Stephen represented the DVSA in an Appeal by Mr Robertson at the Upper Tribunal sitting in Scotland. Mr Robertson owned a vehicle that at was being operated by a third party whose Operator Licence was revoked. He argued that the Traffic Commissioner was wrong to find there was a high degree of fault as he was misled by the Operator into believing that he held an Operator Licence. DVSA argued that the use of a vehicle without a Licence put the public at risk. Amomgst other things two independent people had advised Mr Robertson that there was a problem with the Operator's licence. Mr Robertson failed to make enquiries of DVSA and for a period of 3 months after the Operator's licence was revoked the vehicle was used without a licence. The Upper Tribunal found there was a high degree of fault and agreed with DVSA that the vehicle should remain impounded and sold.
The Law permits DVSA to impound a Vehicle if it is used without an Operator Licence putting members of the public at risk. In this case a Dutch company had been warned on several occasions that their vehicles could be impounded if they broke the rules. The vehicle would be sold by DVSA and net proceeds of sale given to the Owner. The company appealed to the Upper Tribunal against the decision of the Traffic Commissioner. They argued that they had taken steps to prevent unlawful use and future unlawful use. DVSA were represented by me in opposing the Appeal. New law was made by the Upper Transport Tribunal that, in interpreting the word 'steps', the appellant must prove that it had taken all reasonable steps and provided a list of documents that the court would expect to be produced to meet the test.
I act for the DVSA both in the Upper Tribunal on appeals from the Traffic Commissioner and at Public Inquiries. The case against Ebdon Tours and its 3 related companies was the first of it's type. Here the company deliberately altered the vehicle exhaust preventing in an attempt to run vehicles in London in breach of the London Emission Zone requirements. Having heard all the evidence the Traffic Commissioner decided to revoke all 4 licences.
How can a transport operator know what is meant by taking ‘all reasonable steps' to avoid operating unlawfulIy ? In July 2016 I was involved in a Transport case which resulted in the court defining that term for the first time, a ruling which will afffect all future cases.
A Dutch operator had been discovered operating illegally in the UK and their vehicle was impounded. The company applied for the return of the vehicle, arguing that although it knew it was operating illegally, it had ‘taken steps’ to avoid this by applying for a UK licence.
Representing the Government’s Tansport Agency the DVSA, I argued that is was not enough to obtain an Operator’s Licence. The necessary procedures had to be completed to register specific vehicles under that licence before they could be used.
The Court agreed, stating that the company had probably delayed for financial reasons and that the taking of steps meant ‘all those steps that a reasonable owner would take in the circumstances in which they find themselves’. (Van Der Gaag de Lier BV v Driver Vehicle Standards Agency, 2016 UKUT 0345 AAC)
I have a comprehensive understanding of transport issues, having represented not only the DVSA but also Coach and Road Haulage Operators over the last 30 years. If you have a transport issue, give me a call – I may be able to help.
I recently represented a man charged with driving a truck and trailer combination with a total capacity of ca 11,000kg, though his licence had a CIE entitlement of only 8,250kg. The man mistakenly believed he could drive the truck because the actual weight did not exceed 8,250kg, whereas the law states that the total capacity is the relevant factor. I argued before the magistrates that the information provided by the DVLA, the Government’s transport agency, was misleading. The magistrates agreed, telling my client ‘we would have made the same mistake as you!’ They found Special Reasons for not endorsing my client’s licence and he received an Absolute Discharge.
My client said:
‘Stephen, you know your stuff! You opened my eyes as to why I needed legal help. I felt I could speak to you about my issues and you were able to explain it in simple terms. I was very impressed with your handling of the case from the beginning through to your superb advocacy in court.’ DW
In March of this year, a 44-tonne truck with its trailer was seized by the UK Border Force. The haulier had been given a consignment of goods and had no reason to suspect that it in fact contained illegal drugs. For the next six weeks, the company unsuccessfully tried to recover their vehicles. I was instructed on the 18th April to take legal action to the recovery of the vehicles. It was accepted by the Border Force that the haulier was an innocent party. Within seven days of my intervention, on the 27th April, the Border Force indicated they were willing to release the vehicles. In addition, they wished to levy a fee of £5000 that we successfully appealed this on the grounds that it was not justified.
It is a sad fact that innocent hauliers can be the victims of organised criminals. If you ever find yourself in similar difficulties, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Tiger Transport are an expanding business who recently made an application to increase the number of vehicles authorised under their operator license. Complications arose and the company were invited to see the Traffic Commissioner. I was instructed to look after their interests. After considering the case as a whole at the hearing, the application for variation was approved to increase the number of vehicles on the license.