A transport manager’s near total failure to carry out her duties led to road safety being put at risk for more than two years – even though she knew about previous compliance issues.
Tina Domeney, who has been disqualified indefinitely by Traffic Commissioner Nick Denton, lent her name to an operator licence held by Michael Barrett and failed to tackle “very serious and repeated” infringements, many committed by the licence holder himself.
Denton also concluded that working as transport manager for an operator working as a sub-contractor to her main employer was “an unwise arrangement which posed a potential conflict of interest.”
During a public inquiry on June 4, 2014, Denton heard that: analysis of drivers' hours and tachograph data revealed critical drivers’ hours and working time offences; drivers were regularly driving for five to six hours without a qualifying break; and licence holder Michael Barrett drove for eight hours and seven minutes without a qualifying break and in 31 days of driving had recorded 31 infringements.
In addition, one driver employed by the operator had recorded 102 infringements between January 6 and April 4, 2014; safety inspection records revealed driver detectable defects when previous driver defect reports had recorded no defects; and undertakings agreed at a previous public inquiry, concerning audits and roller brake testing, had not been met consistently.
In evidence during the inquiry, Domeney told the regulator that her role in the business was to check drivers were carrying out daily walk round checks.
She admitted that she did not see any PMI records and left maintenance and drivers’ hours to the operator, Michael Barrett.
Domeney assumed that he had been undertaking these functions properly.
Barrett told the Traffic Commissioner he had sacked a number of the least compliant drivers.
He thought that the undertaking on audits had been waived by the Traffic Commissioner’s Office, but admitted he had misunderstood the correspondence.
Barrett had also not appreciated the difference between a deceleromoter and a roller brake test.
Records revealed that the undertaking to have roller brake tests carried had not been met in 2014.
His solicitor added that Barrett had struggled with the multiple tasks of running the business and ensuring compliance.
He offered to employ an additional transport manager, take an operator licence course and was no longer driving HGVs.
Denton noted that the operator licence had been granted at public inquiry in 2012. That hearing considered Barrett’s application for a licence in the East of England because his existing partnership licence – in the London and South East traffic area – had been the subject of two unsatisfactory maintenance inspections. A total of six undertakings were recorded on the new licence.
Examining the evidence in a written decision issued after the hearing, the Traffic Commissioner concluded Domeney had taken no interest in the audit reports and played no role in making sure drivers were compliant with the law.
He added that this was an explicit duty in the TM1form that transport managers sign when applying to be nominated on a licence.
“She failed to identify and tackle the very serious and repeated infringements of the drivers’ and working time rules, not least by Barrett himself.
“Ms Domeney has lent her name to the licence but has largely failed to perform the tasks expected of a professionally competent transport manager.
“Such a failure is all the more serious because Ms Domeney knew that there was a big question mark over the operator’s ability to comply – that was why the licence was only granted after a public inquiry and after the operator had agreed to a lengthy list of undertakings, one of which involved Ms Domeney personally.”
The degree of neglect in her duties, he added, was considerable. She now needed to start again “from the ground up”, before she could act again as a transport manager.
The evidence showed that drivers had regularly driven far in excess of their permitted hours and worked beyond the limits imposed by the working time directive.
“Fair competition has also been harmed, as the operator – in its evasion of drivers’ hours rules - has secured an unfair advantage over competitors who comply with the rules.”
Denton revoked the licence held by Mr Barrett because of the loss of professional competence that followed Ms Domeney’s disqualification.
There would be no period of grace for the licence because Denton had no confidence that the operator could run compliantly.
He also refused an application made by Michael Barrett and Linda Barrett for a licence in the London and South East region, which arose from a change of entity.
The operator appealed to the Upper Tribunal against Denton’s decision but has since withdrawn the appeal.