Operators advised to read guidance after firm without transport manager is suspended from operating

Traffic commissioner (TC) for the East of England Richard Turfitt suspended a business from operating earlier this month and curtailed its O-licence after it failed to inform him that a transport manager had stopped carrying out her duties.

Leicestershire-based eggs business Sunrise Poultry Farms could not operate any vehicles for four days from 1 April. It also had its O-licence curtailed from five to four vehicles from the day of the public inquiry (PI) on 21 March.

A PI in Cambridge last month was told that the business failed to notify the TC of changes to its O-licence, which included the company’s named transport manager Kaye Neale stepping down from her position.

The company, which operates from two sites in Selby and supplies eggs to businesses across the UK, was informed that its O-licence could be revoked after Neale was nominated as a transport manager on a new application in the name of Andrew Neale. She indicated in correspondence to the Central Licensing Office in Leeds that she was not carrying out transport manager duties for Sunrise Poultry Farms, despite being named on its O-licence.

In response to the letter that suggested the company’s O-licence was under threat, Sunrise Poultry Farms’ solicitor accepted that she was no longer in the role and the company should have notified the TC at an earlier stage.

At the hearing, the operator said that the work it had been carrying out only required a restricted licence rather than the standard one it held, but it nevertheless nominated a new transport manager to replace Neale. Steven Rounds was accepted onto the O-licence by the TC. 

The TC also considered the company’s failure to notify changes to its O-licence, the issue of prohibitions, breaches of undertakings and a material change at the PI, and found that its repute had been severely tarnished by its non-compliance.

The TC advised that the operator, and all other standard national and international O-licence holders read the recently updated senior TC’s guidance on the role of the transport manager.

He said: “We have recently refreshed our guidance to the industry on this key area of operator licensing and I strongly advise all standard licence holders and their transport managers who are not familiar with its contents to download a copy.

“For the first time, the guidance includes a role description for transport managers. It also makes clear that a transport manager must always be more than just a transport manager in name, as became the case for Sunrise Poultry Farms.

“The guidance also sets some general indicators as to how a transport manager can perform effectively by possessing the right knowledge and skills, having an impact in the operator’s business and being able to take decisions that influence behaviours.”

Turfitt added that it is the job of the O-licence holder and transport manager to satisfy the TC of their professional competence.

Upper Tribunal upholds O-licence denial over financial standing issues

Prospective operator PWT Contracts has lost its appeal against West of England traffic commissioner (TC) Sarah Bell’s decision to deny it an O-licence.

Following an appeal hearing in February, the Upper Tribunal agreed with TC Bell that the business had not been able to demonstrate it had the financial standing for two trucks.

Director Philip Whettingsteel had attempted to show access to the funds by supplying online bank statements, a document that indicated he was owed a PPI refund, and a contract with Hope Construction Materials, for which he intended to operate as an owner-driver. Under the deal, Hope was to provide PWT Contracts with a reserve account.

 Staff at the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) requested the full agreement with Hope; an up-to-date statement for the reserve account; and acceptable bank statements, as the ones attached to its application did not identify the account holder, bank, or account number. The TC accepted the OTC’s proposal that the application be refused if the information was not provided within 14 days.

Whettingsteel contacted the OTC to say that original bank statements had been requested, but the Upper Tribunal could find no evidence that these had been supplied.

The O-licence was refused in August 2015. The letter was signed by a caseworker at the OTC, and not the TC herself.

Whettingsteel’s lawyer said there had been no valid decision by a TC, which Upper Tribunal judge Mark Hemingway did not agree with. 

The lawyer also said that the PPI refund letter should have been taken into account. This ground of appeal was also refused as no evidence was supplied to indicate that the money was available.

The appeal also concerned the TC not taking the possibility of attaching undertakings to the O-licence into consideration, or making Whettingsteel aware that public inquiry could be requested. Both of these grounds were refused.