The Traffic Commissioners Report 2020 – 2021 (Summary)

In this year’s annual report Senior Traffic Commissioner Richard Turfitt, recognises the opportunities presented to operators due to the increase in e-commerce and the challenges faced ensuring compliance. The Commissioner also recognised the driver shortage crisis and the risk this poses to operators in then retaining drivers who do not meet professional driver standards. Whatever the commercial expediency, safety standards must be retained, or licenses will be at risk.

The Commissioners objectives are to deliver a modern, effective operator license regime that ensures operators are fit to hold a license whilst minimising the regulatory burden on the compliant. They seek to promote a safe road transport industry, which supports compliance, fair competition and protects the environment.

We explore some of the key elements of the annual report here……

Continuity of Service During COVID-19

Covid-19 affected all facets of road transport. Using their discretion and legislative flexibility Commissioners were able to issue exemptions whilst maintaining a “heavy emphasis on road safety”.

Public inquires and other hearings were postponed between March and July 2020. To counter the risk presented by non-compliant operators continuing to operate, Commissioners relied on their experience and regulatory toolkit to triage outstanding cases. Use was made of modern technology to hear cases virtually.

Covid-19 has taken the blame for the average processing time increase to 47.4 days from 36.45 (in the period April 2019 – March 2020) for HGV’s and from 50.1 days to 54 for PSV’s. Those who have made applications during this time (and now) will attest to terrible delays.

Aims for 2021/23

The Commissioner set out a plan to continue to meet their objectives setting out that whilst Traffic Commissioners remain independent of the DVSA, they rely on support provided by the DFT and the DVSA. A new service level agreement was announced between the OTC and the DVSA, which sets a new standard for the service to be delivered to Commissioners by the DVSA.

The Commissioner in turn has committed to a 35 day average processing time for applications and that public inquiries are listed within 12 weeks (by April 2022).

The report recognises that one of the biggest changes next year (from early 2022) is international operators with Light Goods and other vehicles between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes requiring an operator license and a Transport Manager.

If the statistics can be believed, 79% of domestic freight is moved by road and the industry employs 1.46 million people. The Commissioner cites the main challenges over the last 12 month as Brexit, Covid-19, IR35 and the driver shortage.

Traffic Commissioners have made it clear that safety standards must be retained and that licenses will be at risk if operators fail to ensure compliance from their drivers.

In our experience of representing clients at Public Inquiry during the last 18 months of ‘COVID ‘little account has been taken of the pressure placed to bear by the difficult trading conditions. If you are going to operate vehicles, you must find a way to do so compliantly or face the consequences.

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