O-licence curtailed after drivers' infringements

An operator in Scotland has had his O-licence curtailed for two years after an investigation found a culture among drivers of “pulling their cards” to disguise that they were not taking their breaks.

The O-licence belonging to sole trader Jackie McMurray, trading as JM Transport in Cumbernauld, was cut from 10 vehicles to eight until 1 June 2021, following a public inquiry (PI) in Edinburgh on 28 February. The inquiry heard that seven out of the firm’s 14 drivers regularly pulled their cards.

The infringements ranged from two occasions up to 34 and the maximum accumulated driving time was seven hours and 29 minutes by Lee Mulheron – nearly three hours over the four hours and 30 minutes limit. However, of the seven drivers who offended, only two held vocational driving licences.

Some of the reasons given by the drivers for flouting the rules included wanting to finish work early to support the family and because they were experiencing problems at home.

Operator and transport manager McMurray told the PI he was unaware his drivers had been offending because he had failed to compare driver data with vehicle unit data, which would have identified the missing mileage.

Deputy traffic commissioner (TC) Hugh Olson accepted McMurray had been unaware and that there was no suggestion he was putting his drivers under pressure to work longer hours. He concluded that McMurray’s conduct could be described as “an isolated failure” on the part of an otherwise compliant operator.

But in a written decision Olson said: “I consider that given the scale of the breaches by Mr McMurray’s drivers this is a case that cannot be dealt with by a warning. It is all too common for operators to appear at PIs because they do not compare data from vehicle units and driver cards – this is a fundamental failure in any system to control drivers’ hours because it means the operator will not detect drivers driving without cards.”

Driver Joseph Kennedy had his HGV entitlement suspended for six weeks, while driver Lee Mulheron had his HGV entitlement revoked, for 18 months, both effective from 28 June. It transpired at a conjoined driver conduct hearing that Kevin Bereton did not hold an HGV licence and Olson said he was considering taking action against his PCV entitlement instead.

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Operator on last chance disqualified for two years

A serial non-compliant operator in West Sussex has had its licence revoked and its director disqualified for two years after a wheel-loss incident on the A24 could have led to a tragic accident.

Michael Turrell, trading as MT Services, had a history of public inquiry (PI) appearances stretching back to 1992, but he was given a last chance in February 2018 after a DVSA investigation uncovered “a woeful catalogue of non-compliance across the licence undertakings”.

However, just months later, the operator received an immediate prohibition following the wheel-loss incident. The prohibition related to road wheels missing on the outer and inner rear axle three and wheel studs missing. A follow-up maintenance investigation was marked unsatisfactory in respect of defects in the driver walk-around checks; no continuing professional development for the transport manager; absence of rolling road brake tests, and an absence of a wheel re-torque programme.

At a PI in Eastbourne, deputy traffic commissioner Anthony Seculer said the operator could not satisfy him that he had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the wheel-loss incident. In a written decision, Seculer said: “Having observed and heard from the operator at the inquiry, I found him to be inconsistent, unimpressive and lacking in credibility. This is an operator who has failed to heed the most clear and loud wake-up calls. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr Turrell poses a real and serious risk to road safety as an operator.”

Transport manager Ronald Gander also lost his repute and was disqualified indefinitely.

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