Shifting the Blame - Commentary

On the 17th December 2021, the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland, Claire Gilmore published a press release following her decision in the case of SAMUEL HUNTER T/A HUNTER TRANSPORT. The licence was revoked, and the operator was disqualified from holding an operator’s licence for a minimum of five years.

Mr Hunter was caught operating too many vehicles for his licence and there were more than two hundred drivers’ hours offences within a three-month period. The operator sought to blame all of the problems on his drivers, but it was found that the company had a transport manager ‘in name only’ for at least a decade. The operator was also found to have pressured his drivers into the offences and falsified records.

The traffic commissioner said “I did not believe the operator’s claim to believe that all the journeys he allocated to his drivers could all be completed lawfully and within time. Two of the drivers who gave evidence spoke of a culture of pressure which led to them offending to try and complete their journeys on time. The operator did not ask his drivers to break the law, but the culture of pressure he created, coupled with his deliberate failure to monitor driving activity, actively encouraged it.

I considered that the operator’s willingness to deceive, coupled with his wilful neglect and repeated failings, demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the operator licensing regime on his part. Such behaviour led me to conclude that I was unable to trust this operator in the future.”

This decision reminded me of the importance of taking professional advice before a hearing. Given the scale of the offending it is inconceivable that the operator was not have at least neglectful in fulfilling his duty to ensure rules on driver’s hours are observed for at least a period of time. The judgement reports 245 offences over a period of around three months, including numerous and serious instances of driving off card and falsification of records by drivers who were found to be using other driver cards.

It would appear that in choosing to blame his drivers for failing to comply with the rules, instead of taking responsibility for it, Mr Hunter has not only lost his licence but now cannot re-enter the industry for a period of time. A better approach may have been to accept the shortcomings in the business and seek to demonstrate that this could and would improve with proper training and assistance.

Although the judgement reports that Mr Hunter accepted that he had done wrong and apologised for his behaviour, this simply does not go far enough. Although there is certainly a separate responsibility upon a professional driver to comply with the law, proper oversight rests with his employer.

The decision can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/decision-for-samuel-hunter-ta-hunter-transport/decision-for-samuel-hunter-ta-hunter-transport

The press release can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/shifting-the-blame?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_source=6a081636-c5bb-4034-badb-908c7e1cc2d6&utm_content=daily

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