Shetland contractor and plant operator MK Leslie has been punished by the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland for breaking the rules of its operator licence.
The company is to be restricted in the number of vehicles it can use in future, down from 22 to 17 because of irregularities in its involvement with Inverness-based operators Daviot Farms and HRL Scrap & Waste Solutions. For the first eight weeks there will be a further restriction to just 15 vehicle licences, starting on 7th August.
Malcolm Keith Leslie of MK Leslie, known as Keith Leslie, and two people from Daviot Farms have also been “warned as to their repute” by commissioner Joan Aitken. For its part in “unlawful operations” Daviot Farms has had its operator licence suspended completely for four weeks.
The sanctions follow a public inquiry in Inverness in June which found “an incorrect practice of borrowing and lending operator licence discs between the two companies”.
It was called after the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (Vosa) drew the Traffic Commissioner’s attention to a “repeated and prevalent difficulty in identifying who was operating which vehicles”.
MK Leslie had lorries at two bases in Inverness and the inquiry heard that Mr Leslie bought up to 12 from a company that was in trouble, which he had once been a director of. He hired them out with operator discs to the enterprises of Gary MacDonald of Daviot Farms, which included HRL Scrap & Waste Solutions.
It was done in a way that was not considered a “legal and commonplace” hiring agreement in the haulage industry in that had they been hired from a hire company they would not have come with an operator licence disc.
Ms Aitken decided it would be “disproportionate” to put Mr Leslie out of business as a vehicle operator even though he had become “seriously non-compliant” through his association with the MacDonald enterprises.
But suspending the operating licence held by Gary MacDonald and Michelle MacDonald for four weeks starting on Sunday, Ms Aitken said: “Nothing less than suspension is appropriate given the extent of the unlawful operating and my need to ensure that fair competition is upheld and that an appropriate regulatory marker is put down to deter any others from thinking what happened was all right.”