Pete Stott De Rooy

DE ROOY'S UK SUBSIDIARY LOSES LICENCE

By Michael Jewell

The importation of trucks with false registration plates through Hull Docks, failures to comply with undertakings given to the North Western traffic commissioner and concerns over vehicle maintenance has led to the O-licence of the de Rooy's British subsidiary, Leyland-based Intramast (UK) Ltd, being revoked.

However, the commissioner, Beverley Bell, has indicated she would be prepared to grant the company a fresh licence for 20 vehicles and 20 trailers, and not the 40 vehicles and 40 trailers which had been authorised, provided UK manager Peter Stott and Dennis Tilberg, who has a key position in the group, became directors, and Jan de Rooy was removed as a director.

At a Golborne public inquiry, the TC was told three laden vehicles that came into Hull Docks in September had registration plates that were obviously not new and did not belong to those vehicles. The vehicles were brand-new, yet North Sea Ferries records showed vehicles bearing those registration marks had been in and out of the country on many occasions. In two cases they were displayed in the windscreen, and in one case the plate was fixed to the front.

One of the drivers was well overdue for a weekly rest and his vehicle was overloaded by nine per cent. He admitted he had been instructed to drive to Leyland. The vehicles were unregistered and were displaying Polish plates. The drivers produced Dutch Community Authorisations. It was believed the vehicles would be taken to Leyland, registered and then specified on the Intramast licence.

Since the grant of the licence in May 2008, 12 immediate prohibitions, three of which were S-marked, and seven delayed prohibitions had been issued to the company's vehicles and trailers. Eight of the prohibitions were for brake defects, four for tyres, two for the driver's vision being obscured, and one for loose wheelnuts. Nine of the prohibitions had been issued since a maintenance investigation.

Stott said the first he had known about the vehicles with false plates was when the traffic examiner rang him. He couldn't believe any company could be so stupid. He considered the primary reason for the prohibitions was the failure of the driver defect reporting system due to drivers not checking vehicles sufficiently, and the culture among Dutch employees and Polish drivers. It had been a colossal problem to overcome, as there was nothing in the Dutch regulations that said they had to have such systems. He was satisfied the nucleus of drivers now realised the importance of the system.

In relation to the undertaking in regard to an audit within six months, there was no way the company would have benefited from an audit or was ready for one at the time. He had not wanted someone to come in and tell him what he already knew was wrong. He had wanted to put the improvements in place before there was an audit. The audit had now been done. There had been no intention to deceive the commissioner.

The Dutch transport manager originally nominated on the licence, Vvo Geusens, had never come over to the UK, despite the licence being granted on the basis he would be there for nine hours a week.

Jan de Rooy said the vehicles with the false plates had been a big mistake by his company, and it should not have happened. He had been unaware of it until he heard from the UK. The vehicles were intended to become part of the Intramast fleet. They were registered in Holland, but could not be imported into the UK on Dutch plates. An employee in the technical department decided money could be saved by sending the trucks in on false plates, rather than have them brought in on a transporter. The person responsible had been suspended for two months without pay.

Early this year, turnover had gone down by 50-60 per cent, and to appoint a second transport manager when there was already a good candidate in place in Stott would not have been financially responsible. In March, the big question had been whether to close down the UK operation completely. The financial position was now stable, and the intention was Stott would take up the role as soon as he passed the CPC exam (Trucking, issue 308).

In her written decision, the TC said the entry of three vehicles into the Port of Hull with false registration plates was an extremely serious matter. The company had shown contempt for the licensing regime by allowing the nominated transport manager to completely ignore his statutory duties. Commercial considerations had been allowed to take precedence over the undertaking to nominate a second transport manager. It had been sought to blame the current economic climate when that was not relevant to the nomination of a second transport manager. The company knew the provision of an operator-compliance audit was a significant factor in the grant of the licence, and yet it failed without good reason to comply with that undertaking.

Peter Stott had worked tirelessly, ably assisted by

Dennis Tilberg, to drive up standards within the organisation. There had been times when his allegiance to his employer had been tested by the actions and inactions of Jan de Rooy and Yvo Geusens. They, the two key individuals in the organisation as director and transport manager, had completely failed in their responsibilities.

The fact Yvo Geusens had told her he would personally attend the Leyland operating centre, and then attended only three or four times in 14 months, and even then not on specific transport manager duties, displayed a complete disregard for the authority of the UK O-licensing regime.

Jan de Rooy had told her he would ensure a second transport manager would be appointed, and then made the purely commercial decision not to appoint that second transport manager, and he did not ensure the audit was carried out. That also displayed a complete disregard for the UK O-licensing regime.

She was satisfied she could no longer trust Jan de Rooy and Yvo Geusens at all with regard to O-licensing compliance. She was satisfied that while they were in control of the company and its vehicles, there would be insufficient compliance with all the risks that entailed to the promotion of road safety and fair competition. There was no place in the North Western Traffic Area, or indeed any other Traffic Area, for Jan de Rooy or Yvo Geusens.

In deciding not to disqualify the company from holding an O-licence, the TC said there had been more of an improvement in compliance since April 2009 than at any other time. Consequently, significant change in culture which was ongoing, and the continued commitment of Peter Stott and Dennis Tilberg, had led her to decide it was not appropriate at this stage to make an order for disqualification.

The entry of three vehicles into the Port of Hull with false plates was an extremely serious matter.

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