Driving To Deliver Your Business

Road Haulage Freight Operators Face Licence Revocation

Two Tales of Woe on Mirrors and AdBlue Are a Salutary Lesson for All HGV Drivers UK – It is an unfortunate reality that the world of road haulage abounds with stories of neglect and deception. Companies fail, yet spring up again immediately, leaving subcontractors and the taxman unpaid[1], drivers cheat on tachograph records until they are caught[2], and this despite the vast majority of road freight these days being carried by reputable companies which stick to the letter of the, ever more stringent, laws.

In the past couple of weeks we have seen two cases which highlight offences that some, less scrupulous hauliers, might deem to be relatively unimportant, yet the fact that one led to the Traffic Commissioners revoking an operator’s licence, whilst the other meant a jail sentence for the driver concerned, perfectly illustrates that in today’s climate going outside the regulations can have the most serious consequences. All haulage operators are aware that the rules regarding HGV mirrors are being stiffened in many places, London Mayor Sadiq Khan for example has insisted on maximum visibility from the cab and, despite criticism over the way he has introduced what is considered a piecemeal set of rules from the industry lobbyists, all agree that the principal is correct[3].

All drivers of commercial vehicles have to perform a daily walk round check to ensure everything on a truck is functioning correctly, anything amiss must be sorted out before work starts for the day. When driver Robert Witherspoon drove off one morning in June 2016 he travelled knowing that one of his driving mirrors was badly damaged and temporarily repaired with duct tape. His lack of vision caused him to switch lanes on the A13 in Barking, Essex without being able to see a Ford Mondeo beside him in the slow lane.

The car spun across all three lanes of the road into the motorcycle of David Little, 63. The accident killed Mr Little and seriously injured his son Tom, and this month a court sentenced Witherspoon to 14 months imprisonment and took away his licence. The court heard that the faulty mirror had been ‘positioned in such a way that does not comply with an EU directive’.

Our second tale of woe concerns something more mundane, but a story which potentially affects virtually all HGVs, that is until all are driving in trucks not reliant on diesel fuel. It used to be magnets to trick the truck’s tachometer, and a host of illegal fuel scams,[4] but now it seems there is another ‘dodge’ which unscrupulous road haulage firms can use to cheat legal requirements. Most freight companies are aware that modern trucks often use AdBlue, the liquid that needs to be topped up regularly in their lorries, but many will not be aware of why it is so vital.

The answer, as so often these days, is environmental. AdBlue refers not to the liquid which is added to the exhaust system of an HGV (or diesel car), but more properly to the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system with which it reacts. AdBlue liquid is principally deionised water and urea (yes you read that right, but this is actually manufactured in a lab) which, when it hits the hot catalyser in tiny quantities, releases ammonia gas, this then neutralises nitrogen compounds, the infamous oxides and dioxides which poison the exhaust fumes.

This reaction converts these to water and nitrogen. So, how and why transgress with regard to this? As usual it is to gain a pecuniary advantage, AdBlue comes at a cost and a vehicle will run perfectly well without it.

With this in mind there are devices available, the so called ‘AdBlue Emulators’ which defeats the emission control system (otherwise the vehicle goes into ‘limp’ mode). These devices can be essential in countries where temperatures drop drastically low, the water based fluid can freeze and cause damage and also they tend to not be in the Euro Zone which demands higher emission standards. Such a device was employed by Cinderford haulage outfit KSL, run by Stephen Harris and Karen Phelps and employing eight staff.

It should be noticed at this point that on February 8 this year, a day or so after the case was decided by the Traffic Commissioners, Ms Phelps registered a new company, KSL (FOD) Limited, at Companies House, trading at the same address as the old one. The Traffic Commissioners of course historically take a very dim view of any deception regarding the fronting of banned haulage companies as we reported[5] a year or so ago. CCTV footage proved that the firm’s trucks had been operating in London and using such a device to avoid the TfL pollution regulations when a DVSA vehicle examiner found the emulator.

Harris and Phelps were given to 3 March to wind up their business with Harris having his vehicle operating licence revoked and Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney disqualified him from acting as a transport manager until had taken his exams again, saying he ‘wilfully shut his eyes to the absolutely blindingly obvious’ by failing to query the proper use of AdBlue.

This, in tandem with other faults found in the company’s fleet of HGVs meant that such stringent measures were the only option.

Road Haulage Freight Operators Face Licence RevocationRoad Haulage Freight Operators Face Licence Revocation


  1. ^ taxman unpaid (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  2. ^ they are caught (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  3. ^ the principal is correct (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  4. ^ illegal fuel scams, (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  5. ^ as we reported (www.handyshippingguide.com)

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