Construction firm fails in licence bid

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Lenmark Construction Ltd has been refused a goods vehicles operating licence by the region’s Traffic Commissioner, after applying to operate from Copsale Road, Copsale.

At a public inquiry in Eastbourne, Nicholas Denton, traffic commissioner for London and the South East, heard that:

• Lenmark Construction Ltd had been operating a vehicle without an operator’s licence;

• That vehicle had been operating without an MOT. When the vehicle was stopped at the roadside for that reason by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), director Leonard Nugent nevertheless told his driver to continue his journey;

• The company had committed serious breaches of the tachographs rules, in that it had been operating a vehicle for several months without ever downloading data from the digital tachograph, as it was required to do.

At the public inquiry, Mr Denton heard how Mr Nugent’s predecessor company, Nugent Construction Ltd, had entered voluntary liquidation in November 2011. This company had held an operator’s licence, but Mr Nugent failed to surrender it to the Commissioner after liquidation, as he should have done.

Mr Nugent’s new company, Lenmark Construction Ltd, later applied for an operator’s licence. The Office of the Traffic Commissioner specifically warned the company not to operate any vehicles before the application had been considered. It is an offence to operate commercial vehicles without a valid licence.

At the inquiry, a traffic examiner from VOSA agency reported that a vehicle operated by Lenmark Construction Ltd had been stopped on 13 April 2012 without a valid licence disc or valid MOT certificate. The driver confirmed he was working for the company on that day, carrying a load of hot tarmac.

The examiner issued a notice prohibiting the vehicle from continuing its journey. However, after taking instructions over the phone from Malta-based Mr Nugent, the driver drove off in the lorry, breaching the order issued by the VOSA inspector.

The driver later claimed Nugent told him the vehicle did have a valid MOT and that the tarmac could not go to waste.

The examiner’s report also revealed that data from the digital tachograph in the vehicle – which records the work a driver carries out – had not been downloaded by the company, to determine whether their employee was working within the permitted rules.

In evidence to the Traffic Commissioner, the company director claimed he was 100% sure the vehicle had an MOT certificate, though admitted he had not asked to see a copy when he purchased the vehicle earlier in the year.

He also explained to Mr Denton that the business has been downsized in recent times and this had led to some things being overlooked, including on the transport side. Mr Nugent’s representative at the hearing asked the Traffic Commissioner to conclude that the best place for an operator, even with faults, was within the regulatory system, not outside it.

But after considering the evidence before him, the Commissioner said that he could not trust the company and its directors to be compliant in the future, finding that it was negligent in failing to check that the vehicle had a valid MOT certificate.

“Responsible operators would have asked to see the certificate, or interrogated VOSA’s website to establish whether the vehicle had an MOT,” outlined Mr Denton in a written decision issued after the public inquiry.

“Even when the vehicle had been prohibited, Mr Nugent, in the face of all the evidence, clung to his groundless conviction that the vehicle had a valid MOT. He chose to order the driver to continue the journey, putting commercial considerations before safety and legality.”