Sole trader's appeal against curtailment fails

HMRC

An operator who appealed against a decision by the traffic commissioner to more than halve its licence entitlement has lost his case.

Sole trader John Strachan, trading as Strachan Haulage in Bathgate, had his O-licence curtailed last year after the DVSA found evidence that it was operating more vehicles than it was entitled to and that drivers were working excessive hours.

Following a public inquiry, Scotland’s TC said there were some positives, in that the company had appointed a traffic consultant, some drivers had received written warnings and the maintenance systems now appeared to be in order.

However, she also found that the case fell within the category of severe and although revocation and disqualification were open to the TC, she held back and cut the O-licence to three lorries and four trailers for two years.

Strachan appealed the decision, stating that the TC had not properly weighed up the positive and negative features of his position and that there had been substantial delays in dealing with the appellant’s applications due to the DVSA’s investigations, which put “abnormal pressure” on him.

For the appellant, James Backhouse also submitted that the curtailment was too severe.

However, the upper tribunal disagreed. Judge Marion Caldwell QC said it was “plain to see” that the TC had carried out a balancing exercise.

She added: “We are unable to hold that the traffic commissioner was plainly wrong or reached a plainly wrong result in the curtailment imposed, which was proportionate in the circumstances of the case.”

Mercedes-Benz Unimogs could save you £40,000 a year

Unimog on the farm

Mercedes-Benz has revealed that Unimog buyers could save up to £40,000 per year in operating costs, by using them to complete multiple jobs that would normally require more than one vehicle.

This was announced during the marque’s Unimog on the Farm roadshow, which demonstrated the merits of the coveted UHE and UGE implement carriers at four UK locations. Each event hosted 13 examples, all kitted out for a different job. There were also heritage models, and others with bespoke aftermarket modifications from Unimog specialist bodybuilder AC Price Engineering. Attendees could then drive and sample the Unimog in different scenarios.

The line-up included short wheelbase implement carrier variants such as U423, and long-wheelbase units like U5023. The UGE implement carriers were fitted with Mulag grass and hedge trimmers, Schmidt snow ploughs, and one towed a Krone forage wagon.   

Unimog bodies can be easily swapped, by removing four pins from the rear of the chassis. For example, a flatbed can be lifted off and replaced by a gritting body or water tank.

R-Oil, producer of rapeseed oil near Stow-on-the-Wold, fits its 64-plate U400 with a 4,000-litre tank body in spring. During the harvest season, the Unimog is used to carry around 1,000 tonnes of rapeseed to the firm’s pressing plant.

Alongside the claimed financial benefits Unimogs have over agricultural tractors, they are registered as trucks, so don’t require a permit for UK motorway usage either. They are serviceable every six weeks or at 1,400 hour intervals.

Currently there are four Unimog dealerships spread across the UK, including Mercedes-Benz Lloyd in Carlisle, and South Cave Tractors in East Yorkshire. Mercedes-Benz will send out mechanics to any UK operator if problems do occur however.  

Unimog sales manager Michael Bateman said: “The number of Unimogs we’ve sold this year has risen to 200 which includes those sold to defence. Hopefully sales will continue to rise through events such as this.”