Gloucester coach company ceased trading after vehicles found with serious faults

Jackie's Coaches in Moreton Valence near Gloucester were investigated by the DVSA.
Jackie's Coaches in Moreton Valence near Gloucester were investigated by the DVSA. -Credit:Google Maps

A school bus provider closed down after an investigation found ageing vehicles with serious faults in its fleet and was unable to repair them. Jackie’s Coaches, based at The Old Airfield in Moreton Valence, near Gloucester, operated various school bus routes across Gloucestershire for several years.

But a Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) investigation into the condition of the company’s coaches found “serious shortcomings” with inspection records, transport manager control, driver defect reporting, inspection facilities and maintenance arrangements and prohibitions having been issued. His investigation triggered the resignations of James Pratt as director and Peter Allen as transport manager, respectively.

Jackie’s Coaches halted its school buses following the Christmas break in early 2024 and left parents working with Gloucester County Council to find alternative transport. The firm also ceased trading earlier this year.

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A fresh DVSA inquiry sought to understand what happened with Jackie’s Coaches and whether Mr Allen and James Pratt should lose their transport licence and continue working within the transport industry. The operator's licence of Jackie’s Coaches was previously held by transport manager Duncan William Pratt and Jacqueline Pratt, but the DVSA intervened after concerns were raised about its vehicles’ conditions.

In August 2022, the licence had been altered with a condition to curtail the licence to just five vehicles immediately and the licence to be revoked from December 31, 2022. Following this decision, James Pratt was made director and Peter Allen became the firm’s transport manager in what was now a much smaller operation.

One coach failed an MOT because a tyre had a tread depth of less than 1mm, a kinked brake pipe and a binding brake along with more minor defects. Mr Allen remarked the coach was presented for a preventative maintenance inspection and MOT a month later, but struggled to find other maintenance providers.

No viable maintenance provider could be found for the vehicles so they could not be operated in any case. Mr Allen felt their intercity express coach vehicles were “too old and too complex for the work they were doing” and one vehicle was getting damaged due to the roads it was operating on. This is an observation the inquiry agreed with.

Mr Allen was also unaware of a door sensitive edge and why it wasn’t identified by a driver. He also told the enquiry he was aware of the previous DVSA decision to revoke the licence and consultancy figures brought in to assist the company.

One DVSA Vehicle Standards Assessor conducting a MOT on one vehicle found it had brake pads being worn down to the metal and had no warning lights. This needed immediate attention and Duncan Pratt, who was unaware of the severity of the brake defects, drove the vehicle. Mr Pratt added he “would not have driven the vehicle if he had known that the pads were down to the metal.”

Up until the serious MOT failure in September 2023, James Pratt had been happy that the business was running "compliantly" and vehicles were sent for preventative maintenance inspections on time. He believed the firm had to stop operating until they got a period of grace. By the time the period of grace was granted, it was too late and all services had ceased trading.

The inquiry observed: “He had learned invaluable lessons from what had happened. A good relationship between operator and maintenance provider was key.

“He would have a second maintenance provider who could check on the first one. He wasn’t looking to run big coaches; smaller ones were financially more stable.”

Cullimore's, which ran commercial vehicle repairs & MOT, was contracted by Jackie’s Coaches to carry out their maintenance. The firm "could not afford to lose" Cullimore's and their working relationship worsened when they were behind on payments.

Following the resignations, Jackie’s Coaches requested a period of grace in relation to professional competence and added Samual Steel as transport manager on 25 January 2024. until March 21, 2024. The sudden closure of Jackie’s Coaches temporarily left children without transport, but alternative providers were brought in.

Traffic commissioner Kevin Rooney recommended James Pratt to join the Confederation of Passenger Transport and seek some experience in a management role in another operator. Mr Rooney remarked the “good repute of transport manager Peter Allen is tarnished but not lost”, before adding: “Mr Allen is clearly a knowledgeable individual. In law, the transport manager is the person who ‘effectively and continuously manages the transport activities of the undertaking’.

“It is evident from the condition of the vehicles that he failed to do that here. The role of an external transport manager is a difficult one, and a brave one as it entails putting a valuable qualification at risk.

“There are two strong negative features here. The first is the failure directly to intervene with the service provider.

“That is a key relationship for any operator and the transport manager should be at the heart of it. The second is the timing of resignation. Quite simply, it should have come far sooner.

“Against that, Mr Allen was far from a transport manager in name only. He was engaged and active. He himself sees the engagement with this operator as a steep learning curve. I find his good repute is tarnished but not lost.”

The transport licence was revoked with immediate effect due to a lack of financial standing, professional competence and vehicles were not kept fit and serviceable. Mr Rooney also fined the firm £1,100 for failing to operate. The full decision can be found here.