Cheese firm trucks grounded after string of offences

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A CHEESE firm has had its vehicle numbers halved after a string of road offences.

Distributor Prima Cheese will also have to leave its fleet of trucks idle for a fortnight after a string of incidents.

The decisions were made by Kevin Rooney, Traffic Commissioner for the North East of England, after a public inquiry heard how the firm failed to stop workers from creating false driving records and committing traffic offences.

An investigation was carried out by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) after one of Prima Cheese’s vehicles was stopped in July last year.

That led to the driver being issued with a prohibition for a false record, which meant his driving duty had not been accurately recorded.

When the examiner inspected paperwork at the company in Partnership Court, Seaham Grange Industrial Estate, he found digital records for two vehicles had never been downloaded by the operator, despite a legal requirement to do so.

A further look at records – which capture the work undertaken by drivers – revealed missing mileage for drivers throughout 2011, while two people who had been working together to share driving had continually breached regulations.

The examiner also found although vehicles were being tracked by the operator, bosses failed to realise drivers were not recording the start of journeys.

During an interview, managing director Behroz Beni, said the person responsible for checking drivers’ records had not done his job properly, but accepted offences committed by drivers should have come to the attention of the company if they had been downloading the relevant data.

Mr Rooney noted four of the business’s workers had been prosecuted for drivers’ hours offences and fined.

Ordering the company’s HGV licence to be immediately reduced from 15 vehicles and seven trailers to six vehicles and four trailers for an indefinite period, the Mr Rooney also made a direction to suspend the licence from Friday, September 28, for 14 days.

During that time, the company will not be able to operate its vehicles or lend them to another business.

The company has agreed the MD and transport manager will attend refresher courses and offered assurances drivers would receive 14 hours of mandatory training.

The business has pledged to ensure drivers’ records are independently analysed and monthly reports are reviewed, along with an audit of procedures every six months.

No one from Prima Cheese was available for comment.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham