March farmers disqualified from operating after running unsafe vehicles

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A local farmer who presented a potential risk to other road users as well as to himself has been disqualified from running vehicles from today (Wednesday) by the region’s Traffic Commissioner.

The ruling means that Ian Smith will not be able to hold an operator’s licence for a period of three years. His father, Paul Smith, will also have to retake his professional qualification before he can work as a Transport Manager again.

It follows a public inquiry which heard that Ian and Paul Smith operated a vehicle without a valid MOT and failed to meet safety standards. The farming business also used a defective vehicle on the road, even though it had been prohibited by a government inspector.

The partnership was called before haulage industry regulator Richard Turfitt as a result of investigations by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).

A vehicle examiner visited the firm’s operating base in Coleseed Road, March after one of its trailers was found with a significant defect in the brake systems. During his inspection, the VOSA officer discovered that routine vehicle safety inspections were overdue – one by 19 weeks.

Mr Turfitt noted that the partnership had been issued with other prohibition notices for defects on the fleet. He was also told that 50 per cent of vehicles had failed their MOT.

At the inquiry, paperwork revealed that a few improvements had been made since the examiner’s visit, including regular safety inspections. However an examination of Ian Smith’s driving duties revealed a number of offences, including that he had not taken adequate breaks and driven for excessive periods.

At the inquiry, Ian Smith admitted to the Traffic Commissioner that he had ignored his father’s advice to keep better records of his driving duty. Mr Turfitt concluded that he had failed to accept his responsibilities.

“Mr Smith’s … general approach throughout the course of the public inquiry caused me some concern in regard to his fitness to operate a licence.”

Mr Smith admitted to basic deficiencies in his planning and arrangements for keeping vehicles and trailers maintained properly.

“His whole approach, in my opinion, presents a potential risk to other road users as well as to himself and has weighed heavily in my considerations in respect of this public inquiry,” Mr Turfitt added.

Ordering that Mr Smith would be disqualified from holding or obtaining an operator’s licence for a period of three years, the regulator also directed that the licence held by Ian Smith and Paul Smith would be revoked from May 8, 2013.

He also found the business was no longer running as a partnership meaning there had been a material change to the entity. Operator licences are not transferable.

“Given the degree to which these operators have failed to meet the standards expected of them and taking into account the attitude demonstrated by them before and at public inquiry, it is necessary that this transport operation come to an end.”

Mr Turfitt also made a finding against Paul Smith in his role as transport manager on the operator’s licence. In the course of the Public Inquiry Paul Smith admitted that he was a Transport Manager in name only.

“He has failed to pick up the shortcomings in record-keeping and the intervals between the required preventative maintenance inspections.

“It is far below the standard expected of a reputable transport manager to the point where I conclude that it is proportionate to take action in respect of his Certificate of Professional Competence.”

Ruling that he had lost his professional competence to work as a transport manager, the regulator told Mr Smith he would need to retake his professional qualification before the order for disqualification could be removed.