A Combe Martin trucker was so desperate to keep his job at a failing haulage company that he fiddled his tachograph so he could work extra hours, a court has heard.

Vincent Sullivan was terrified of losing his job at CB Plant Hire in Uffculme after it fired 36 of its 40 drivers just before Christmas last year.

Exeter Crown Court heard he removed his personal tachograph from the long distance lorry he was driving and put other motorists at risk by going well over his permitted hours instead of taking compulsory rest stops.

He said he was put under pressure by the company to drive excessive hours but still lost his job after the firm folded a few weeks later.

Sullivan, aged 35, of King Street, Combe Martin, admitted five counts of falsifying a tachograph and four of working excess hours or not taking breaks.

He was fined £400 and ordered to do 80 hours unpaid community work by Judge Paul Cook.

He told him:”Driving for more hours than permitted and that puts members of the public in danger because you were driving a substantial vehicle, a HGV, and if you were tired or not concentrating an accident could have happened and fatalities could have occurred.”

Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said police checked records at CB Plant Hire in April last year and found discrepancies between those in the truck and Sullivan’s personal disc.

These arose because he removed it on five occasions to conceal him driving beyond the permitted hours. Some were for short periods but one was for two hours 18 minutes in which he covered 184 kilometres and another for an hour and 44 minutes and 126 kilometres.

He was interviewed and told police he had ‘pulled a fast one’.

John Smethurst, defending, said Sullivan was pressured into breaking the law by his employers and feared losing his job and not being able to pay the mortgage on the home where he lives with his wife and young son.

He said:”He was told ‘do this, or else’. He prioritised keeping his job and keeping a roof over his family’s head.”