Builth Wells based Nigel Wynn Brown, trading as Roy Brown’s Coaches, was disqualified for five years from holding or obtaining a PSV O-Licence and from acting as a Transport Manager (TM) after his 15-vehicle national O-Licence was revoked by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Victoria Davies following a Pontypridd Public Inquiry (PI).
The licence was granted in 2000 and originally authorised 28 vehicles. At a PI on 14 September 2007, the authorisation on the licence was reduced to 21 vehicles because of concern over maintenance, and a number of additional undertakings were imposed.
Mr Brown was again called to PI on 17 May 2017 when the authorisation was cut to 15 vehicles because of maintenance problems, a failure to observe the rules on tachographs and drivers’ hours, the making of false statements and a failure to comply with the undertakings imposed at the earlier PI. Further undertakings were imposed, and Mr Brown was given a formal warning.
TC Davies said that DVSA received a report on 8 October 2020 that one of Mr Brown’s vehicles was transporting schoolchildren with a flat tyre and a broken exhaust. As a result, DVSA conducted an investigation.
It found an inadequate and unsatisfactory operating centre, with vehicles parked at the entrance and others parked in a lay-by; unsatisfactory maintenance inspection records; unsatisfactory driver defect reporting; unsatisfactory inspection facilities and maintenance arrangements; and an unsatisfactory prohibition assessment with a prohibition rate of 28.6%, which was above the national average.
Of the six undertakings imposed at the 2017 PI, there was evidence to suggest that the only one that had been fully complied with was that relating to rolling brake tests.
Mr Brown accepted the shortcomings that had been identified by the DVSA Vehicle Examiner and admitted that he could identify a lot of things that he had slipped up on. Mr Brown said that a transport consultant dealt with all the wall planners, went through the PMIs, carried out spot checks and pointed out what needed to be done.
When asked what he did personally to comply with his duties as TM, Mr Brown said that he consulted the consultant and they tried to work together to make sure that everything was safe. There had been staffing problems. Mr Brown needed someone “to take responsibility” and the consultant he had used had not been up to standard, which he maintained was why the compliance problems had occurred.
Asked about his own role as TM and whether he had failed in his duty to continuously and effectively manage all the transport activities, Mr Brown accepted that he had fallen down in that regard. He said that was because he had been “at the coal face,” repairing his vehicles, trying to juggle different responsibilities and wearing several hats.
He employed 10 to 15 people and provided school contract services for Powys County Council, along with some private hire work. He was contracted to provide 10 or 12 school services, carrying several hundred children each day.
An officer from the Fleet Management Department of Powys County Council said that he had also attended the PI in 2017 and was very disappointed to be back at another now. The officer had made contingency plans to cover the routes operated by Mr Brown, should the TC’s decision be to revoke the O-Licence.
Making the revocation and disqualification orders after holding that Mr Brown had lost his repute, TC Davies said that in 2017, Mr Brown’s repute as an operator and TM was found to be seriously tarnished and he was given a formal and final warning as to his future contact. Mr Brown had failed to heed that warning and, once again, had failed to comply with undertakings imposed by a TC.
He had, yet again, breached the trust placed in him as an operator that was fundamental to the O-Licencing regime. In light of Mr Brown’s failure to heed earlier warnings given at two previous PIs in relation to similar failings, TC Davies considered it highly unlikely that Mr Brown would comply in the future.
His failures had put road safety at risk, which was particularly concerning given that he was carrying schoolchildren, and those failings had given him an unfair commercial advantage over other operators.
On the positive side, of the prohibitions that had been issued, none were S-marked, and, since December 2020, there had been an improvement in the annual test failure rate. TC Davies noted that it was no longer four times the national average but was instead two times the national average.
She accepted that that was an improvement, but it still gave her great cause for concern, as those results could be a barometer of the way in which an operator’s vehicles were being maintained. She noted that Mr Brown was co-operative with the DVSA investigation.
However, this was a bad case in which there was a previous PI history for virtually identical O-Licence failures. TC Davies also took the view that other operators that carried out their business in a compliant manner would be shocked if another operator was permitted to operate vehicles against such a background.
This was Mr Brown’s third PI. Similar concerns were raised at all three and Mr Brown failed to heed the warning of the TC in 2017, who was prepared to allow Mr Brown one final opportunity to demonstrate that he could run a fully compliant operation. TC Davies considered this to be a serious case, involving a breach of trust which went to the heart of the O-Licencing regime.
The TC delayed the implementation of her decision for a fortnight to allow for an orderly running down and to allow sufficient time for Powys County Council to make alternative arrangements for the school transport services operated by Mr Brown.
Finally, as a rehabilitation measure, the TC directed that Mr Brown should re-sit the TM CPC course, adding that should he wish to be appointed as a TM in the future, he would need to appear before a TC to determine whether his repute should be restored.