Squibb Group's O-licences curtailed for 'dysfunctional' systems

A demolition company that let vehicle maintenance slip when it rapidly expanded its fleet of HGVs has had its O-licences curtailed by the South East and Metropolitan area traffic commissioner (TC) Nick Denton.

Barking, Essex-based Squibb Group had its authorisation curtailed from 36 vehicles to 26 on one O-licence, and from 36 to one on another, both for an indefinite period. The decision followed the discovery of numerous issues with its systems for maintenance and drivers’ hours, which the TC described as “dysfunctional”.

A public inquiry (PI) in Eastbourne on 18 January was told that the company’s vehicles had an initial failure rate at annual test of 35% over the last five years, which is almost double the national average of 19%.

Director Leslie Squibb told the TC that some of its older vehicles had become tired and admitted that the company had kept some on the fleet for too long.

Prohibitions for vehicle defects had been issued, some of which were S-marked, which the operator said was due to the nature of its work on construction sites. Its main issue was the condition of tyres, with prohibitions handed out for tyres worn beyond their legal limit.

Drivers had received a significant number of prohibitions for offences that included not producing a driver qualification card, not producing their digital download card, not having paper rolls for tachograph printouts in one case, and a tachograph that was not sealed properly in another.

The firm had not been generating infringement reports soon enough after drivers had committed offences, as it had encountered issues with the drivers’ hours analysis supplied by an external company. As a result, drivers were sometimes waiting months before the operator made them aware of infringements.

The PI was told that drivers sometimes had difficulty recording driving that fell outside the scope of drivers’ hours rules, which did not apply to some drivers working on construction sites.

Although the directors and transport manager recognised that there were shortcomings in its systems, the TC
said change had been fairly slow. The company conceded that it had expanded too quickly and had not brought its transport management systems with it.

Prohibitions for tyre issues had been addressed, but it was still receiving prohibitions for other vehicle defects.

The company said it had put a new system for drivers’ hours management in place and did its own brake testing from its in-house maintenance facility. It also planned to appoint an additional transport manager on its O-licences.

Giving his decision at the PI, TC Denton said the company could apply to have the curtailment revised following an independent audit of drivers’ hours and maintenance systems, which is to take place before April 2016.

An undertaking that roller brake tests are to take place every 12 weeks, with the records kept for 15 months, was also added to its O-licences.