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Revocation for letting drivers break the law

  • 11 March 2014
  • By Roger Brown

Nick Denton, traffic commissioner (TC) for London and the South East (pictured), has revoked the O-licence of Sorrento Express for giving drivers work they could not complete legally.

In a decision following a public inquiry in Eastbourne, the TC disqualified Alfonso Amitrano, the director of the Southall-based Italian food and drink specialist, from holding a licence for three months. Denton heard evidence from the police and DVSA (formerly the DSA and Vosa) enforcement officers about the transport operation of the firm, which was authorised to run five vehicles.

The TC was told that:
- drivers were not taking the correct breaks or the required minimum daily and weekly rest periods;
- drivers were working without the required cards to record their journeys;
- drivers had been prosecuted and issued with fixed penalties for drivers’ hours offences;
- two safety critical prohibition notices were issued to vehicles in September 2013, one of which was for serious brake and tyre defects;
- a vehicle stopped in the same month was issued with a prohibition notice for numerous defects, including two items that were likely to cause injury;
- maintenance procedures were unsatisfactory and there was inadequate driver defect reporting;
- vehicles were being parked at residential addresses when they were not authorised to do so;
- a vehicle was found to be overloaded in July 2012.

In evidence, Amitrano said he had not properly understood the requirements of holding an O-licence when he applied for one in 2008 and did not attach much importance the company’s undertakings to comply with the relevant laws.

He admitted it had been difficult to fit the firm’s multidrop schedules into the drivers’ hours regime but said he had changed the firm’s practices in May 2013 to ensure compliance. However, he accepted he had done nothing to implement the recommendations made by the vehicle examiner following an investigation into vehicle maintenance standards that same year.

Amitrano said he had undertaken an O-licence management course a few days before the hearing and offered to have an independent audit of his operations carried out. Almost all the periodic vehicle safety inspection records showed a high number of defects that should have been picked up by drivers on their daily checks.

The TC said Amitrano had been given many opportunities to comply with the drivers’ hours rules but had failed to take them. He added: “Drivers were regularly given schedules that they could not complete within the drivers’ hours rules.

They could only complete them by driving for periods significantly exceeding 4.5 hours without a proper break, by driving without a card inserted at all, and by taking vehicles home at the end of the day rather than driving back to the operating centre.”


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