Operator licence processing times & new rules for Traffic Commissioner hearings

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Applicants for, and holders of, operator’s licences can be very frustrated by the time taken to grant a new licence or vary an existing one. So, is the situation getting any better?

Seemingly, yes. The 2019/20 Annual Report of the Traffic Commissioners indicates that there has been some significant improvement against their target set that applications for new licences or for a major variation to an existing licence be processed in an average of 35 working days by 31 March 2021. The great majority of applications are for goods operations. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has not assisted.

A reduction of more than four days for goods vehicles and 20 days off the average times for PSVs applications means the average time for:

  • processing a goods application is now 36.45 days (was 40.79 days between April 2018 and March 2019)
  • processing a PSV application is now 50.1 days (was 70.79 days).

Traffic Commissioners have been aware of some applications that were going un-processed for months so they ‘introduced a process of insisting that all open applications more than six months old were referred to a commissioner on a monthly basis for review in an attempt to resolve them. This proved successful and was expanded to all applications open for more than four months. Going forward, it will be all applications open for more than three months. This has helped to drive down processing times and increased accountability for the licensing functions.’

We are aware that whilst the average processing times have reduced individual applicants can be frustrated by the delay in their own individual cases. There are steps that can be taken to address this and Ashtons Legal can help you here. We can also assist in the process of applying for new licences or variations of existing ones.

New Traffic Commissioner Tribunal Rules

The outcome of a consultation exercise relating to the possible introduction of formal Tribunal rules for Traffic Commissioner Hearings has been published.

The outcome is that the Department for Transport is now going to consider this and appears to be positively inclined to their introduction. Indeed, such rules are commonplace in other types of Tribunal. The view is that this would make the whole Tribunal process simpler to follow and consistent.

There was strong support during the consultation for formal rules to cover case management, directions, evidence, witnesses, procedures at hearings, periods of grace and orders for expenses/costs.

One point raised in the consultation responses is that most applicants for Licences and existing operators who have to appear before Traffic Commissioners are Preliminary Hearings or Public Inquiries are actually unrepresented. Indeed, it is very surprising how many operators and transport managers do not seek representation for hearings, given the importance of an Operator’s Licence to start a goods or road passenger business or to continue trading. In many ways, the powers of Traffic Commissioners to revoke, suspend or curtail in size an Operator’s Licence are greater than those of the criminal Courts. In effect, the loss of, or any other action against, the licence can be fatal for a business.

The Senior Traffic Commissioner Annual Report for 2019 to 2020 – referred to above – confirmed that in the reporting period 1,541 Public Inquiries had been conducted, 318 preliminary hearings and 17,937 driver conduct cases (some of which included drive conduct hearings) were processed.

Public Consultation for this took place between April and June 2019 and also asked for views with regard to PSV (Passenger Vehicle) operator’s licence procedures relating to introducing the grant of interim licences, currently not available.

We Can Help You

If you require advice and representation at any Traffic Commissioner preliminary hearing or public inquiry then please let us know. We appear regularly at such hearings.

Please contact Tim Ridyard on 07484 924834 or email tim.ridyard@ashtonslegal.co.uk for individual advice for you or your business.

Alternatively, if you or your business require advice or need assistance for any road transport matters, please get in touch with our specialist Road Transport team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0778.


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