A fourth Public Inquiry (PI) has led to the revocation of the 18-vehicle O-Licence held by Aberdare-based school bus operator Monica and Stephen Jarvis, trading as Globe Coaches; the disqualification of the partners from holding a PSV O-Licence for five years; and the disqualification of Mr Jarvis from acting as a Transport Manager (TM) for a similar period by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Victoria Davies.
The partners appeared at previous PIs in 2003, 2012 and 2019. On the latter occasion, the O-Licence authorisation was reduced from 21 vehicles. Their good repute and professional competence was found to be tarnished but retained.
Mr Jarvis retained his repute as TM, albeit it was severely tarnished. He was warned that a further PI was likely to result in loss of repute.
The partners were called to a further PI in Pontypridd after an announced maintenance investigation by DVSA in March 2021. It was found that safety inspection records were not properly completed, specifically in relation to brake performance assessments, and inspection intervals were exceeded. An undertaking given at a previous PI that a rolling brake test would be carried out at every other inspection was not adhered to.
Driver defect reports recorded defects but there was no evidence of action being taken to rectify those or sign off vehicles as fit for use. Maintenance facilities at Globe Coaches were found to be unsatisfactory and the nominated maintenance provider stated on the O-Licence was no longer being used.
A prohibition was issued at the fleet check for a vehicle door not being able to be opened from the outside, and an insecure seatbelt receiver was also found which attracted a prohibition. The vehicle had been used that morning but was marked as VOR and was used on service without a safety inspection being carried out.
The MoT test history fail rate was significantly higher than the national average, and the prohibition rate was also significantly higher than the national average. DVSA also conducted a bus compliance monitoring exercise over six days between 7 November 2020 and 13 March 2021. Its staff found that of 40 journeys seen, nine were more than a minute early and two were more than five minutes late, representing an overall non-compliance rate of 27%.
TC Davies said that the day before the hearing, her office received a letter from Mr Jarvis stating that he would not be attending. He indicated that he intended to surrender the O-Licence at the end of the following month when the fleet insurance was due for renewal, and the business would close from that date.
Shortly before the PI was due to start, Mr Jarvis arrived, although without any of the evidence that had been called for. Monica Jarvis, the other partner in the business, was Mr Jarvis’s mother, aged 85. She did not attend nor make any representations.
Mr Jarvis said that he did not intend to defend the case against him. He said that some of the inspection periods were exceeded because inspections were carried out monthly rather than four-weekly as stated on the O-Licence, which meant that some of those were technically due in the next ISO period and thus recorded as late.
He accepted that he had failed to comply with the undertaking regarding roller brake testing frequency given in July 2019, saying that during the COVID-19 lockdown it had been difficult to arrange for tests. He had now installed his own brake testing equipment, although he produced no evidence to support that statement.
In her decision, TC Davies said that this was the firm’s fourth PI. It had failed to heed the warning of the TC in 2019, who was prepared to allow the partners an opportunity to demonstrate that they could run a compliant business with a reduced number of vehicles. They had failed to do so. This was a serious case involving a breach of trust, which goes to the heart of the O-Licencing regime.
The partners had failed to produce any evidence of finances. It was clear that inspection records were not properly completed as to brake performance, with key data missing and some recorded percentages on inspection sheets differing significantly from those on brake printout records. That was concerning, as brake issues had been highlighted as a concern at previous PIs and they had been the cause of a high number of the MoT failures.
TC Davies found it particularly concerning that an operator that carried schoolchildren and members of the public should have so many test failures and prohibitions due to brake issues and door defects. By failing to provide financial evidence and maintenance records in advance of the PI, the partners had shown that they were not fit to hold an O-Licence.
It was clear that Mr Jarvis as TM was completely failing to exercise the required continuous and effective management.
Delaying the revocation and disqualification orders for three weeks and cutting the Globe Coaches O-Licence to 10 vehicles, the TC said she was very surprised to hear that Rhondda Cynon Taf Council had made no contingency arrangements to cover the school services or the two local registered services currently run by Globe. It had known about the PI and the possibility that she would revoke the O-Licence for some weeks.
That had placed her in a difficult position, as she must balance the risk of allowing Globe to continue operating seven school contracts, a hospital shuttle and two registered local services against the effects of immediate revocation.
TC Davies was told by the local authority (LA) that if she were to revoke the O-Licence with immediate effect, that would mean that the services could not run. That would inevitably result in serious disruption in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area. She would allow a period of running down to enable the LA to make alternative arrangements for the school transport and registered local services.
To address her concerns about road safety, she would ask DVSA to do a fleet inspection of the vehicles as a matter of urgency. Should there be any serious safety concerns about any vehicle, DVSA staff would prohibit its use pending rectification.
Globe Coaches of Aberdare is not associated with any other operator of a similar name.