WISBECH: Haulage firm given last chance to improve

A Wisbech haulage firm has been given a “first and last chance” to improve its vehicle safety and maintenance record, after appearing before a Deputy Traffic Commissioner for the East of England.

Miles Dorrington ordered that the operator licence held by Heathcliff Haulage Ltd would be cut – leaving the company authorised to run 30 vehicles – after hearing evidence that its HGVs had not been maintained properly and an employee had committed a serious offence in relation to his driving duties.

The Deputy Commissioner also secured a number of commitments from the firm towards future compliance, including that it would build a new maintenance workshop by October 2013.

The inquiry, which took place in Cambridge on 30 October, was called to consider an investigation carried out by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).

A vehicle examiner from the industry enforcement body visited the operator in March 2012 to inspect its facilities for keeping vehicles roadworthy.

After examining the company’s paperwork, the examiner found that vehicles were overdue routine safety inspections and that future checks had not been planned as required. He also noted that daily vehicle checks carried out by drivers were not recorded, the operator had no underside inspection facilities for vehicles, prohibitions had been issued for defects, including tyre damage, and the company had a poor pass rate at annual test.

Following the vehicle examiner’s visit, the Deputy Commissioner heard that a trailer operated by the company was stopped on 27 July 2012 and issued with a safety critical prohibition notice, prompting a further investigation.

During his second visit, the examiner found that the business had implemented changes to its procedures but concluded that the condition of vehicles had not improved.

It was also noted during the public inquiry that a driver employed by the operator had been convicted and fined at Beverley and The Wolds Magistrates’ Court on 28 August 2012 for two drivers’ hours offences – taking insufficient rest within a 24 hour period and making a false record of his driving duty.

The latter offence, which is classed as a most serious infringement, could have led to the termination of the company’s licence, the Deputy Traffic Commissioner warned, but he told directors Derek Oldfield this would not be proportionate in this case.

“I am satisfied that the driver in question, to whom the MSI relates, was acting on a frolic of his own and that the operator was not aware of what he was doing,” Mr Dorrington added.

Turning to the operator licence held by Heathcliff Haulage Ltd, the Deputy Commissioner concluded that the repute of the company and its transport manager – a position filled by former director Heath Noel-Storr – had been tarnished but would not be lost, meaning the licence could continue.

However the Deputy Traffic Commissioner removed four vehicles from the company as a result of the vehicle maintenance failings – limiting its operation from Boleness Road, Wisbech to 30 vehicles.

The firm also promised to undertake an external audit of its maintenance systems, arrange for employees to attend accredited workshops, construct a new inspection facility, implement a written defect reporting system for drivers and employ a new transport manager.

Richard Chalmers did not attend a separate hearing relating to his conduct as a professional HGV driver. As a result, his vocational licence was suspended until he appears before the regulator.