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Traffic chief grounds lorry fleet over safety failings

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A REFRIGERATED transport firm’s expansion plans have been put on ice after it failed vehicle maintenance and safety standards.

JD Freight owner John Foster faces a complete suspension of his operating licence, after the ruling by North East Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney.

The regulator told Mr Foster he would be prevented from running any HGVs until drivers had completed mandatory industry training.

The order, which starts from one minute to midnight on Friday, means the Washington-based haulier will not be able to use vehicles to carry goods for his refrigerated transport business.

Mr Rooney was also refused permission for extra vehicles on the licence, after an application to double the authorised fleet to eight.

The decision follows Mr Foster’s appearance at a reconvened public inquiry in Leeds last week, following on from an adjourned hearing in June.

The inquiry, which heard an investigation by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency had found the business had moved premises without applying to the Traffic Commissioner for permission, had therefore been operating illegally from the new address for more than a year.

There were no routine safety inspection records for one vehicle.

Defects reported by drivers had not been marked as repaired, and the safety inspection record for a vehicle issued with an immediate prohibition notice showed the defect had been identified but not fixed.

Mr Rooney also considered a report from Hampshire police into Mr Foster’s conviction at Southampton Magistrates’ Court in November 2011, for using a HGV without insurance.

Mr Foster gave further evidence to the regulator, including on commitments he had made at the June hearing.

Mr Rooney said a maintenance audit revealed an “average” level of compliance, but noted the operator had made some improvements since the VOSA examiner’s visit.

However, he had failed to comply with an undertaking to introduce a training programme by the end of October.

The licence suspension will not be lifted until evidence is produced to prove employees have completed seven hours of mandatory industry training – the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification.

“No training had taken place,” said Mr Rooney. “It was accepted that this undertaking had not been kept.

“I was shown evidence of CPC courses paid for and an operator licence awareness course similarly paid for. I was also shown evidence the operator had engaged ongoing support on transport manager activities.

“I concluded, though, that this was an operator who needed significant encouragement to get things done on time.”

An application to change operating premises was approved.

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