Appeal win for haulier after TC presides over ‘unfair hearing’
A Peterborough haulage company that was refused its application to operate 50 lorries and 50 trailers has won its appeal after the upper tribunal ruled that the traffic commissioner (TC) had acted unfairly.
REL Haulage will now have its licence application heard at a new public inquiry (PI) after the upper tribunal said TC Nick Denton had “erred through conducting what amounted to an unfair hearing and an unfair consideration of the application”.
Denton said that the company was not of good repute and claimed that the investors and turnaround specialists behind the company, Andy Scott and Adam Lewis, had a history of failed road haulage companies behind them and had left creditors of previous businesses “high and dry” (CM 31 March).
He also suggested that the company was already operating HGVs.
REL Haulage appealed the decision, on the grounds that Denton had failed to set out some of his concerns in paperwork prior to the PI; that he had made incorrect findings of fact in relation to the investors’ previous business activities; and that the TC had erred in law by “piercing the corporate veil” with respect to the haulier.
The tribunal agreed that the call-up letter did not adequately explain that the conduct of Lewis and Scott was an issue of importance and one that would be explored at the PI.
“We think there is something of a mismatch between what was said in the call-up letter regarding the reason for the decision to hold a PI and what was said [in the TC’s] written reasons regarding that,” said upper tribunal judge Hemingway.
REL Haulage also complained about the TC’s comments and that they “suggested a predisposition towards the business model of the REL group of companies and, conceivably we suppose, to the way in which turnaround business practices are utilised at least within the transport industry.”
The tribunal said: “We agree that the transcript evidences a certain robustness in the way the TC chose to express his concerns.
“We do think that the way in which the TC expressed himself was a little unwise and, perhaps, somewhat unhelpful. We also think that whilst it is perfectly legitimate to raise concerns and ask questions of participants or attendees at a PI, significant caution ought to be exercised before making comments which might suggest some degree of predisposition.”