A Hull-based caravan haulage firm has been stripped of its O-licence after a traffic commissioner (TC) found its director had “willingly put lives at risk” by encouraging the creation of false tachograph records.
R & M Leisure Homes director Robert Holgate was disqualified from holding an O-licence for six-months from 17 February. A previously imposed three-month ban on former director Michael Holgate came into effect on the same date.
North East TC Kevin Rooney found the company’s application to triple the size of its O-licence authorisation was made in an attempt to circumvent an earlier decision to revoke the O-licence held by sister company R & M Vehicle Services. That company lost its O-licence following the discovery that drivers had been pressured into creating false tachograph records.
A public inquiry (PI) held last year, for which a decision has recently been issued, was told R & M Leisure Homes removed Michael Holgate as a director when it applied to vary its O-licence, leaving Robert Holgate as the sole director. However, the TC had not been informed about Robert Holgate’s appointment.
It emerged that Robert Holgate had been convicted for allowing his name to be used on another driver’s tachograph records to hide drivers’ hours offending, and the TC had not been notified of the conviction.
Michael Holgate had been convicted of false record offences at the time he was listed as transport manager on the O-licence.
In the 16 months since the O-licence was granted two fixed penalty notices and three prohibitions had been issued, despite the company only running three vehicles.
The TC determined the company’s decision to place proposed transport manager Duane Harrison in a central role was a positive feature, and supported Robert Holgate’s decision to separate himself from the transport side of the business. However, he was concerned Robert and Michael Holgate would still have significant control of the business, as they were the only shareholders.
He also noted that director Robert Holgate would still be responsible for the transport operation because he employed the transport manager and had budgetary control.
The company withdrew the variation application shortly before the hearing.
Rooney said: “The variation application was a device to transfer a proportion of the work of R & M Vehicle Services in to this business and to carry on the overall operation, albeit with a reduced fleet.
“The timing of that application is entirely inappropriate and I understand why the company was advised to withdraw it.”
The TC determined Robert Holgate’s failure to declare his involvement in the company meant a six-month disqualification was appropriate.
Rooney said: “The nature of the convictions sustained by Robert Holgate, where he willingly put the lives of others at risk by allowing his identity to be used by another driver to abuse the drivers’ hours rules, means I must consider disqualification."