Second PI brings five-year ban for AWL Minicoaches

AWL Minicoaches
Mr Laughlin blamed his maintenance provider for the standard of his vehicles

Disqualification for ‘dishonest’ operator who deliberately failed to keep his vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition

Alan Laughlin, trading as AWL Minicoaches, was disqualified from holding a PSV O-Licence for five years when his two-vehicle national licence was revoked by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Clare Gilmore at his second public inquiry (PI) in five years.

The TC also disqualified Mr Laughlin’s Transport Manager, Thomas Walker, from acting as such for six months.

Mr Laughlin was called before the TC because of issues over vehicle maintenance and tachograph use. The licence was granted at a PI in June 2015 after the surrender of Mr Laughlin’s restricted licence on the agreement that he heeded the licence undertakings, kept his records up to date and ensured that the non-compliance found in relation to the restricted licence was not repeated.

Mr Laughlin accepted that the maintenance of his vehicles had not been kept to the required standard, but blamed his maintenance provider. He could not explain why the dates on two of the PMI sheets had been changed. When asked why he had not produced all the documents that had been asked for, he said that he had left a plastic bag containing them on the subway on his way to the inquiry. He conceded that the alterations made to PMI sheets, the logging of a backdated maintenance contract, the erasing of details from his booking diary and the production of unsigned letters could give rise to a suspicion that he was falsifying documents.

Making the revocation and disqualification orders, the TC said that she was unable to find that the PMI sheets had been deliberately altered. The dates could have been changed in correction of a genuine error. However, the backdating of the maintenance contract was a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from the length of time that there had not been one. Such a falsification was extremely serious.

She did not believe his denial that he had not allowed a driver without the correct entitlement to drive his vehicle. Such a denial, when weighed against the evidence of the driver during the stop and his own diary entries, was simply not credible.

She was unable to attach any weight to the letter purported to have been written by the driver which was produced by Mr Laughlin. It was unsigned, undated and not spoken to by the driver at any time during the investigation or the inquiry.

The TC also did not believe Mr Laughlin’s story about losing the documents asked for on the subway.

This was a case where Mr Laughlin had obtained a commercial advantage over other operators and compromised road safety by deliberately failing, for a significant period, to keep his vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition. He had attempted to conceal his failures by falsifying documentation. It was a bad case in which dishonesty was a feature.

While Mr Walker appeared to be technically knowledgeable, the failures identified indicated that he would benefit from training. As a rehabilitation measure, the TC set a requirement to complete a two-day CPC refresher course. Should Mr Walker wish to be appointed as a TM in the future, he would need to appear before a TC.