M&M Kerr, thought to be Scotland’s only haulier of hanging meat, has had its licence revoked after it altered the speed limiters of HGVs and compromised road safety.

The former Scottish European haulier of the year, which holds an international operator licence authorising 20 lorries and 20 trailers, was found to have used software purchased for diagnostics to increase the fleet’s speed up to 60mph.

The haulier’s illegal activities only came to light when one of its trucks was involved in an accident and the DVSA found that the speed limiter had been adjusted.

It was also identified that the driver Craig Kerr, son of director and transport manager Michael Kerr, had driven for excessive periods without a card inserted and had also been relying on another driver’s card.

At an Edinburgh public inquiry, traffic commissioner Claire Gilmore heard how M&M Kerr’s lorries had been travelling for sustained periods in excess of the standard 56mph.

DVSA evidence showed that although the increase was relatively small, when aggregated over many thousands of miles and multiple drivers it would give a significant advantage to the operator and posed a risk to road safety.

Kerr told the PI he was joint director of the business along with his wife and it was primarily focused on the delivery of fresh meat to continental Europe.

He said Brexit and Covid had had a huge impact on the haulier’s work and that it had lost around three months’ work as a result.

In her written decision, TC Gilmore said: “None of the vehicles were set to go above 60mph and as a result he did not consider it to be a risk to road safety. He accepted that it had affected fair competition, but he felt, given the delays caused by Brexit and Covid, any advantage was minimised.

“He had become completely overwhelmed with everything and regretted what had happened deeply.”

In a statement, Craig Kerr admitted using another driver’s card through which he created 15 false records and was able to drive excessive hours.

The TC said the driver now realised the gravity of what he had done and was extremely sorry.

Further investigations by the DVSA uncovered instances where M&M Kerr’s drivers appeared to have driven ‘off card’ during rest breaks but the TC said there was insufficient evidence to establish this was a widespread practice.

She said that aside from a handful of occasions where drivers had admitted flouting the rules, it was more likely that the times when lorries were driven without cards was when shunter drivers at customer locations were moving them on and off loading bays.

Gilmore said that it was likely director Kerr had lied to the DVSA during its investigation in order to protect his son rather than cover up any conspiracy on his part in the unlawful use of a tacho card.

She added: “By law, the operator’s vehicles were required to have a speed limiter fitted and set to 90kph (56mph).

“The evidence is that Mr Kerr’s whole fleet was travelling significantly faster than that over a period of around 15 months.

However, the traffic commissioner also found positives in the case. She said compliance and the MOT pass rate had improved by the time of the PI and that the transport manager had acknowledged he could not continue in his position in the future.

She also said the company’s drivers spoke well of Kerr and he appeared to care about their welfare.

“The evidence was that he was the only haulier of hanging lambs running out of Scotland, and revocation of his licence was likely to have a considerable impact on the industry,” Gilmore added. “This was also the operator’s first public inquiry.

“However, even giving the maximum weight that I can to all of those matters, I find that they still cannot outweigh the significantly negative findings of dishonesty on Mr Kerr’s part.

“[He] has obtained a substantial commercial advantage over other operators and has compromised road safety by altering his speed limiters.”

She revoked the company’s licence and Kerr was disqualified as a transport manager for 12 months, but she stopped short of disqualifying him as the operator: “That leaves the door open for Mr Kerr or the operator company to apply again in future should he wish to do so,” Gilmore said.

The TC said she would issue decisions relating to the company’s driver conduct hearings separately.