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Six-month ban for sole trader with ‘no real understanding’ of O-licensing requirements

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A Mansfield-based sole trader has been disqualified from holding an O-licence for six months after he was found to be operating without a transport manager for a significant period of time.

The traffic commissioner (TC) for the North East, Tim Blackmore (pictured), also found that Alexander Coates, who traded as A Coates & Son, had no real understanding of the O-licensing system and had no apparent desire to understand its requirements.

Blackmore revoked Coates’ standard international O-licence, which authorised two vehicles and two trailers, with an immediate effect following a public inquiry (PI) on 10 October. The operator did not attend the hearing and did not provide evidence of financial standing, which resulted in the licence being revoked automatically.

The business had been operating with a transport manager in name only. The transport manager, Mary Brown, appeared to have no input in the operation despite attempting to engage with it.

Coates attempted to sever links with Brown in July 2016, only to fail to remove her from the O-licence. A replacement transport manager, Gavin Webb, was only added to the licence in December.

Brown was issued a formal warning by the TC. She escaped more stringent action due to illness, but Blackmore noted she had a responsibility to keep the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) informed of actions that might compromise the compliance of the business.

Significant drivers’ hours offences were identified, including more than 13,000km unaccounted for between 1 June and 22 November 2016.

Driver cards were being removed from vehicle units, generally coinciding with drivers reaching the limit of their driving time.

Tachograph records also revealed that three vehicles were in operation between June and August 2016, despite the business having permission for just two.

Drivers’ hours and maintenance documentation requested by the DVSA was incomplete and drivers’ defect reports had not been completed.

The business had been operating from an unauthorised site in Clipstone Village, Mansfield, despite having permission for a site in Newark.

When a DVSA examiner visited the authorised operating centre, he was told that the operator had relocated. The OTC was not told of the change until January 2017- two months after the examiner’s visit.

Alexander Coates also failed to inform the OTC about a change in maintenance provider, and prohibitions for vehicle defects had been issued.

The TC said the operator’s attempt to surrender the O-licence before the PI, which was rejected by the TC, was an attempt to avoid regulatory action.

Blackmore said in his written decision: “This is a case where an operator was granted a licence with no real understanding or knowledge of the licensing system, or apparent desire to gain such knowledge.

“Such cutting of corners also runs counter to the principle of fair competition across the industry; therefore revocation on these grounds is equally applicable and proportionate.”

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