Firm under Section 19 permit gets licence cut

Community transport operator ‘narrowly’ misses loss of repute after unsatisfactory maintenance probe

The PSV national O-Licence held Ripley-based Community Transport for Town and County has been cut from six vehicles to four for 28 days by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Simon Evans.

It follows an unsatisfactory maintenance investigation after one of its vehicles, operating under a Section 19 permit, lost a pair of road wheels. In addition, the TC disqualified Patrick Dawson, a trustee of the charity and its Chief Executive and Transport Manager (TM) at the time of the wheel loss incident, from acting as a TM indefinitely.

The firm had been called before the TC at a Golborne Pubic Inquiry [routeone/Court Report/ 13 March].

In his decision the TC said that regarding the wheel loss incident the Vehicle Examiner reported that there were six “key failures”, which had led to the incident: The poor quality of walk-round checks; poor standards within the external maintenance contractor; an absence of quality assurance processes of the work of contractors and gate checks of drivers; an absence of routine check procedures directed to the retorque of removed wheels; general wheel security procedures; and a lack of consistent arrangements across the fleet for the use of wheel markers.

The primary responsibility for ensuring that such factors might not adversely affect vehicle operation lay with the nominated TM. The ultimate responsibility for compliance lay with the operator itself, often in the form of the director with responsibility for line managing the TM. In this case, at the relevant time, Mr Dawson held both roles. 

Mr Dawson admitted that the reality was that he was little more than a “transport manager in name only”. Peter Hatfield had held his TM role full-time until his departure, and Mr Dawson’s time was consumed substantially in an all-embracing senior management role.

When Mr Hatfield departed, he had taken no additional steps to prepare himself to take on Mr Hatfield’s role and had not sought any refresher training since qualifying in 2007. 

He accepted he was at the material time operating as the director and not as TM. In short, he abrogated his responsibility to others and that represented a serious and unacceptable dereliction of his responsibility.

The wheel loss incident was serious in nature, yet wholly avoidable. If the most basic of arrangements had been in place and subject to effective management by a TM, the risk, which both individual passengers and the public faced, would not have materialised.

While the business takes pride in its position as “the first semi-autonomous group operating within the (HCT) Group”, he concluded that some of the shortcomings exposed probably flowed directly from such status.

There was now a TM in post, who would appear to be progressing necessary changes against the backdrop of the wider support available through the HCT Group.

Whether integration into a larger business would provide support, expertise and resilience would be a key issue for directors to grapple with going forward. By narrow margins, he concluded that the repute of the operator was not lost.