Coach driver jailed for putting passengers at risk had his work lie exposed driving to Exmouth

PUBLISHED: 16:37 10 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:37 10 July 2017


A coach driver jailed for working excessive hours was found out while he was spot-checked taking a party of tourists to Exmouth

A tour company coach driver has been jailed for putting his passengers’ lives at risk by working excessive hours.

Bob Rowe was spot-checked driving to Exmouth and found to have fiddled his tachograph to make it look as if he was staying within the safe limits but was in fact driving up to four hours longer than he should.

He worked for Wolverhampton-based Majestic Travel; the company is now being investigated by the Traffic Commissioners over its role in the fiddle.

Rowe was caught during a spot check when taking a party of tourists to Exmouth last August and investigators were able to show he had broken the law by cross-checking his personal records against the digital tachograph in the coach.

The tachograph records all the coach’s movements but each driver has a credit card style personal identification which he or she should put into the machine whenever they are driving.

Rowe removed the card when he realised he was going to exceed the permitted hours, thus concealing what he was doing.

Exeter Crown Court heard how most of the offences happened when he was driving the 57-seater on trips from the Midlands to London for excursions to see shows and musicals.

He claimed that Majestic Travel did not book parking for the coach while the passengers were at the theatre and so he had to drive around looking for somewhere to stop.

This meant he was unable to take the 45 minute break which would have made it legal to drive them home again.

Rowe, aged 54, of Kenilworth Crescent, Parkfields, Wolverhampton, admitted seven offences of knowingly making false tachograph records and was jailed for six months at Exeter Crown Court.

Recorder Mr Martin Meeke, QC, told him: “You were exceeding your hours and falsifying the records by removing the driver’s card so it appeared you had driven fewer hours than in fact you had.

“On one occasion you drove eight and a half hours without a break instead of four and a half and when you should have had a minimum break of nine hours, you only had seven and a half. You drove for almost ten hours without a qualifying break.

“It is bad enough when offences like this are committed by an HGV driver, but you were driving a 57 seat coach, therefore endangering those you were carrying. You knew what you were doing.”

Miss Felicity Hine, prosecuting for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, said the offences came to light after an inspector checked coach at Exmouth last summer.

It was licensed to K and E Horton Garages, trading as Majestic Travel, and their logo was on the side of the single-decker.

She said further checks were carried out and the timings of Rowe’s driver card compared to the tachograph record of the coach. It showed he had taken out the card on seven occasions to falsify his driving times.

Miss Hine said the coach operators are being investigated by the Traffic Commissioners, who have the power to suspend or revoke a licence.

Rowe was not represented, but a probation report said he is the father of three grown-up children and has four grandchildren. He lost his PSV licence as a result of this investigation and is now unemployed.

The report said: “He says it was the biggest mistake of his life.”

Rowe told the judge: “The Traffic Commissioners took my licence away in May when I had to see them with Majestic Travel and some of the other drivers. I’m disqualified for 12 months.

“Most of the problems were in London where there is no parking. I had to drive around because there was nowhere to park. I thought if I took the card out I would not get into serious trouble.

“The company did not pre-book parking so when I dropped people off at the theatre. You have to find your own parking and pick them up at the end of the show.”

The company’s licence is to be suspended for a week after one of its drivers was jailed for fiddling the records of his hours and breaks, the court was told.

Majestic Travel, of Wolverhampton, will have to stop running trips from July 29 until August 5, after a disciplinary hearing by the Traffic Commissioners.

They investigated the company after one of its drivers was caught fiddling his hours by removing his personal identity card from the digital tachograph.

Bob Rowe, aged 54, from Wolverhampton, was jailed for six months at Exeter Crown Court after he admitted six offences of falsifying driving records.

After the case, a spokesman for the Traffic Commissioner said that action had also been taken against Majestic Tours at a hearing in May 2017.

He said: “The operator’s licence held by K & E Horton (Garages) Ltd trading as Majestic Travel will be suspended for seven days from 00:01 on Saturday 29 July to 00:01 on 05 August 2017.

“The decision follows a public inquiry on 25 May 2017 held in Birmingham before the Traffic Commissioner for the West Midlands, Mr Nick Denton.

“The industry regulator ordered the suspension after finding that oversight of compliance with drivers’ hours, rules had been ‘hazy and ineffective’.”

Mr Denton said: “What has stopped me from revoking the licence or imposing a much longer suspension is the fact that the operator’s maintenance record has improved greatly since the unsatisfactory report in 2013.

“The operator has taken some steps to improve drivers’ hours compliance, eg. by bringing in an outside consultant, but more needs to be done.”

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