The boss of an Essex-based international haulier has been disqualified for five years after presiding over “truly appalling” business practices that included running more trucks than legally allowed, tacho card lending and a huge amount of missing mileage.

Truck Trans, which held a licence for 15 lorries and 10 trailers in South Ockendon, appeared before the deputy TC Nicholas Denton following a DVSA investigation into the firm.

A Cambridge public inquiry heard how an HGV was stopped at the roadside and officers found it was not specified on any licence, despite the driver saying he working for Truck Trans.

 A traffic examiner phoned Truck Trans director Ionut Paun, who said he needed to check the vehicle’s status and he would return the call.

In the five minutes between calls, the director then logged on to the DVSA’s vehicle operator licensing service and added the vehicle to its licence, which he initially denied doing.

Further inquiries found there were 6,039km of missing mileage over a three-month period; numerous “very swift” changes of tacho cards in vehicles and more than 30 occasions when more than 15 trucks were being operated.

In addition, all the drivers were self-employed.

Paun told the DVSA any driving recorded on his card was done by him and he said he had not given his card to other drivers.

He claimed instead that he travelled around the country and filled in for drivers where and when needed.

But DTC Denton rejected this: “It is not credible that Ionut Paun would travel more than 300 miles to Cumbria to drive a vehicle while the first driver took a break, then travel 300 miles back again,” he said, referring to one example.

The DTC also said there were very few positive aspects to the case and he made a specific finding that Paun had lent his tacho card to other drivers, describing it as “a most serious infringement”.

He said transport manager and Paun’s brother, Catalin Paun “should have spotted the strange pattern” in the use of Ionut’s card: “Even if he was not fully cognizant of the use of Ionut Paun’s card by other drivers, he must have been shutting his eyes to the obvious.

“Further, his lack of effective control is emphasised by his failure to realise that more than the authorised 15 vehicles were in possession and in use.”

Denton said that the seriousness of the director’s misconduct meant he should be disqualified for five years and referring to the transport manager, he added: “I consider that his failings have arisen out of gross neglect rather than actual connivance with the wrongdoing of his brother Ionut Paun: there was insufficient evidence for me to find that Catalin Paun definitely knew what was going on.

“But his neglect allowed truly appalling practices to prevail. I am disqualifying Catalin Paun from acting as transport manager for a period of three years.”