From the Frontline: Trailer manufacturer Don-Bur hibernates and furloughs workforce

 

Trailer manufacturer Don-Bur has put the business on ice for the next three weeks and furloughed the majority of its workforce, writes Carol Millett.

To move aims to ensure staff and customer safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and comes in the light of 5.4% of the company’s 500-strong staff having gone into precautionary self-isolation.

In a statement the manufacturer, based in Stoke-on-Trent, said it is hoping to re-open on 14 April. It added: “This means that the main manufacturing plant and service depots are now closed and the majority of the workforce is now furloughed.

"A support team are still working from home and some staff are available for service support to ensure critical business continuity.”

Speaking to Commercial Motor, Richard Owens, Don-Bur group marketing manager, said: “The nature of our business means that we are highly dependent on people working in close proximity. We have 30 staff already in precautionary self-isolation, so we decided it just wasn’t fair on the workforce and that going into hibernation for a few weeks was the best solution.”

Owens said the majority of the workforce will be furloughed. However he expressed concern about the lack of details available on the government’s furlough scheme.

Announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak last week, the scheme will see 80% of the wages of employees that are laid off funded by the government.

The aim of the scheme is to avoid mass redundancies during the pandemic.

“It is hard to get clear information on the scheme. No one seems to know the details. We called HMRC to ask if the furlough payments are pre or post PAYE and National Insurance payments and they had no idea,” he said.

Don-Bur has informed all clients of its decision to temporarily close.

Owens said: “The vast majority were extremely understanding. We are not alone in this. The industry has overwhelmingly gone into hibernation. The phones are dead. Retail is on the ropes and some customers are preferring to postpone their orders. So what we are doing makes sense.”

Operator licences revoked after trust breaks down

HMRC

Two Notts-based operators that “severely damaged the trust” placed in them by the traffic commissioner have had their licences revoked and been put out of business.

North East of England deputy TC Fiona Harrington said both Keith Bishton, trading as DD Vehicle Services and Gary Harby, trading as Wizard Transport, had not been open and honest to the DVSA or the TC to circumstances that stemmed from a conviction in 2019.

A PI heard how in October 2018, a vehicle driven by Harby but specified against Bishton’s licence was stopped in Suffolk.

It was found that Harby did not hold an O-licence and so the DVSA prosecuted both men and each were convicted in 2019.

Bishton notified the OTC of his conviction, but Harby didn’t, meaning his application for an O-licence was subsequently granted.

At the PI, the DTC found that although Bishton’s company had systems in place to deal with undertakings and test results were close to the national average, DD Vehicle Services had attracted an immediate prohibition for a trailer after serious road safety defects were found.

The operator had also received warning letters from the DVSA about shortcomings in its administration of licence records and apparent failings in notifying the TC in changes to its operating centre and maintainer.

In a written decision, TC Harrington added that she did not consider Bishton had been completely open to the DVSA or to her about the actual arrangements in place between him and Bishton and the use of the HGV that was stopped in Suffolk.

As regards Harby and Wizard Transport, the TC said its licence had only been in force since 2019 and so there was little other compliance history to consider.

But she said the offending conduct that led to the conviction, his failure to disclose the conviction and his additional failure to notify changes in financial standing meant trust had broken down.

Summing up, she said both operators should be put out of business: “I consider a less onerous sanction than revocation is not appropriate given the seriousness of the shortcomings found and the need for a robust approach in these circumstances to uphold the integrity and efficacy of the regulatory regime.”

Bishton was also found to have lost his repute as transport manager and disqualified indefinitely.