A bid to increase the authorisation on the licence held by Whitehaven-based Peter Kermeen and Elaine Fletcher, trading as 3D Travel, from eight to 10 vehicles has been turned down by Deputy Traffic Commissioner (DTC) Simon Evans.
The DTC also continued a curtailment of the licence to seven vehicles until the end of February.
The partners, of Muncaster Road, Whitehaven, first appeared before the DTC at a Golborne Public Inquiry (PI) in April 2014 when he gave them time to address a series of shortcomings, which might have led to serious disciplinary action against the licence.
When the hearing continued, the DTC was told that in the intervening period 13 MOT tests had been undertaken, with six passes, five failures and two passes with rectification at station (PRS), equating to a failure rate of 54%. The Vehicle Examiner accepted that the failures were clustered around the early period since April 2014, and that the trajectory had become more positive over time.
On a purely mathematical analysis however, there was no improvement during the period in question. There had been five roadside encounters, of which three led to prohibition.
Again, it was his view that it was not possible to suggest there had been the desired improvement. Each of the prohibitions was issued in July 2014.
Peter Kermeen said that
there had been a six-month journey, but the corner had been turned. It was accepted that in terms of numbers of prohibitions and MOT presentations it was difficult to see clear improvement.
The DTC pointed out that there had been unacceptable failures, such as a prohibition for luggage blocking an emergency exit, a tachograph found to be outside its calibration period, and a vehicle presented for prohibition clearance failing on another matter.
Mr Kermeen said that the shortcomings had culminated in his decision to dismiss his fitter in July. The fitter’s replacement and a temporary change to a four-weekly preventative maintenance regime had seen a subsequent improvement in fortunes.
The partnership was maintaining 11 vehicles at present. Seven vehicles were in use to satisfy eight school contracts and private hire work. To allow the increase in fleet size up to 10 vehicles would not in fact increase the overall workload, but allow greater flexibility.
Transport Consultant Chris Howarth said that he had carried out audits of the maintenance and drivers’ hours systems in October. His recommendations had led to a greater frequency of maintenance checks, the continued updating of the fleet, and a commitment to improving the competence of the maintenance staff.
The audit of drivers’ hours had produced satisfactory findings across the board. He had been in weekly until September, and monthly since. He accepted that Mr Kermeen had probably not acted to replace the former fitter with sufficient speed, but said that the change in the last three months was positive.
In his decision, the DTC said that there had been a period of unsatisfactory operation from the middle of 2013. It was clear that the evidence of sustainable improvement that he had expected to find had not entirely been achieved.
However there was now, somewhat belatedly because the partners had not acted decisively on advice, some clear evidence of progress. He was prepared to accept that the arrangements in place with continuing support from the consultant could support compliant operation.
However, there was not yet sufficient evidence to support the increase to 10 vehicles.
Recording a formal warning against the partnership and Mr Kermeen as Transport Manager, the DTC said that his patience was wearing thin.
The partners had continued to risk the very existence of the business, in a manner that would place the licence in considerable jeopardy if it was again called to PI.