Fundamental changes to the rules regarding public inquiries and the role of traffic commissioners are now in place. The changes result from the adopting of a 2009 EU Regulation and its incorporation and resulting amendment to the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995.
There is a change in emphasis in the way that Traffic Commissioners will deal with standard national or international licence holders. The 2009 Regulation specifies 7 types of infringement, which are considered to be the most serious. If a transport manager or a transport undertaking receives either a conviction or penalty for one of these infringements, then this should result in loss of good repute provided that the correct procedure has been followed. This includes warning the operator and allowing a reasonable period of time for the operator to rectify the situation before good repute is lost. However, there is now a presumption, under the 2009 Regulations, that being convicted of or receiving a penalty for one of the serious infringements will result in loss of repute, unless after carrying out an administrative investigation, it is found that loss of good repute, in that particular individual case, would be disproportionate.
This is a significant change of emphasis from the old position where a licence was revoked, if it appeared at any time, that the operator was no longer of good repute and that in determining this, the Traffic Commissioner may have regard to any relevant convictions. This allowed a discretion to the Traffic Commissioner, which, under the 2009 Regulations, appears to have been replaced by mandatory loss of repute, providing that it is proportionate. If, after carrying out an investigation, the Traffic Commissioner decides that it would be disproportionate for the operator to lose good repute, then the Traffic Commissioner can decide that good repute remains in- tact but will have to record the reasons for their decision on a national register.
What does this mean for operators? Firstly they need to familiarise themselves with the seven types of serious infringements and have in place robust systems for ensuring that they don’t commit any of these. If they do, then they need to seek immediate advice and not just wait to seek qualified legal advice once they receive the letter from the Traffic Commissioner’s office calling them to attend at a public inquiry. For further information or if you believe that you may have a public inquiry pending and need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01756 790631.