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Traffic commissioners review road transport in 2013

  • 16 January 2014
  • By Justin Stanton

It’s been another busy year for the traffic commissioners (TCs), with the usual stream of public inquiries to oversee as well as industry seminars, conferences and events to address.

The TCs’ report for 2012/13, published last month, showed that the total number of O-licences in circulation continues to  decline, falling from 84,072 in 2011/12 to 80,894. This came as no surprise: the number of O-licences in issue has fallen consistently from 110,067 in 1999/2000 with only 2002/03 and 2007/08 bucking the trend with slight increases.

In his contribution to the report, North East TC Kevin Rooney said it was impossible for him to miss the continuing downsizing
of Britain’s CV fleet, both in terms of vehicles specified and numbers of operators. “The business realities that cause this shrinkage play themselves out day-in, day-out in the public inquiry room, whether it be an application following a pre-pack administration or an operator who has cut costs on maintenance or not replaced his fleet,” he stated.

TC for the South East Nick Denton noted the problem of so-called ‘flag of convenience’ transport managers – those who
are named on the licence, but have little real involvement in the business. “I saw one example where a transport manager was
claiming to work 32 hours a month for an operator, but charging only £100,” he said. “Can he have been doing a proper job?
Another failed to spot that his operator did not have two drivers as claimed, but rather one driver using two tachograph cards under different names.”

TC Denton also singled out operators who fail to fulfil undertakings. “I frequently ask operators to agree to undergo refresher training, or be externally audited by trade bodies, as the price for retaining their licence,” he reported. “Most carry out these promises, but some do not. I suppose it is this detachment from reality, which means they are surprised when, at our next
encounter, I revoke their licences.”

Nick Jones, TC for the West Midlands and Welsh traffic areas, mentioned the 2012 joint framework document published
by the TCs and the Department for Transport (DfT), designed to clarify the nature of the TCs’ relationship with Vosa and
support their independence.

“The framework agreement referred to last year was a real hope for the future; it is unfortunate that it is too often
ignored,” he said.

There are particular regulatory issues that need to be tackled in the principality, he said. “Annual reports for Wales have historically referred to problems caused by TC services being administered from England; comparatively lower safety levels in parts of Wales; a comparative lack of regulatory interventions in parts of Wales; and ongoing Welsh language problems.

“In looking to the future, the secretary of state will be concerned that the above issues have not been addressed and matters are coming to a head.”

Paying compliments
In her report, TC for Scotland Joan Aitken said she had been heartened by the decision to build a Vosa check-site at
Glenluce on the A75, which links the M74 from Carlisle to the ferry crossings to Ireland.

“This year I particularly want to compliment the Vosa examiners in Cumbria and their road traffic police colleagues, with the help of Scottish colleagues, for the very high standard of their joint working on the M6/M74, which led to the convictions of some
seriously non-compliant Scottish truck drivers and my being able to revoke their driving entitlements,” she explained.

According to Western TC Sarah Bell, the past 12 months have been a challenge for the road transport industry. However, she praised the work of trade association representatives in her traffic area – in particular Mike Moore and Nick Payne from the Road Haulage Association, and Ian Gallagher from the Freight Transport Association. “They have helped me communicate with their members in a year where it is of particular importance because of the enhanced regime for transport managers settling in and the deadlines for the Driver CPC now on the near horizon,” she said.

TC for the East of England Richard Turfitt stressed the importance of operators knowing that enforcement and regulation provide value for money. “Any unnecessary cost places the ability of transport companies to deliver at issue,” he said.

Senior TC Beverley Bell – also North West TC – concluded by saying that the TCs had spent 2012/13 targeting the serially and
seriously non-compliant, and would continue to do so. “I look forward to working on behalf of the TCs with Alastair
Peoples [DVSA chief executive] and his board over the coming year to ensure that we are properly resourced and financed,
for without this we cannot be effective,” she said.

2012/13 in numbers

  • A total of 303 O-licences were revoked in 2012/13, compared with 322 in 2011/12.
  • The number of licence suspensions jumped from 97 to 135.
  • Licence holder disqualifications rose year-on-year from 37 to 45.
  • Disqualifications for transport managers went up to 67 from 57 the previous year.
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