A transport manager’s “lack of regard for the law” contributed to the deaths of two cyclists, a traffic commissioner has ruled.
Disqualifying Fry’s Logistics and Mark Fry from holding or obtaining an operator’s licence for 10 years, Sarah Bell said the company had put commercial concerns first, with compliance a poor second.
Fry was also disqualified as acting as a transport manager for 10 years.
Fry’s Logistics was investigated after one of its drivers, Robert Palmer, fell asleep behind the wheel and killed two cyclists. His HGV ploughed into Andrew McMenigall, 47, and Toby Wallace, 36, on the A30 in Cornwall in July, 2013.
The prosecution said Palmer worked for long hours, driving in the evenings and then carried out mechanical work for the Launceston-based company during the day. He had also altered his tacograph to cover up his lack of sleep.
Following the incident, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) conducted an investigation into the operator’s compliance with the drivers’ hours and tachograph rules and the working time directive requirements.
The DVSA employed the services of Tachodisc to analyse individual drivers’ records for the period April 29, 2013, to September 29, 2013. It checked 18 drivers’ records and a total of 445 infringements were found mostly drivers hours offences and failure to record other work.
In March 2015, shortly after the conclusion of the police investigation, the traffic examiner conducted a follow up investigation and concluded that there was ongoing serious non-compliance.
Meanwhile, Fry appeared before Bodmin magistrates in June, 2015, and pleaded guilty to three offences of failing to make a relevant record/entry for Community Recording Equipment Regulations on May 1, May 12 and June 3, 2013. He was fined £415.
Fry was ordered to appear at a public enquiry, but failed to attend after a request for an adjournment was refused.
Bell, traffic commissioner for the west of England, in summing up her findings said: “The lack of regard for the law has contributed to the tragic loss of Toby Wallace and Andrew McMenigall. Mr Fry was knowingly sending his driver out to drive when he had not had sufficient rest.”
She found that the operator has breached the general conditions and undertakings on its operator’s licence with regards to drivers’ hours’ compliance, and notifying material changes and in particular in relation to the operating centres; and in 2013 the operator’s drivers were breaching the drivers’ hours’ rules and working time directive without any apparent management and doing so consistently.
Felicity Hine, representing the DVSA, said: “It would appear that the importance of profit for the company supersedes issues of compliance and road safety.”
In summing up, Bell said: “The circumstances of this case require a clear vilification of such a high degree of disregard for the operator licensing regime in order to maintain confidence in it.
“The operator put commercial concerns first with compliance a poor second since July 2013. Failing to observe the rules, not setting aside proper or indeed any time for quality management and control of the transport operations, running more vehicles than authorised and putting profit before the law, strikes at the heart of the underpinning principles of the licensing regime, road safety and fair competition. This is one of those cases that where what happened previously and the lack of transparency and co-operation since is such that this licence must go.”
In relation to Fry as a transport manager, she continued: “He has not shown the professional standards required for years.
“It is essential that I find his good repute and professional competence lost, to preserve the reputation of the professional diligent transport managers that make up the vast majority of the commercial vehicle industry.”