Friday, May 24, 2013

Tawdry Record of a Road Haulage and 'Environmental' Outfit Blackens Name of Honest Freight Groups

Massive Fine Follows History of Abuse and Offences Disgusting in Every Sense
Shipping News Feature

UK – In recent years professional road haulage outfits have done much to clean up the image of the road freight industry. The imposition of tougher environmental restrictions have meant cleaner engines whilst the adoption of strict working practices has meant many better turned out drivers, more proficient in outlook and polished in performance. Sadly though there still exist those companies who break the law for extra profit and drag the name of the industry into disrepute. This week we saw a prosecution which reveals how an offhand approach to the law can lead to serious consequences as an owner liquidates one of his many businesses.

Yesterday (23 May), following a VOSA investigation, Danny Steven Sawrij from Swalesmoor Road in Halifax was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £150,000 costs by Kirklees Magistrates Court for a litany of drivers record keeping offences. A director of Alba Transport in Halifax Mr Sawrij also failed to supply inspectors with documents. The tally of charges against the company included 134 admitted offences with 2,000 hours misreported in a two month period. This however is not the first time that a company with which Mr Sawrij has been associated has fallen foul of the law.

Alba Transport is part of the Leo Group, a gathering of companies which are descended from an original 1970’s mink farming project begun by Mr Sawrij’s family following which Danny Sawrij took over as group managing director in 1988. The group graduated to maggot farming for the angling trade and offal trading, the collection of ‘fallen stock’ and the production of pet food.

Alba Transport had a contract carrying offal for a sister company and was previously prosecuted in Bradford for eight separate counts of spilling blood, cattle and poultry intestines and waste over neighbouring roads and pavements (as our photo shows), including outside a primary school to a depth of several inches and causing at least one traffic accident since 2009, the year of the company’s formation.

The waste was owned by another Leo Group company which itself had reportedly been prosecuted previously at least three times for similar offences. The spillage of this category one waste was deemed to be a major threat to health and was described by Magistrates as ‘persistent failure’ who referred the latest cases to Bradford Crown Court as they deemed their own powers to punish insufficient. For the eight counts against them, Alba Transport were fined £32,000 with costs of £9,500. Previously, other Leo Group companies had reportedly received fines of £20,000 for other environmental aberrations. Speaking of the latest case Heather Cruickshank, Vosa’s Operations Director said:

“VOSA will always take robust action against operators who deliberately flout the law and there could be serious consequences as this case shows. These operators not only take the risk of severe financial penalties from the courts but they could also lose their good name and gain a criminal record.”

The Leo group makes much on its website of how much it donates to charity and of course this is very laudable. The statements it makes regarding its care for the environment however do not ring quite as true in view of the lamentable record of the group’s subsidiaries. The wretched history demonstrates the perils of a company which specialises in one business attempting to bring the same values to a road haulage operation, often seen as a necessary drain of the overall group’s resources when proficient outside contractors are considered too expensive.

Apparently Alba Transport has now gone into liquidation whilst the Leo Group is making a decision as to whether the fine can be appealed. What the authorities must now ensure is that in cases such as this it proves impossible for those associated with companies such as Alba Transport to rise Phoenix-like from the wreckage they have left previously to simply start operating in the same casual, and potentially deadly, manner once again.

N.B. Alba Transport in Halifax has no relationship with Alba Transport based in Tonbridge, Kent.

Photo: Workers try to clear offal from a road after spillage from an Alba Transport lorry (inset)