TC Denton’s disqualification of ‘semi-detached’ TM is upheld

TM disqualification decision upheld by Upper Tribunal

The disqualification of Baljit Singh Atwal, who worked for 14 days as the Transport Manager (TM) of Birmingham-based Assist VIP Travel Ltd, by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Denton (pictured), until such time as he passed a fresh TM CPC exam, has been upheld by the Upper Tribunal on appeal.

An investigation by DVSA detected many vehicle maintenance failures and drivers’ hours problems. There was difficulty in contacting Mr Atwal to discuss various of the concerns. It was noted that he worked 22 hours per week, but not at regular times, and that he had “personal circumstances” that precluded him from working to a regular pattern.

In disqualifying Mr Atwal, the TC had also suspended the company’s O-Licence for 14 days and given it a period of grace to recruit a qualified TM. That could be Mr Atwal if he passed the TM CPC examination before the end of the period of grace.

In his decision, the TC said that while he accepted that Mr Atwal had not deliberately set out to fail to comply, his had been a semi-detached presence and he had failed to exercise the required continuous and effective management of the transport activities of the business.

Mr Atwal had been too ready to delegate duties to unqualified and unsuitable people and he had failed to check whether those duties had been carried out. Many of them had not. His knowledge of the digital tachograph analysis system remained poor. He had been elusive throughout much of DVSA’s investigation. Mr Denton had no confidence that Mr Atwal would be able to ensure compliant operations.

The TC concluded that Mr Atwal lacked the good repute necessary for a TM. Because Mr Atwal’s failings were such that the mere passage of time was unlikely to remedy them, the TC was disqualifying him from acting as a TM for an indefinite period of time. However, Mr Atwal might re-establish his good repute by taking and passing the TM CPC examination.

Dismissing the appeal, the Upper Tribunal said that it was explained that Mr Atwal had “personal circumstances” that prevented him from working regular hours, but it was nevertheless the case that a TM was required to exercise continuous and effective management of the operator’s transport functions. The TM was, after all, a pivotal person within the context of the operator’s functions.

Mr Atwal had said that he had made improvements, both in his own knowledge regarding TM functions and in the company’s systems. He acknowledged that there had been some degree of fault on his part, but he asserted that he was seeking to rectify any shortcomings. However, the TC considered the failings to be so significant as to outweigh the mitigating factors. It could not seriously be contended that the TC was plainly wrong in that conclusion.