Court lands coach firm Ausden Clark with a bill for £21,015 over safety breaches
A coach firm faces a £21,015 bill for breaching rules over drivers' hours and how they record their shifts.
Bosses at Ausden Clark Ltd, of Dysart Way, St Matthew's, Leicester, and 14 drivers admitted a string of charges at Leicester Magistrates' Court.
The company has 100 staff and 70 vehicles. It holds the contract for 35 school runs with the county council and provides coaches to hire for UK and European travel.
Prosecutor Chris Hallsworth told how police and officials from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) executed search warrants on the firm in October last year.
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He said the raids, in which tachograph documents were seized, were carried out after VOSA received a tip-off that "ghost drivers" were in operation at the company.
He described ghost drivers as drivers using false names to enable them to work longer hours past the legal limit.
The court heard there was no evidence of "ghost drivers" but the seized documents showed breaches of regulations relating to drivers' hours and how they recorded their shifts.
He said drivers were allowed to fill in time sheets which did not correspond to hours they had worked according to the tachograph records.
Mr Hallsworth said: "We are talking road safety, road safety, road safety here. What all the cases do show is that there was a lack of system in place."
The company admitted 16 counts of using a vehicle when the driver failed to use a tachography record sheet or driver card.
It also admitted two counts of using a vehicle when the driver has insufficient rest within 24-hour period. It was ordered to pay £21,015.
The firm's transport manager Leslie Watts (57) of High Street, Kibworth admitted 10 counts of failing without reasonable excuse to make a relevant record/ entry, three counts of being the employer of a person using a vehicle when the driver has insufficient rest within 24 hour period and three counts of using a vehicle when the driver failed to use a tachography record sheet or driver card. He was ordered to pay £2,115.
Fourteen drivers also admitted offences.
In mitigation, Mark Laprell, for Ausden Clark, said it was a well-run, reputable company with no culture of cutting corners.
All charges relate to June and July last year.
After the hearing Paul Ausden-Clark, managing director of the firm, said he was going to write to the Traffic Commissioner to demand a public inquiry in to the case.
He said: "After examining more than 5,000 driver movements they came up with a small number of minor infringements. You would find that at any company like ours."
After the hearing, a spokesman for the East of England Traffic Commissioner said he would consider what action to take, which could include calling the firm to a public inquiry.
Last month Paul Ausden-Clark was ordered to pay £28,000 in fines and costs after admitting 74 offences of forging reports of coach inspections and maintenance work.
Leicester Crown Court was told at the time the company's licence could be revoked by the traffic commissioner because of the prosecution.
Admitted failing without reasonable excuse to make a relevant record/entry:
Andrew Barratt (59) of Cross Hedge Close, Beaumont Leys, Leicester. Ordered to pay £615.
Robert Butler (33) of Green Walk, New Parks, Leicester. Also admitted knowingly making a false record. Ordered to pay £975.
Howard Curtis (54) of Somers Road, Thurnby Lodge. Ordered to pay £515.
John Dakin (54) of Tolcarne Road, Netherhall, Leicester. Also admitted insufficient daily rest in 24 hour period. Ordered to pay £525.
Gary Dilkes (40) of Paget Road, Lubenham. Two counts of this offence. Ordered to pay £765.
Stephen Gretton (46) of Wentworth Road, off Fosse Road, Leicester. Two counts of this offence. Ordered to pay £785.
Michael Pole (65) of Silbury Road, off Anstey Lane, Leicester. Two counts of this offence. Ordered to pay £1,115.
Robert Rayner (68) of Stoneywell Road, Beaumont Leys, Leicester. Two counts of this offence. Ordered to pay £1,235.
Matthew Smith (38) of Glaisdale Close, Beaumont Leys, Leicester, Two counts of this offence. Ordered to pay £1,075.
Found guilty in his absence of failing without reasonable excuse to make a relevant record/entry:
Carl Skidmore (44) of Waltham Avenue, Braunstone Leicester. Ordered to pay £535.
Admitted insufficient daily rest in 24-hour period:
Kelvin Cooper (56) of Barry Close, Kirby Muxloe. Ordered to pay £425.
Norman Berrington (56) Clowbridge Drive, Loughborough. Ordered to pay £455.
Parbhubha Mistry Bharatbhai (53) of Uttoxeter Close, Rushey Mead, Leicester. Admitted two counts. Ordered to pay £1,498.
Admitted knowingly making a false record:
Nigel Brotherton (53) of Sedgefield Drive, Thurnby. Ordered to pay £535.