The company holds a licence to operate twenty-five buses on home to school transport in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) carried out an investigation in 2022 and found an MOT failure rate of 31.5% - the national average for buses is 7.35%. A follow-up in 2023 found that the failure rate had got even worse and stood at 45.95%. Mr Brown told the commissioner that since October 2023, there had been eight tests with eight clear passes. That was not true as the records showed at least two more failures. Tests were failed on things that should have been picked up on basic checks.
Mr Brown admitted to Mr Rooney that drivers were not recording defects. That was true of the door sensitive edge, of damaged emergency exits, missing break-glass hammers, out-of-date fire extinguishers, all potentially safety critical defects. He found it hard to believe that so many professional drivers would choose not to report such dangerous matters. This supported his finding in relation to financial standing – there just did not seem to be the money to get the vehicles to the correct standard consistently and all year round.
A request for a period of grace for finance was denied as the commissioner felt that there was nothing more than hope or aspiration that the situation would be resolved. The licence was revoked because of the condition of the vehicles, a lack of finances to maintain them, and the lack of continuous and effective management of the operation.
Further to this, Mr. Rooney found that Mr Brown has lost his good repute and cancelled his transport manager qualification.
Mr Rooney finished by adding, “Noting the lead times for Wiltshire Council and relying on the spotlight created by the public inquiry process to generate sufficient compliance to keep vehicles safe for a short period, the orders for revocation will take effect from the end of 31 March 2024.” He was then dismayed to see reports of one of the operator’s vehicles on fire on the A417 on 8 February.
More details can be found here.