Seven-year ban for County Connect and Directors

first_imgRevocation and seven-year disqualification come after numerous offences, including the use of a photocopied vehicle discThe international licence held by Sevenoaks-based County Connect has been revoked, and the company’s Directors Alexander Edwards and Jordan Cousins have been disqualified from holding or obtaining a PSV O-licence for seven years.The revocation and disqualification comes after the use of a fraudulent PSV O-Licence disc, using more vehicles than authorised, failures to operate local services, maintenance problems and breaches of the drivers’ hours and tachograph rules.  In addition Traffic Commissioner (TC) Sarah Bell disqualified Mr Edwards from acting as a Transport Manager (TM) for a similar period.Where an operator failed to produce records it was an aggravating feature because it deprived the enforcement agencies and TCs of finding the full extent of any wrongdoingThe company, of Wrotham, Sevenoaks, which held a two-vehicle licence, had been called before the TC at an Eastbourne Public Inquiry but failed to attend. A request to surrender the licence was refused by the TC.In her decision the TC said that Mr Cousins had been a Director of the company at all times, either formally or as a de-facto director when removed at Companies House to assist obtaining finance. The company had failed to keep authorised vehicles at the nominated operating centre when not in use, and had failed to notify material changes within 28 days, i.e. change of maintenance arrangements, operating centre and the re-appointment of Mr Cousins as a Director. Mr Cousins failed to produce his Driver CPC card at the roadside. The company had used more vehicles than authorised on the road at the same time, and had used a vehicle displaying a photocopied vehicle disc with intent to deceive. The company had failed to produce to DVSA all records required under numerous notices and the records, which were sent, were only received after the deadlines, and had also failed to comply with a number of undertakings on the licence in relation to the maintenance of vehicles and drivers’ hours and tachographs, including the offer of a cash incentive to breach the rules. The company failed to operate local registered services and failed to cancel local registered services.This was a bad case. Where an operator failed to produce records it was an aggravating feature because it deprived the enforcement agencies and TCs of finding the full extent of any wrongdoing. The explanations provided by the company in relation to the use of a photocopied vehicle disc and the use of three vehicles were neither compelling nor credible. The Directors each stated they ‘assumed’ the other had photocopied and displayed the vehicle disc.The company claimed to use two vehicles for nine local bus services, including school runs, Monday to Friday and a third vehicle on tour work most weekends through Kentish Tours, of which Mr Edwards and Mr Cousins were Directors. That explanation was incompatible, by way of example, with the third vehicle displaying an original disc on Monday 12 September. Further, Mr Edwards had to concede that when that vehicle was used on Friday 11 November, the company had three vehicles on the road.She noted that it was the company’s intention for Andrew Kelly to ‘run’ the coach side of the operation. Mr Kelly was variously described as General Manager and Operations Manager. The Traffic Examiner’s second meeting with the company was at Mr Kelly’s home.Mr Edwards, the nominated TM, claimed that he relied on Mr Kelly’s ‘expertise’ when the maintenance was taken in house. She did not accept that Mr Kelly left the company due to various ‘illegal ongoings’. The facts indicated an ongoing, close working relationship. As at the date of the hearing Mr Kelly and Mr Edwards remained directors of Kelly and Sons. She did not accept the suggestion that Mr Kelly ‘hired out’ or used a coach without the company’s knowledge.Melanie Hafner, a director of Jewel Tours, produced an invoice to the TE from Kelly and Sons for the hire of a County Connect vehicle on 8 November. She confirmed her company was the user of the vehicle on that occasion as its vehicle was off the road. She subsequently produced invoices from Kelly and Sons for sub contract work on weekdays.The company continued to pay Mr Steele’s invoices for driving that vehicle even on days when it alleged it had no knowledge of the journeys. There were some cases where it is only necessary to set out the conduct in question to make it apparent that a licence should be revoked and the operator put out of business. This was such a case.Few features diminished the gravity of behaviour of Mr Edwards and Mr Cousins, since the grant of the licence in 2015. The history of the company and its Directors was such that they must be removed from the system for a period to protect the public and the legitimate industry and for them to fully appreciate the consequences of their conduct.As TM, Mr Edwards failed to exercise continuous and effective management of the compliance systems and instead used part of that time to manipulate the system for commercial gain. In so doing, he had shown a reckless disregard for road safety, fair competition and the regulatory regime as a whole.Finally, the TC directed that if Mr Kelly sought to be involved in any application or entity, which held or obtained a licence in Great Britain, it must be referred to a TC.last_img read more