TCs' annual report 2014-15: in depth look at London and the South East

Every day this week, the Transport Law Blog will bring you an indepth look at the trends in each traffic area, as detailed in the Traffic Commissioners' Annual Reports 2014-15.

Nick Denton, traffic commissioner (TC) for London and the South East, said there were a number of recurring themes at the 358 public inquiries (PIs) undertaken by the TC and his deputies last year, resulting in the revocation of 56 O-licences and the suspension or curtailment of 118 others.

The quality of transport managers was a concern and Denton questioned why there is no requirement for continuous professional development for them, particularly as the Driver CPC is now in force.

“But too many cannot be bothered, taking pride in being ‘old school’ (too often just a synonym for ‘useless’),” Denton said in his report. “If you are an operator with one of these transport managers, please get them trained urgently, get someone else or just surrender your licence to me now.”

He described the approach of many restricted O-licence holders as “amateur” and said many would save lots of time and money if they had complied with the law.

“I have boiled down the requirements of a restricted licence into a simple list of commandments on one sheet of paper which I intend to give to all applicants in future, with instructions to nail it over their bed and check before going to sleep every night that they are doing what they need to,” said Denton.

Denton was concerned about the state of vehicles operating in the waste sector, and said he had seen a large number receive multiple prohibitions for heavily deflated or damaged tyres. He said operators do not always choose the most suitable tyres for use on waste sites, where vehicles are often forced to drive over metal or noxious sludge, and drivers often fail to check their vehicles upon leaving the site.

He said: “I have no authority over the way in which waste site operators conduct their business, but there is something wrong with a business model whose result is that a large proportion of the heavy goods vehicles leaving the site are unroadworthy and dangerous.

“I intend to hold talks with the waste industry to see if this problem can be overcome.”

The TC also warned operators to comply with the undertakings attached to their O-licence at a PI, as by the second PI he will be asking whether to trust the operator to be compliant in future; the chances of which are small.

“There must be something in Eastbourne’s sea air that causes some operators to forget these undertakings the moment they leave the inquiry room. They fail to carry out the undertakings by the deadline or at all,” said Denton.

South East traffic area in numbers

O-licences in issue and goods vehicles specified:
Restricted: 5,123 O-licences in issue. 13,889 vehicles specified.
Standard National: 2,907 O-licences in issue. 19,533 vehicles specified.
Standard International:  1,160 O-licences in issue. 9,469 vehicles specified.
Total number of specified vehicles: 42,891.
Total number of O-licences in issue: 9,190.

O-licence applications:
New O-licences issued in full: 775.
New O-licences applied for: 854.

Public inquiries:
PIs completed: 205.
Licence revocations: 51.
Licence suspensions: 64.
Curtailment or conditions opposed: 43.
Formal warning: 38.
Operator disqualification: 11.
Transport manager disqualification: 26.
No action taken: 12.

Truck driver banned from professional driving until 2035

A Glasgow truck driver has been banned from professional driving until 2035 following a series of convictions for dangerous driving.

Traffic commissioner (TC) for Scotland, Joan Aitken, said she did not want to wait for Hugh Cowan Richardson to kill or injure someone before disqualifying him from driving for an indefinite period.

Richardson had previously been disqualified for three years in 2012 for a number of offences that included tachograph falsification, failing to stop his vehicle when directed, making a physical threat to an enforcement officer, and preventing an enforcement officer from immobilising his truck ?(CM 4 October 2012).

The TC has now made an order for the disqualification to run until ?29 November 2035, which is his? 75th birthday, after more details of his conduct emerged.

After applying for the return of his HGV licence earlier this year, Richardson was called to a driver conduct hearing on 10 August after the DVLA informed the TC of convictions Richardson had not made the TC aware of at the 2012 hearing. These included driving dangerously on the A75 Gretna to Stranraer road.

In August 2011, Richardson endangered other road users when he overtook a car and another truck in a single manoeuvre on a blind bend; exceeded the road’s 40mph speed limit; drove “dangerously close” to a car; and overtook despite continuous double white lines on the A75.

He was disqualified from driving for 18 months at Stranraer Sheriff Court at a hearing in 2012.

At the driver conduct hearing last month, Richardson told the TC that he was a reformed character and claimed there had been no offences since the disqualification. However, the TC discovered that he had driven through a red traffic light two months after the 2012 driver conduct hearing, for which he received a fixed penalty.

In her written decision on 18 August, Aitken said the manner in which Richardson drove “defies belief”.

“Not only was he engaging in the blatant defiance and manipulation of the drivers’ hours and tachograph rules (as narrated in my 2012 decision); mobile phone offending; failing to identify a driver; and obstructing DVSA and the police in their important road safety duties, but there is now this further factor: that his own driving of the lorry was dangerous,” the TC said.

She added, had she known about the dangerous driving in 2012, she would not have restricted his ban to three years.

During the hearing Richardson told the TC that he wanted to return to truck driving and abandon his current work as a yard operator as there was more money to be made.

The TC said: “Money being his motivation I have to be especially wary of him, for he is a man who historically has put money before road safety and respect for others.

“I am going to draw the line and it is that Mr Richardson’s time as a lorry driver is ended in the interests of road safety.”

Summing up: The driver had endangered other road users on multiple occasions and could not be trusted with an HGV licence.

  • This article was published in the 24 September issue of Commercial Motor. Subscribe today to receive the latest legal case reports and advice.