Back to top of page
Millbrook 2019
Back to previous page
February 06 2019
By Mike Jewell

Mike Jewell is the industry’s leading legal journalist, covering all key cases brought before Public Inquries, Tribunals, Magistrates and Crown Courts

Firm’s disarray described as
‘intolerable’ by DTC

A fall out between the two Directors of Morpeth-based Longstaffs Travel, leading to one walking out and the other “frightened” to put money into the company’s account to which they both still had access, was described as “intolerable” by Deputy Traffic Commissioner (DTC) Mark Hinchliffe. 

In cutting the company’s international licence from 12 to 10 vehicles for 14 days, the DTC gave it four months to sort the problem or face a second Public Inquiry.

The firm had been called before the DTC because of concerns over vehicle maintenance and drivers’ hours abuse after one of its vehicles was found to have a dangerously insecure window and the driver found to have committed a number of hours offences when stopped by a Traffic Examiner on 2 August.

Fall out ensues

For the company, Harry Bowyer said that there had been a major fall out between Directors Glyn Griffiths and Raymond Wilkinson in the late summer of last year and Mr Griffiths had not played any part since.

The fall out was the reason for the disarray the company found itself in last summer. 

Finance had been a problem due to the fall out. Mr Wilkinson did not want to put money into the company’s bank account to which Mr Griffiths had access. He would open a new account and put money into that account in the next few weeks.

The then Transport Manager (TM), Geoffrey Balston, had only been in situ for seven weeks at the time of the August incident. The company now had a new TM, Stuart Tilley, and the systems had all been overhauled. The DTC was dealing with a different situation now than the DVSA officers had found.

The DTC commented that there had been a series of coming and goings of TMs recently and nobody had been getting a grip.

Mr Wilkinson said that until the fall out he had been in charge of vehicle maintenance and at the time had no supervision over drivers’ hours. 

He had been a Director since he and Mr Griffiths purchased the company in October 2013. However, he was initially working abroad, coming back in July 2015, with Mr Griffiths running the company alone in 2014. 

He’d had a few fall outs with Mr Griffiths, the last one being in July. He did not agree with the way that Mr Griffiths was running the company and he would not make the changes that he wanted. They had a really big argument and Mr Griffiths walked out. His partner Pat Booth was still employed by the company and she did the invoicing.

Insecure window

The driver involved in the August incident, Byron Dodd, was irresponsible. He and another driver had driven up to Gretna Green to pick up the coach without Mr Dodd recording the positioning journey. As a result, he committed rest offences and was prosecuted.

He drove from Scotland and stayed in Newcastle overnight before driving to London, where he reported the insecure window. Mr Dodd had said that it was the outer skin that was the problem and he told him to take the skin off and tape it up. He had taken the driver’s word that the window was secure. Mr Dodd had resigned before he could be disciplined.

The DTC commented that the coach was “wrapped up like a Christmas tree with gaffer tape”. It was full of passengers with a very insecure window and the driver had been breaking the drivers’ hours rules.” Mr Wilkinson agreed with the DTC that the photograph of the coach was appalling.

TM resignation

Mr Tilley said that drivers’ journeys were now properly scheduled and the situation in August could not occur again. The drivers were being sent on NVQ courses. Six vehicles were used on school contracts and they had summer work for another six. If the licence was curtailed, they would struggle to meet their contracts.

After the DTC had said that when the Vehicle Examiner went in in September he found a lot of basic maintenance problems, Mr Tilley said that he had had difficulty to start with as Mr Griffiths’ partner had the access codes. He had not known that she had them as she was being awkward. He thought she did not really want him there. When he started he had not known what her position in the company was.

Mr Balston said that he had a four-vehicle licence of his own and if he lost his repute as a TM he would have to close his business down. He had agreed to do 20 hours a week as TM after the company was given a period of grace to get a new TM.

Mr Griffiths was initially scheduling the drivers before it was taken over by Pat Booth.

Though the August incident happened on his watch he did not know who allocated the job.  He did not know at the time that Mr Dodd had gone to Gretna by car. He had resigned as TM on 14 August as he could not put sufficient time in, telling Mr Wilkinson that the company needed a full time TM.

The decision

In his decision, giving the company four months’ grace to get its financial standing to the required level, the DTC said that they had very much taken their eye off the ball in regard to vehicle maintenance and drivers’ hours.

The follow up investigation had been unsatisfactory. However, he recognised that steps had been taken to improve matters greatly, though, having seen the maintenance records produced; there were still some outstanding issues. He was concerned about financial standing and very worried that a Director existed who had nothing to do with the company. That could not continue.

It was very much to Mr Balson’s credit had he had recognised he had insufficient time to do the TM’s job properly. As he had acquired his TM CPC through grandfather rights, he required him to undertake a one-day refresher course within four months.

More like this...

Transport Benevolent Fund - 2019