24 hours on duty without a break - Wright's Coaches loses its licence

GusB

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From an article in Coach & Bus week:

A Norfolk-based company which operated school services has had its O-licence revoked at a Public Inquiry held in Cambridge on 6 September by Deputy Traffic Commissioner for the East of England Miles Dorrington, following a Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) investigation. Company Director Matthew Wright was reported to have been on duty for 24 hours straight, including a school run and rail replacement bus service, without having taken a legally-required break.

PTS Group (Norfolk) Limited, trading as Wrights Coaches and based at Hoveton, Norwich had its Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operator’s licence revoked from 6 October 2021 for multiple offences including knowingly falsifying tachograph records.

A DVSA Traffic Examiner detected 63 drivers’ hours offences over a three-month period, 41 of which were committed by Director Matthew Wright, 31. The offences were discovered after an unannounced visit was made by DVSA officers in September 2019, leading to a detailed examination of drivers’ hours and maintenance records.

A DVSA Vehicle Examiner discovered that there was no forward planning system in place for coach maintenance. Coach safety checks were not being undertaken within the required time interval and there was an ineffective system in place for reporting and rectifying roadworthiness defects.

Fifteen tachograph records were falsified and drivers had used other drivers’ names on records to conceal illegal and dangerous practices of taking insufficient rest. Records for journeys accounting for 7,381km were also missing.

Matthew Wright lost his repute as a transport manager and was disqualified from being a director of any company for one year, and disqualified as a transport manager for 2 years, in addition to receiving a suspension of his PSV licence for 6 months.

Five other drivers’ entitlement to drive coaches were also suspended by the Deputy Traffic Commissioner at driver conduct hearings and an additional three drivers were given formal warnings for their actions.

Marian Kitson, Director of Enforcement for DVSA said: “Laws are in place to keep our roads safe and DVSA will not tolerate such blatant and intentional disregard for the safety of passengers and road users. In this case, customers had placed their trust in this operator to deliver passengers, some of whom were children, safely to their destinations. Instead, they deliberately broke the rules, risking their lives and the lives of others. DVSA will continue to target and take action against serially non-compliant operators to protect the public from unsafe vehicles, operators and drivers.”

I find it utterly shocking that someone should be doing a shift like this, especially if they're driving a large vehicle such as a bus or a coach. While I'm not suggesting the ongoing driver shortage was the main cause in this case, I wonder if perhaps we'll see more cases like this reported in future as operators are pushed to breaking point in terms of what work they can cover with the number of staff available. Faced with the choice between cancelling services or being unable to fulfill contracts and pushing the limits of hours worked in the hope that they don't get caught, it must be tempting for some to choose the latter.

I don't know much about this particular operator, but for one person to generate 41 driving hours offences within a three-month period seems rather reckless.
 
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From an article in Coach & Bus week:



I find it utterly shocking that someone should be doing a shift like this, especially if they're driving a large vehicle such as a bus or a coach. While I'm not suggesting the ongoing driver shortage was the main cause in this case, I wonder if perhaps we'll see more cases like this reported in future as operators as operators are pushed to breaking point in terms of what work they can cover with the number of staff available. Faced with the choice between cancelling services or being unable to fulfill contracts and pushing the limits of hours worked in the hope that they don't get caught, it must be tempting for some to choose the latter.

I don't know much about this particular operator, but for one person to generate 41 driving hours offences within a three-month period seems rather reckless.
Count me in as another horrified reader of that report. Multiple offences on this scale seem rather more than reckless, to my mind this kind of thing needs to be treated as a criminal case, with sanctions above and beyond licence withdrawal. I couldn’t see anything in the article about whether or not the East of England TC was going to pursue things further through the courts.
 

Eyersey468

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I was horrified to read the report myself. I'm surprised their licence wasn't cancelled straight away, I can only conclude it was to give the council time to reaward contracts.
 

borage

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This article in the Eastern Daily Press gives a bit of context:
Matthew Wright told this paper: “I’m absolutely devastated to be honest, this has been a lifelong goal since I was eight years old. To have that taken away is very upsetting.

“The 30 offences, the biggest amount, were for me taking the vehicles home, which I would have thought was classed as private use. I’ve realised the error of my ways. What I was doing was taking the vehicle home and because I didn’t have my driver card in, it’s an infringement.”

He said he intended for the company to continue to operate, taking bookings and subcontracting to “reputable coach companies”. He said the school runs are “out for re-tender as we speak”.

The company did not hold the school route contracts at the time of the offences, he said, but “helped out when other companies were short”, including on the occasion he worked a 24-hour shift.

He said none of the staff involved in the ruling were still working for the company, which had doubled in size and improved its systems since the time of the investigation.

Asked whether he felt he or his drivers had acted dangerously, or whether he had a message for customers and parents, he said: “In hindsight we would have planned better.”
 

37114

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I am afraid that doesn't wash for me. As part of your CPC you learn in great detail about what is and isn't in the scope of driving hours rules. The CBW article linked stated some shocking facts and the Eastern daily press article is just the owners way of trying to portray themselves as an enthusiastic guy making a few innocent mistakes rather than a more accurate picture of an operator knowingly operating on the wrong side of the law for personal gain....
 

Eyersey468

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I am afraid that doesn't wash for me. As part of your CPC you learn in great detail about what is and isn't in the scope of driving hours rules. The CBW article linked stated some shocking facts and the Eastern daily press article is just the owners way of trying to portray themselves as an enthusiastic guy making a few innocent mistakes rather than a more accurate picture of an operator knowingly operating on the wrong side of the law for personal gain....
It doesn't wash for me either.
 

M803UYA

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Is there a concept of 'private use' when it comes to driving hours?
No, but there are out of scope movements under EU hours where the tacho* can be set out of scope. Typically, that will cover domestic hours work, like a schools contract. The printout then registers 'other work'. But DVSA have control cards for tacho units and can interrogate all the movements registered on the unit against the tacho print outs. So instances of driving without a card will immediately show up as an anomaly. The unaccounted for 'mileage' is where this operator would have come up against the examiners who not unreasonably will want to know who was driving the vehicle. If all the vehicles in a fleet are fitted with digital tachographs, marrying the mileage up to a driver is fairly simple.

I have worked for an 'industry leading' coach operator who instructed all drivers to run their schools work on 'out of scope' before activating to EU work afterwards. That overlooks the obvious rule that once on EU hours you have to undertake all your work to EU hours, rather than domestic driving limits. Suffice to say I cracked on and ignored the illegal instruction. The employer wasn't going to pay my fine if I got stopped....

In my present work, I've never undertaken a private hire for my employers (something about a worldwide pandemic depressing the bookings...) and only worked a schools contract. That helpfully falls under domestic hours, so I maintain a record book which details the hours I drive, should anyone from DVSA register interest.

*tacho = tachograph unit
 

TheGrandWazoo

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It doesn't wash for me either.
No, it doesn't. The gentleman in question is the Transport Manager and O License holder. I qualified as a TM years ago and was an O License holder and took my responsibilities seriously. You know about driving hours, other work, daily and weekly limits and rests, and so on. It really does not wash.
 

Whistler40145

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Sounds like a rather dodgy outfit

I sincerely hope the Traffic Commissioner permanently blocks this company from operating and attempting to apply under another name
 

Titfield

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When Passenger Vehicle O Licenses are revoked a period of grace is usually given to allow for an orderly winding up of the business. This is to prevent significant disruption or inconvenience to the public however if the TC has concerns that such an operation would be unsafe then the license would be revoked with immediate effect.

Local councils watch the published Notices and Proceedings, often attend Public Inquiries and have contingency plans in place.
 

Eyersey468

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No, it doesn't. The gentleman in question is the Transport Manager and O License holder. I qualified as a TM years ago and was an O License holder and took my responsibilities seriously. You know about driving hours, other work, daily and weekly limits and rests, and so on. It really does not wash.
I didn't know you had been a TM @TheGrandWazoo. I am not a holder of the O licence but am a driver and was shocked by this man's actions. Reminded me of when UK North were on the go in Manchester.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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I didn't know you had been a TM @TheGrandWazoo. I am not a holder of the O licence but am a driver and was shocked by this man's actions. Reminded me of when UK North were on the go in Manchester.
Indeed I was. Only time I had an issue with the ministry was when they had a tip off that we had a moonlighting driver - worked for us 5/7 but then worked weekends.

We had all relevant documentation and training records. He was soon a former driver of mine, and was prosecuted.
 

Eyersey468

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Indeed I was. Only time I had an issue with the ministry was when they had a tip off that we had a moonlighting driver - worked for us 5/7 but then worked weekends.

We had all relevant documentation and training records. He was soon a former driver of mine, and was prosecuted.
That was down to the driver though not you. When were you a TM?
 

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