The director of a Birmingham builders’ merchants “who took no interest in vehicle and driver safety standards” has been banned from operating HGVs for three years.
Nick Denton, the Traffic Commissioner for the West Midlands, said B S & N K Panesar Ltd “deserved to go out of business after it operated seriously unroadworthy vehicles and failed to instil the necessary culture of safety into its drivers”.
Director Balbinder Panesar has been disqualified by the region’s industry regulator and his firm lost its licence to operate vehicles on 29 May 2017. Mr Panesar clearly “did not care enough about safety to establish and oversee a system which would have prevented his vehicles from being driven in such a poor condition,” the Traffic Commissioner concluded in a written decision.
“The result was a company culture where vehicle and driver safety was simply ignored. Road safety and fair competition against other operators who take the trouble and expense to comply has been jeopardised.”
At a public inquiry on 11 May 2017, Mr Denton heard evidence from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency following its investigations into the company’s vehicle and driver standards. The findings included:
- the issue of a safety critical prohibition notice to a company vehicle on 06 October 2016 for an oil leak from the vehicle’s ancillary equipment (several other defects were also identified on the vehicle including inoperative indicators, rear brakes lights and ABS warning lights; a damaged mandatory mirror and a deteriorated brake hose)
- a driver failed to follow an authorised DVSA stopping vehicle on the same date
- the issue of a safety critical prohibition notice to a company vehicle on 15 February 2017 for two tyres below the legal limit
- large gaps between routine vehicle safety inspections – vehicles were supposed to be checked every six weeks
- drivers had committed offences including failing to take the required weekly rest (in one instance driving for 20 consecutive days without doing so), driving for more than 4.5 hours without a break and driving without a card inserted
- the use of an unauthorised operating centre
Responding to the DVSA report, the company’s solicitor said Mr Panesar’s son, Kamaljit, planned to attend a transport manager CPC course and that although safety inspections records were missing for 2016 they could be evidenced through invoices. She also accepted that no driver defect books had been completed in 2016.
Mr Panesar told the Traffic Commissioner that he had left the transport side of the business to his son and hoped everything was alright. Kamaljit said he was now making sure the drivers were doing their walkround checks and driver card downloads – to check the drivers were not committing offences – were being done every two weeks. He was also making sure the vehicle maintenance provider was completing paperwork for safety inspections.
However, while examining a vehicle safety inspection record from 05 April 2017, Mr Denton noted it still contained a number of defects that could be detected by a driver, such as a broken light lens, an inoperable rear light and an oil leak from the crane. The preceding defect check for the vehicle – from the day before – identified “nil” defects on the vehicle.
Concluding that the company’s licence would be revoked, Mr Denton said the business had comprehensively ignored the requirements of its operating licence.
“The company’s director, Balbinder Panesar, did nothing over an extended period of time to effect an improvement,” the regulator added. “He was content to leave everything in the hands of his son and to assume – against all the evidence – that Kamaljit Panesar was dealing with things satisfactorily. Kamaljit Panesar, for his part, did not give compliance the attention it deserved.”
Mr Denton noted that the case took a matter of nine weeks to appear before him, from the time when the issues were first identified on 08 March 2017. Within this period, DVSA carried out investigations and confirmed the company’s failure to comply, reporting the matters to the Traffic Commissioner, who directed that a public inquiry be convened.
The Office of the Traffic Commissioner subsequently listed the case and served the required legal notice on the company to allow the inquiry to take place. By 29 May 2017, the date upon which the Commissioner’s orders took effect, the company was off the road with its director banned from any further operation of commercial vehicles for three years.