovering more about his disqualification, he admitted he had decided to go into the recruitment business with him so that Total Logistics Recruitment would be charged for the rent of the premises that Purves Haulage was using.
Purves told the TC that the former director had no connection to the O-licence application and is not a director or employee of Purves Haulage.
“Any new haulage company with genuine repute would not risk proximity with a disqualified person,” Aitken said in her written decision. “I cannot take decisions which will have, as a direct consequence, a back-door route for a disqualified person.”
Aitken also raised concerns about Purves’ former companies. MSLG Haulage went into liquidation in 2013 after incurring fuel debts and a £214,000 debt owed to HMRC, and Broxburn Warehousing had its O-licence application refused as the TC determined it was a front for Purves.
Purves also admitted the sole reason he became a director of another company, Easton Transport, was so he could be paid through the company as he did not have a business bank account when he set up Purves Haulage.
“This case comes down to repute,” Aitken said. “I am unaware of any criminal convictions. However, he has an adverse past in this jurisdiction.”
She said the MSLG Haulage O-licence was revoked after a deputy TC was repeatedly told it could show financial standing, but ultimately could not do so. She said MSLG Haulage, which had applied to increase its fleet authorisation in 2012, was “far removed from solvency” at the time.
She said Purves had been a “sham director” in relation to his involvement in Easton Transport, and had taken part in “manipulation of the tax system”.
She added: “Goods vehicle operating is more than roadworthy vehicles and tachos all aligned. It is about safe and fair competition and respect for the payment of tax comes into that.”