21-day suspension after serious offences

calendar 21 days

A lack of diligence, and confusion over who was undertaking the transport manager role at a Sussex haulage firm led to serious drivers’ hours offences being committed.

An Eastbourne public inquiry heard how an investigation into Kumari Transport raised concerns that the company was not conducting any downloading or analysis of driver cards or vehicle unit data. One driver, Kundan Shakya had committed 75 offences including 35 occasions when he had used digi tach cards belonging to other drivers.

Director Juni Shakya - Kundan’s wife - told deputy traffic commissioner John Baker that she had been new to the transport business, but as soon as she realised what was going wrong she had begun to get things straight. She said the problems lay with her husband, who she had trusted, and also confusion over who was taking responsibility for transport manager duties.

In his decision, DTC Baker said Kundan’s offences were at the most serious end of the drivers’ hours offences and that the neglect by the operator of who was checking and managing the system was “a significant and serious failing.”

However, he said that changes now made at the company gave a much more positive picture of compliance and that he could trust the operator going forwards. But he also said past failings couldn’t be ignored and the repute had been severely tarnished.

As a result, he suspended the licence for 21 consecutive days, but approved the appointment of a new transport manager, Abkash Shrestha.

‘Accident waiting to happen’ operator has licence revoked

digital tachograph

A Sittingbourne operator that demonstrated failings “across the board” including running almost double the number of vehicles it was authorised to, has had its licence revoked.

AJL Transport appeared before the South Eastern traffic commissioner Sarah Bell after a roadside encounter with the DVSA revealed the vehicle’s unit had not been downloaded for 505 days. There were also five occasions when no driver card had been inserted. A follow-up visit to the operator’s premises by a traffic examiner uncovered 256 incidences of driving ‘off-card’, no driver licence checks and no systems to analyse drivers’ hours and working time directive compliance. It also transpired that AJL was using an unauthorised operating centre. Five months later, another roadside encounter with the DVSA found many of these issues still apparent.

At a public inquiry before the TC, director and transport manager Maria Lee appeared along with former director Anthony Lee, who had resigned as director the previous day. Neither of the directors challenged the DVSA evidence and they also admitted operating up to nine vehicles when the current entitlement was five.

In her written decision, the TC said the company had done this for commercial gain and, as transport manager, Maria Lee had “turned her head to the obvious.” She said: “This operation was an accident waiting to happen. Mr Lee was left to deal with the drivers much of the time and his approach was commercially driven. Mr Lee was left to deal with the maintenance. His approach to maintenance standards remains years out of date. Mrs Lee retained some responsibility for tachograph analysis but was not up to it.”

TC Bell added: “This is a bad case and this operator deserves to be put out of business. I hope that the message sent out will be clear to all that this wholesale disregard for the operator licensing regime will not be tolerated.”

She said the operator had lost its repute and revoked the licence. In addition, she found that, as transport manager, Maria had lost her repute and disqualified her from acting as TM for four years. She also disqualified Anthony from acting as director for four years but added that she wasn’t disqualifying Maria as director: “This leaves open a small window to apply again with an external transport manager,” she added.