The conviction of 15 drivers based at Eddie Stobart's Teesport depot for drivers’ hours and tachograph offences, has seen the company’s North Eastern O-licence cut by 140 vehicles for three-months.

The company, and 10 of the 15 convicted drivers (four of which are still employed by Eddie Stobart), appeared before the traffic commissioner (TC) Kevin Rooney at a two-day hearing - a driver conduct hearing followed by a public inquiry (PI) - in Leeds this week.

DVSA traffic examiner Gavin Miller told the PI that an investigation commenced in August 2014 when a request was made for the company’s digital tachograph data. This was prompted by a roadside check involving a subcontractor’s vehicle. DVSA also obtained the company's tracking data [telematics] too.

Ninety nine offences involving 17 drivers were identified as a consequence of this.

Two drivers received warning letters and 15 were prosecuted by DVSA last year for knowingly making false records through driving without their driver cards inserted in the digital tachograph; for failing to make a record for exceeding 4½ hours without taking the required break; and for exceeding the daily driving limit.

This lead to a full systems assessment being carried out at the Teesport depot and the main issue identified was that vehicle unit data was not being compared with driver card data. Miller added that he did not believe the problem had been identified by the company or that the drivers had been acting under the company’s instructions.

Some of the drivers said that they had driven within the depot without a card in the tachograph the PI heard, as they had thought they could do so because it was private land and didn’t know that the law had changed.


For Eddie Stobart James Backhouse from Backhouse Jones said that apart from one particular journey there was not a planning issue. New procedures had been introduced in January 2015 and there was now a zero tolerance policy on missing mileage.

Generally the operator had good systems and procedures but there had been “a hole”. There was no commercial advantage to the company as a result of what had occurred. In the majority of cases the drivers had not taken the required breaks to get home early.

Lee Noble, Eddie Stobart’s transport manager at Teesport since June 2014, said that when the company picked up that the issue was missing mileage, the drivers were warned at the end of 2014 about driving without inserting their driver cards. He spoke to the drivers involved personally and none of them said that they did not understand the law.

Vehicle units were now downloaded every 14 days and driver cards every seven days.


The TC commented at the hearing that he was being asked to believe that Eddie Stobart was naïve in all this and he added he was struggling with that.

Director and chief operating officer David Pickering said that the systems being used in 2014 were ones that had been established by the Stobart Group, the previous business, for some years.

Pickering could not see why any of the drivers acted in the way that they did. They [the company] had not realised there was a problem with the company’s systems until the traffic examiner came along.

Curtailing the licence (effective from 26 February), the TC said that he felt some regulatory action was essential because of the significant failures in the systems. The overall slowness of the company’s reaction was unacceptable, he added.

Rooney found nothing adverse in relation to Noble.

The drivers

Of the drivers that attended the driver conduct hearing three received formal warnings; two cases were adjourned, one for legal representation and the other so an interpreter could be present; and the remainder of the drivers had their vocational licences suspended for a week.

By Michael Jewell