Thandi Coaches (Red) case to be reconsidered

West Bromwich-based Thandi Coaches (Red) has successfully appealed against a revocation and disqualification order by TC Nick Denton

West Bromwich-based Thandi Coaches (Red) has successfully appealed against the revocation of its 32 vehicle O-Licence and the disqualification of Director Amardeep Thandi from acting as a Transport Manager (TM) for 12 months by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Denton insofar as the Upper Tribunal has directed that the case be reconsidered by a different TC.

Making the revocation and disqualification orders, the TC said that the company did not have the required financial standing. Although he was sympathetic to operators whose finances had been damaged by the loss of income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that for a considerable period before the COVID-19 crisis Thandi Coaches was already far short of being able to demonstrate appropriate financial standing.

The oversight of drivers’ hours throughout 2019 was largely non-existent. While he accepted that the chosen pattern of service was a complex one, Mr Denton would have expected the TM to exercise close and effective management of drivers’ hours accordingly. Mr Thandi presided over a chaotic operation in which no real control of drivers’ hours was being exercised at all.

In allowing the appeal, the Tribunal said that the TC had not taken into consideration accounts produced because they were unaudited. An operator is entitled to show compliance with the financial standing requirement by relying on accounts and it was wrong to simply exclude consideration of them. The TC erred because he wrongly excluded the accounts from consideration at all, as opposed to considering them and deciding what weight should be attached to them or deciding whether or not they revealed the existence of available funds. Had he not so erred, he might have reached the same outcome on finance.

In regard to Mr Thandi’s repute as a TM, the Tribunal said that the TC’s reasoning did not show that anything which might have weighed in favour was factored into the overall consideration. They accepted that very low performance levels were likely to be highly relevant where the repute of a TM was an issue and that incompetence would of itself justify a finding of loss of repute.

However, other factors might be relevant too. Here there was the apparent honesty of Mr Thandi with respect to his failings; the seeming ability to cope with the demands of the role prior to the introduction and utilisation of a new analysis system in light of the satisfactory Traffic Examiner report in 2018; the apparent absence of performance concerns prior to 2019; and the seemingly realistic recognition that a new TM would have to be appointed.

Were the adverse findings such that loss of repute was inevitable? Although it might be a close-run thing, the Tribunal had not found able to go quite that far.

In the circumstances of this case the TC was actually required to give a period of grace both with respect to the financial standing issue and the professional competence issue and fell into error of law in failing to do so.

Finally, the Tribunal said that neither the company nor Mr Thandi should assume that the mere fact they had set aside the TC’s decisions meant that, ultimately, they were likely to succeed. They might, but they might not.

Thandi Coaches (Red) has no link to any coach business of a similar name.