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Traffic commissioner bans plant hire boss

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A Scottish plant hire boss who cut corners to get work from BAM Nuttall has had his operating licence revoked after being told that he could not be trusted.

Scotland's traffic commissioner, Joan Aitken, has revoked the licence of Micro Plant Ltd to operate HGVs and made an order to disqualify director Stewart Rae from operating vehicles for two and a half years.

Miss Aitken additionally refused to give Mr Rae's other firms, S&G Rae Agricultural Ltd and Forestry Contractors Ltd, permission to run vehicles from his West Riverside Farm in Carron Valley, Denny.

Stewart Rae appeared before the traffic commissioner at a public inquiry earlier this year after investigators reported issues with his businesses. Examiners from the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) found that Micro Plant Ltd drivers had committed offences, including failing to take the correct breaks or sufficient rest while driving, and that the firm had no transport manager in place after April 2013 to oversee driver and vehicle safety checks. A vehicle was also being kept at the West Riverside Farm site even though the company did not have permission to do so.

Miss Aitken heard that Mr Rae had borrowed licence discs from two other licence holders to cover work he planned to undertake with the new licence for S&G Rae Agricultural Ltd and Forestry Contractors Ltd. However, this application had not been granted and it is illegal to lend licence discs – operator licences are not transferable. Representations had also been made to the traffic commissioner about the firm's proposed use of the West Riverside Farm site on environmental grounds.

In a written decision issued after the hearing, Miss Aitken said she was not convinced that Mr Rae and his wife, Gwen Rae (who was also a director of the new firm), respected the law or other persons' rights.

"Much of what happened with this Rae licence came from the desire to get contracts such as those available from BAM Nuttall – that is to get vehicles on the road ahead of being granted an operator's licence. Mr Rae put pressure on his drivers. Now pressure to get on and work can be the proper response and expectation of an employer, who after all is paying the wages, but it is not proper when it leads to drivers not having breaks or sufficient rest and having in one instance to cross the line into using Mr Rae's name. It is not proper when there is no oversight of drivers' hours or tachograph records."

Miss Aitken also criticised the role of the Archibald Fullerton, who was nominated as the transport manager for Micro Plant Ltd. Mr Fullerton instigated the lending of one operator licence disc for the new business and was aware of the other loan. The regulator said that lending licence discs struck at the foundations of the regulatory regime and its road safety and fair competition aims.

She concluded: "This behaviour is inconsistent with repute and professional competence and the requirement to have continuous and effective control."

Mr Fullerton, of Bonnybridge, was disqualified from acting as a transport manager indefinitely.

Miss Aitken also held driver conduct hearings for three drivers who had committed offences. She suspended their licences for periods ranging from 8 to 12 weeks.

The two operators involved in lending their operator licence discs to Mr Rae had their licences curtailed for eight weeks, reducing the number of vehicles they are allowed to run.

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