Family of Bolton restricted O-Licence holders come under scrutiny at two-day PI as Deputy TC Simon Evans probes their main occupations and who is running the vehicles
Ten of 12 Bolton restricted O-Licence operators from the same family have lost their licences, following a two-day Public Inquiry at which their main occupations and who in fact was operating the vehicles was probed.
In addition Deputy Traffic Commissioner (DTC) Simon Evans has refused an application for a six-vehicle national licence in the name of Mohammed Tahzeem and Mohammed Bilal Tahzeem, trading as Central Cars & Buses, and partially granted an application for a five-vehicle international licence by Wasim Tahzeem in that he granted a four-vehicle national licence with a warning and an undertaking to have a compliance audit.
The DTC was told that four brothers, a number of sons and two wives held the licences. Following a school bus check, the DVSA had not been satisfied about who was actually operating the vehicles.
All the vehicles were based at the same operating centre at Thynne Street where they were maintained by Central Motors; the vehicles were all on one insurance policy; and the work was sub-contracted from Schools Direct, a company owned by the family.
In his decisions, the DTC said that this was a jurisdiction based on a high degree of trust that the specific requirements met by those granted a restricted licence in the first place, continued to do so thereafter. Operators were deemed to know the law and among the undertakings was a provision that reminded them of the responsibility that they must for so long as the licence was in force continue to meet the criteria for the licence they held.
Critical among those undertakings was the main occupation requirement that afforded a fair competition protection to those who operated PSVs as their main occupation, and who were required to do so with the benefit of a standard licence, the additional financial standing requirements and the need to have in post a transport manager.
Free competition principles were modified for restricted licence holders by the requirement that they must only run their business as a side-line or part-time occupation.
The PSV licence operations of the 12 operators had features that were common or typical among them. All apart from Mohammed Saleem Saghir used the same operating centre.
While the evidence from Mohammed Shamim, the owner of the operating centre, was initially that financial charges were levied by him as owner for the use of the operating centre by each of the others, there was no confirmatory evidence that any such expense was recorded in the profit and loss account or any of the other records produced, of any payment made for rent by any of the operators, or that the income from such rent was recorded as a profit in the accounts of the owner.
Each of the operators had their preventative maintenance checks carried out by Central Motors, owned by Mohammed Shamim. None of the operators produced any invoices for preventative maintenance checks or repair work carried out by the nominated maintenance contractor.
Each of the operators was signed up to a single joint fleet motor insurance policy. No evidence was ever produced to show how any individual operator paid their share of the total cost of the premium for such an insurance policy.
By the final hearing the joint policy arrangements had ceased and they had individual policies. The majority of the operators produced unaudited profit and loss accounts prepared by the same accountancy services supplier. Each of the operators ran their business on a substantially cash-only basis as far as expenditure was concerned.
Each of them used the services of nominally self-employed drivers but those drivers were not required to invoice for their services and were paid in a manner as might typically be the case for employed drivers. Several of the operators, while holding restricted licences themselves, were nevertheless engaged in the driving of PSV vehicles but for other operators.
Each of the operators carried out exclusively school contract work with no other income streams for the use of their PSVs. There was substantial evidence of the loaning or hiring out of vehicles between the operators, and in no case was there evidence produced of any hire agreement or the provision of payments under it. There was substantial evidence of the transfer and re-transfer of vehicles between the various operators over time.
He was not satisfied that there had been here a wholesale and organised arrangement designed to secure the operation of a large number of vehicles under the cover of a series of restricted licences that were in reality operated by one or more of the operators.
While he had concluded that Mohammad Tahzeem was to all intents and purposes the operator of his wife’s and son’s licences, he was not satisfied that there was evidence that either he, or any other operator, had played such a role in relation to the other licences.
That which distinguished the cases of Mohammed Tahzeem, Mohammed Bilal Tahzeem and Masood Tahzeem was clear evidence that Mohammed Tahzeem was in reality operating their licences at both a managerial and practical level, and that Mohammed Bilal Tahzeem and Masood Tahzeem were not. He considered that they had lost their repute as operators.
He had reached that conclusion even having taken into account the significant similarities and common practices. Of them having similar arrangements, including at one end of the scale a joint insurance arrangement, which while being naive in the extreme and liable, when other matters were taken into account, to bring suspicion on the practices in place, did not constitute a breach of the requirements.
That was particularly the case when he took into account the reality of family members each holding their own restricted licence and the obvious likelihood that they might adopt processes and practices that were common.
That he made adverse findings in respect of other licences related to the conclusions he had reached about other aspects of the restricted licence regime, principally the main occupation rule.
The DTC also revoked the licences held by Haroon Shamin on main occupation grounds; Saiqa Saleem Saghir on grounds of main occupation and financial standing; Wasim Tahzeem on main occupation grounds; Afshan Haseena Tahzeem, trading as Affy’s Travel, holding she had lost her repute for failing to record the financial outcomes of a business that ran for two years; Irfan Amin, trading as Irfan Buses, on main occupation and financial standing grounds; Mohammed Amin, trading as Euro Mini Buses, on main occupation grounds; and Ansir Shamim on grounds of main occupation and financial standing.
Mohammed Saleen Saghir, trading as MS Saghir, was given a formal warning and required to agree to undertakings:
- Vehicles with eight passenger seats or less will not be operated under the licence without the prior written agreement of the TC, who may require certain additional undertakings
- Limousines and novelty vehicles are not to be operated under the licence
- The operator will keep records of time spent and income earned from all occupations separately. Records will be made available to DVSA officers or OTC staff on request
- Should income from, or time spent on, the PSV operation exceed that from all other sources for two consecutive months, the operator will immediately notify this material change to the Office of the TC and apply for a standard national licence.
The DTC said that there was no direct evidence to show that any other person than Mr Saghir was operating the licence and he was satisfied that his main occupation was other than PSV operations. While he had brought suspicion on himself through the manner in which he had operated his business, he did not find that the actions taken by him amounted to such an undermining of the restricted licence regime that his repute was lost.
Mohammad Shamim, trading as M Shamim, was given a final warning and required to agree to similar undertakings.
The DTC said that there had been a failure to manage the licence in accordance with the rules and the responsibilities of a licence holder and compliance with the requirements of the licence.
There had been a failure to administer the licence in a fashion that would be such that Mr Shamim could satisfy himself that its terms were being met at all times because of the absence of full and proper recording of its financial transactions, capable of being audited.
He did not judge that his good repute as an operator had been lost. He concluded that he could be compliant in the future with the requirements of the licence, including the main occupation requirements.