Target Travel and MD disqualified

Target Travel and its Managing Director Robert Risk have been disqualified from holding an O-Licence

Following the revocation of the O-Licence held by Dealtop (Plymouth), trading as Target Travel [routeone/Court Report/29 January 2020].

Traffic Commissioner (TC) Kevin Rooney has disqualified the company and its Managing Director Robert Risk from holding or obtaining a PSV O-Licence for two years.

The TC revoked the company’s 23-vehicle O-Licence at a Launceston Public Inquiry (PI) because of a number of issues, including the operation of service vehicles that did not comply with the PSVAR vehicle maintenance and financial standing.

The current O-Licence was granted in November 2018 after a previous O-Licence had been revoked on financial grounds earlier that year [routeone/Court Report/ 15 August 2018].

In revoking the current O-Licence, the TC said that on 15 July 2019, a vehicle was involved in a serious collision on the B3257. There was no suggestion that the company or its driver was in any way culpable, but an examination of the crashed vehicle identified significant defects that pre-dated the incident.

On 9 August 2019 Devon County Council raised concerns that the company had used non-PSVAR compliant vehicles on public bus services on multiple occasions during June and July 2019.

On 3 October 2019 the Council reported that a vehicle failed to display an O-Licence disc during a school contract run.

The company had showed financial standing in February 2019 and on the basis that that amount would be available, as an average, on a continuing basis; the O-Licence was increased from 17 vehicles to 23.

Mr Risk thereafter chose to use the money identified as financial standing to buy no fewer than eight vehicles including putting a large deposit on an expensive football team coach.

That showed a recklessness which appeared to have contributed to inaccessible vehicles being used on registered bus services and to vehicles being operated with bald tyres. With full knowledge of the financial standing requirement, Mr Risk chose to be non-compliant. Almost immediately the variation to the O-Licence was granted and has been non-compliant ever since.

Non-compliant vehicles

Mr Risk accepted that non-PSVAR compliant vehicles were used on registered bus services on 21 June, 11 July, 18 July, 22 July and 23 July 2019. He explained that the scheduled vehicle had broken down. That was further evidence that vehicles were not being kept fit and serviceable.

PSVAR required, in simple terms, all single deck buses on regular services to be accessible from 1 January 2016 and double-deck buses by 1 January 2017.

Mr Risk stated that he preferred to operate the route with a non-compliant vehicle rather than fail to operate entirely. He seemed to miss the point that he was required to operate the route with a compliant vehicle and that he should ensure that he had contingency plans in place.

Being compliant with accessibility regulations was all part of keeping vehicles fit and serviceable and that admission on his part was a serious one.

The behaviour in relation to financial standing was enough on its own for the TC to conclude that he could not trust the company to be compliant. Such a conclusion was supported by the attitude to PSVAR compliance.

In considering whether its conduct was so bad that the company ought to be put out of business, he could not ignore the condition of the bus involved in the accident whilst in service. Whilst the defects did not contribute to the crash, they were dangerous and could well have done so in different circumstances.

Sole control

Making the disqualification orders, the TC said that Robert Risk was in sole control of the business and his son Lee Risk acted in an administrative capacity only, despite his status as a statutory Director.

It was necessary for Robert Risk to reflect upon his actions and that any further entry to the industry by his son would benefit from not operating under his control.

In deciding not to disqualify Lee Risk, the TC said that while he clearly did not fulfil his statutory duties, he accepted that the familial relationship made doing so more difficult. He had been subject to an O-Licence revocation.

No further action was required but any re-entry to the industry would be subject to scrutiny and he would need to demonstrate that he was in charge.

To allow Lee Risk to demonstrate that he was having a new start, it was necessary that he be separated from Dealtop (Plymouth) and the almost inevitable involvement of his father should he continue with that company.