O-licence granted despite ‘negative history’

A partner in a new haulage firm who claimed to have forgotten he was still subject to a disqualification order has been given the benefit of the doubt by a traffic commissioner.

Jason Poole and Paul Brown had applied for an operator’s licence for one vehicle, but when the office of the TC became aware that Brown was disqualified from acting as a director until August 2020, the partnership was called to a Cambridge public inquiry. Brown had been director of a business called P Brown Builders which entered liquidation in 2008.

He was made bankrupt in 2010 and was then disqualified from acting as a director between 2017 and August 2020 due to his involvement with another business, Brown Builders, which was liquidated in 2015.

In a written decision, TC Richard Turfitt said Brown had acknowledged he was the subject of a disqualification order, but that he had recently been engaged in a sole trader business and this had been successful and he had been fully compliant.

Turfitt added: “I am asked to accept that despite the negative history, Mr Brown simply forgot about the failure of his previous business, his personal bankruptcy and the director disqualification order.”

However, after the TC received evidence from the partnership of their compliance commitments relating to roller brake testing, driver and vehicle records and training, he concluded: “I am prepared to grant on the basis of those undertakings, with an inevitable warning that there must be full compliance going forward.”

Bridge strike ends in licence curtailment

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An investigation into a Macclesfield haulage firm following a bridge strike incident uncovered ineffective management control and carelessness in its approach to compliance, according to a traffic commissioner.

Domain Transport appeared before the North West TC after an incident in October 2019 when one of its drivers took a diversion and struck a bridge structure, causing debris to fall onto the West Coast mainline. The driver was later issued with a written warning for his failure to seek instructions from the company when he encountered the diversion. Domain had since adopted a policy on avoiding bridge strikes and the drivers were being given face-to-face training.

TC Gerallt Evans was notified of the bridge strike by Network Rail and a follow-up investigation found that company director Michael Swain had resigned from his position in September 2018 and reappointed in January 2019, but the TC’s office was not notified.

At a Golborne public inquiry, Swain told the TC that he had been advised to remove himself as director due to taxation reasons linked to his other business interests and when that advice was reviewed, he was reappointed. He said he was unaware of the need to notify the TC’s office.

The company held a licence for 20 vehicles and 25 trailers but bank statements submitted prior to the PI showed that its average balance fell short of the required amount of £92,500. Swain explained that the pandemic had impacted the company’s cash flow with delayed payment of invoices by customers

In a written decision, the TC said he would grant a period of grace to the company so that it could demonstrate it could meet financial standing on a permanent basis. He gave it credit for acting on its own initiative and seeking an audit prior to the PI, the findings of which were largely positive. But he said Swain’s resignation and reappointment were material changes to the licence that should have been notified:

“Whilst I find there was a failure to notify changes of directorship in this operator’s case, I accept that it was the result of oversight and not a deliberate attempt to mislead the traffic commissioner or conceal the true facts,” he said.

“However the oversight to record the changes does suggest a significant lack of care by the operator to its approach to complying with all aspects of the licensing regime and ensuing the licence record was kept updated.

“Similarly I find the bridge strike incident ought to have been notified by the operator to OTC as an event which could affect the good repute of the licence holder and transport manager.”

He cut the licence by three HGVs for two weeks.