'Incompetent and ignorant' directors lose licence

A company that operated uninsured vehicles, failed to monitor drivers’ hours, forged records and lacked financial standing for “a considerable period of time” has had its licence revoked.

West Midlands traffic commissioner (TC) Nicholas Denton (pictured) said the directors of Ladywood Furniture Project had been naïve, incompetent and ignorant, although he stopped short of disqualifying the company.

The furniture recycling charity held a standard national licence for five HGVs, but it was only in the days before it was due to appear at a public inquiry that it could demonstrate the finances to run that many vehicles.

The TC said the operator had failed to carry out six-weekly safety inspections and had allowed at least three lorries to be operated while uninsured for several weeks.

Tachograph information had been downloaded sporadically, leading to multiple and very serious drivers’ hours offences going undetected. One driver withdrew his card and drove on 42 occasions to get home early and his card had not been downloaded by the operator.

The TC said transport manager Richard Girling had acquired his CPC in 1994 but had taken no refresher training since then.

He was not up to date with drivers’ hours rules, was unaware that vehicles were not being regularly inspected and did not know about the requirement to specify vehicles on a licence. He also forged driver infringement letters to give the impression that he had been bringing offences to his drivers’ attention.

In a written decision, the TC said: “I am afraid the conduct of the company does indeed merit the closure of the transport side of its business and if that means it has to go out of business altogether, then so be it.”

However, he did not disqualify the company, explaining that it appeared it had not deliberately attempted to flout the law. “But it should be under no illusion about the massive scale of the change in culture and procedures needed before any future application stands any chance of being granted.

“Directors must take responsibility for compliance; at least one director and a manager must have undergone relevant training; new compliance procedures must be designed from the ground up.”

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Court issues £50,000 fine for leg injury

The HSE has warned companies to separate their transport operations from where pedestrians will pass after a worker suffered a broken leg.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard how Colin Smith, a worker at Braegate Produce in Tadcaster, was walking across the company yard when he was struck by boxes loaded on the tines of a telehandler. The impact fractured his left leg.

An HSE investigation found the company had insufficient measures in place to prevent people being struck by a vehicle. A protected walkway was provided to only two sides of the yard, while the large number of boxes stored in the area meant there was inadequate room for pedestrians.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations and was fined £50,000 and £962 costs.

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