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Vlaintenance migraine

31st May 1968, Page 25
31st May 1968
Page 25
Page 25, 31st May 1968 — Vlaintenance migraine
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Keywords : Tribunal

y Frank Burravoe

The Transport Tribunal in March iagnosed the trouble in, and published rescriptions for, no less than nine appeals a period of four days. All were bound up greater or lesser degree with the mainteance of goods vehicles.

The first two (March 26 1968), those of V. S. and A. J. Kedward (t/a Kedward

ros.), related to the refusal by the South

Vales LA of "renewal" applications for an , licence in respect of two vehicles and a licence in respect of five. The condition in thich the traffic examiner found the vehicles

as described by the LA as deplorable—a onclusion not denied by Kedward; and vidence that the vehicles had been on site rork for a considerable time for a named ustomer had not been borne out by the rbmitted accounts.

The appellants' advocate at the appeal tquiry wanted the cases to be remitted back ) the LA for further hearing, the advantage f that course being that it would relieve them f the risk that if they made entirely new aplications, objectors might be attracted.

ut the Tribunal declined to take that course. was not appropriate "that the appeal rocedure should be used to enable them he appellants) to have a second bite at the terry". The appeals were therefore disiissed.

The third case (March 27) also came from 3uth Wales. John Stanton (Swansea) Ltd.

)pealed against a six-month suspension of C licence for three vehicles. Each of the tree had been the subject of a prohibition

)tice, and the LA had said that Stanton K1 paid scant regard to the maintenance of .s fleet. He was not satisfied that its belated Forts to put its house in order over mainteme would achieve the desired result.

"Looking at the matter as favourably as )ssible from the point of view of the 3pellants", the appeal Tribunal felt that the ise remained one calling for a substantial malty. It did not consider the 18 vehicleonths' suspension (six months for each of e three vehicles) excessive, but because one ;hide had been replaced with a new one, it tered the decision to a nine-month suspenon on the other two vehicles, so retaining e total of 18 vehicle-months.

The remainder, a batch of six appeals, iginated in the Northern Traffic Area 4arch 29), They concerned a number of :parate applications for A, Contract A and licences for 22 vehicles, mostly tippers, Salkeld Bros. (Transport and Plant) Ltd.,

hich in 1965 had taken over the partnership -rn of V. R. and V. M. Salkeld (t/a Salkeld

rothers). The LA had refused all the appliitions, on the ground that the conduct of le appellants and of Salkeld Bros. in the tpacity of carriers of goods had rendered lent quite unfit to hold carriers' licences. Saleld Bros. had earlier been given a warning about bad maintenance and certain vehicle prohibitions, but this previous conduct of the directors of the appellant company was not such as to cause the LA to take severe action.

However, the company had since then been convicted of many offences relating to overloading and drivers' hours. "The previous conduct of the appellants and of their directors can only be described as deplorable", concluded the Tribunal, but the penalty (said by counsel to represent the equivalent of £100,000) "was too harsh at this stage . . . though it may well become appropriate in the future if they do not mend their ways". Instead of outright refusal of the lot, 10 of the vehicles would be suspended in effect until April 11969.

The number of maintenance cases taken to appeal constitutes only a fraction of the whole, of course. In fact it is probably true to say that in the past 12 months or so the 11 LAs and their deputies have spent more time considering this malady than they previously did in 30 years. After confining themselves largely to warnings in their annual reports to the Minister of Transport, they are now administering some really unpleasant medicine, accompanied by such strictures as:—

"It is hard to believe that the company has not taken notice of the intensive publicity given to maintenance standards, and I am not satisfied future steps will plug the loophole, so I must take some action" (S. Wales LA).

"I shall cut the period of validity of the applicant's A licence to see if his present maintenance arrangements work; if they are satisfactory, he will get his full five years" (North Western deputy LA). "It would be foolish for any haulier to imagine that breaches of the law would be condoned because suspension or revocation would be harmful to industrial customers" (Northern LA, in the course of dealing with a veritable procession of maintenance and overloading "show cause" cases).

During the Committee proceedings on the Transport Bill, debate at one stage centred on the power of the Minister to give general directions to LAs. Any such directions should be published, argued the Opposition. Secret directions could undermine the impartiality and independent status of LAs.

But the Minister has other means of making known his wishes and views to LAs without giving general directions under section 165 of the 1960 Act. Informal second-hand advice is but one of those means. Could it be that quiet words have been spoken in Ministerial corridors about tightening up maintenance?

The Geddes Committee report on carriers' licensing was guilty of no exaggeration when it said: "We heard on all sides that fear of loss of use of a vehicle, through action in respect of its carriers' licence, was the sanction likely to have a powerful effect on a carrier's behaviour. The fines imposed by ordinary courts for most carriers' offences were usually well worth paying for the financial gain from the offence (and from other like offences which went undetected). . . . Only the loss of a licence would really hurt. The value of so powerful and feared a sanction as suspension or revocation of a licence cannot be measured simply in terms of how far it is actually used...."

Licensing Authorities, no less than hauliers, should realize the gravity of this sanction. A penalty which represents the equivalent of a fine of £100,000, as was said in the Salkeld case, needs a wagon-load of justification, as the reviewing Tribunal so clearly realized.

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