"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now." Chinese Proverb
One routine vehicle stop in London started a chain of events for a small family run haulage operator which had the potential to put them out of business indefinitely. It transpired that due to business pressures the driver had made a significant number of false records on his tachograph. This driver happened to be the business owner. Realising the risk to the business, Sense TMR Ltd were called.
Knowingly making a false record is a very serious charge which carries the potential for a custodial sentence (that means prison!). From the start John Brooks contacted the Police and managed the process for the inevitable prosecution. A specialist transport solicitor was appointed and with careful and skilful management the outcome was a good as could be expected. However, this was not to be the end of it.
After conducting a systems audit it was clear to John that a full DVSA investigation (which he rightly believed to be imminent) would not result in a favourable outcome, and nor was it. It was now about planning for the future of the family business.
The following recommendation was made.
· Expect a Public Inquiry.
· Do not defend the licence.
· Prepare for a new licence application with full disclosure (new Limited Company, new management, new systems etc).
· Provide training and coaching for the drivers and management.
· Manage the drivers through their DVSA interviews.
· Prepare for the Public Inquiry and request consideration of the new licence at the same time using the above improvements as a basis for the submission.
The old Licence was revoked. The drivers were sanctioned. The traffic Commissioner was however, willing to consider the application for a new licence for the new business provided it was managed by the new team and on a compliant basis. The new licence was subsequently granted, audited and has since been upgraded to an International. One of the drivers who was sanctioned at the Public Inquiry for his conduct has now been accepted as a Transport Manager. At a recent DVSA roadside inspection the vehicle and driver were found to be fully compliant. “Keep up the very good work” was the officer’s parting comment.
On reflection John Brooks commented that “This case demonstrates a number of key points.
Firstly, The Traffic Commissioner would much rather have an Operator put things right and be compliant than put them out of business. Although, they will put you out of business if they are not convinced that you will!
Secondly, if you do have problems or have ‘fallen short’, even knowingly, everyone gets a chance to make it right. The question is - do you want to make it right, and will you?
Finally, regulatory action is an uncomfortable situation to be in and it is unfamiliar territory for most operators. Get a consultant onboard the moment detect that you may have a problem, don’t wait until the last minute. And then get a good transport solicitor.”
When would be a good time to get it right and be compliant? 20 years ago, but failing that, do it now!”
Sense TMR Ltd will always recommend the use of a Transport Solicitor. There is a reason why the “call up papers” recommend you appoint and attend with a Solicitor. As John Brooks puts it, “the Solicitor is the one that will say the right things on your behalf at a Public Inquiry. The Consultant will work with you to deliver on those right things.”