Traffic Commissioner takes coach fire operator off the road
Somerset based Avalon Coaches has had its licence curtailed to 12 vehicles with effect from 31 October 2017 and is revoked with effect from 11.59pm, 31 December 2017. The Public Hearing, in front of Traffic Commissioner for the west of England, Kevin Rooney, was called for a number of reasons, including two vehicle fires and an incident where one of its drivers collided with a concrete wall protecting an over-bridge on the M25 on 22 June 2015.
It was questioned whether the licence holder met the requirements of: an effective and stable establishment in Great Britain, be of good repute, be of the appropriate financial standing and be professionally competent. It was also questioned whether undertakings recorded in the licence were fulfilled, namely those relating to the driving and operation of the vehicles used under the licence, rules on drivers’ hours and tachographs and that vehicles would be kept fit and serviceable. Shortly before the public inquiry, Kevin Rooney was made aware that one of the operator’s school buses had caught fire, a matter also considered during the meeting.
The Traffic Commissioner deemed the way the operator dealt with a number of drivers’ hours infringements was not dealt with appropriately, “jeopardising the safety of passengers and other road users”.
Kevin Rooney noted that in November 2012 an immediate prohibition notice was issued to one of its fleet for an exhaust system with a pipe completely fractured such that exhaust fumes were likely to enter the vehicle. The second item was the exhaust system being contaminated with oil and constituting a fire risk. Two of the operator’s vehicles have caught fire. The first appears to have been caused by a driver tampering with the electrical circuits to power a TV. The cause of the second fire is not yet known however Kevin Rooney was told it appeared to have started in the engine bay of a mid-engined coach.
A report on the case from the Traffic Commissioner said: “The most recent maintenance investigation appears to show the operator on a downward trajectory. A further eight vehicles were issued with prohibition notices in a period of five weeks. Out of eleven vehicle inspections, this is an appalling outcome.” The operator also appears to have had a particular issue with Telma retarders. Kevin Rooney described the maintenance facilities at Avalon as “Dickensian”. Professional competence was deemed lacking in the operator’s inability to produce reports relating to missing tachograph mileage and for the failure of the operator to take control of the maintenance of the business to prevent failures in this area.
The report said: “I find that making a finding of loss of repute of Avalon Coaches Ltd and Colin White as sole director would be disproportionate because of the impact on a much wider business group. Yet I find it wholly proportionate that the PSV operation come to a managed end given the scale of shortcomings and level of public risk it provides. Given the size of the operation and the contracted nature, I make my decision to allow it to be wound down appropriately.”
No adverse findings were made in relation to Transport Manager, Paul Frank Williams-Thomas.