Operator’s licence: no transport manager, no dustbin collections!

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The recent revocation of the operator’s licence of an Essex-based District Council demonstrates how failures to look after your goods vehicle operator’s licence can have far-reaching consequences.

In this case, the licence has been revoked and will impact the local community as a result. Specifically, bin collections cannot be carried out for the community.

To hold an operator’s licence to operate goods vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes, a licence (Standard or Restricted) must be issued by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner – to obtain the Standard licence, the applicant must have (a) good repute (b) financial standing and (c) ‘professional competence’. These are statutory requirements – if any one criterion is not satisfied, then the licence is liable to be revoked. The operator’s licence is the lifeblood of a business dependent on the ability to use its vehicles.

‘Professional competence’ means that there must be at least one suitably qualified transport manager by examination. They must hold a transport manager Certificate of Professional Competence qualification (TM CPC). Each transport manager must have his or her own good repute. A failure to manage in a ‘continuous and effective’ manner can lead to the transport manager losing their good repute and disqualification.

Periods of grace

At various times, transport managers will not be able to carry out their duties for certain reasons: they may retire, be dismissed, leave the business, be ill or die. It would be preposterous for a licence no longer to be able to continue in that situation and for a new licence to be required. Therefore, if there are no appointed transport managers remaining in the business, there is a mechanism to address this: it is necessary to apply for a ‘period of grace’ – a bridging period – to find a new qualified transport manager. Such a period can be granted for up to six months.

However, if such a period is not applied for, or it expires without a transport manager or the problem is simply ignored, the licence will be revoked. The Traffic Commissioner (the regulator who issues and oversees operator’s licences) has no choice in the matter and is bound by the law: the Goods Vehicles (Licencing Operators) Act 1995.

In this case the District Council had its licence revoked on 23 January 2024 and had not managed this issue properly, by its own public admission.

It is a salutary lesson that a failure to comply with the basic requirements of operator licensing can lead to dire consequences. For private sector businesses who depend on their licence for their income stream, it can lead to the loss of huge revenues and customer contracts. For public sector operators it may lead to a failure to provide basic services paid for by local taxpayers who legitimately expect their needs to be met, such as bin collections. It can also cause huge reputational damage in either case.

Events such as this happen from time to time, and it does not mean that a new licence cannot be applied for and granted. However, there may be costly interim consequences, such as emergency hiring of third parties to carry out the haulage work, pending the grant of a new licence, which can take some time.

This is an area of operator’s licencing where a lack of knowledge and understanding can and does lead to issues for many operators and needs to be very carefully considered – whenever there is a potential or actual event affecting the transport manager role, this needs to be thought through and managed correctly.

Contact our road transport solicitors today

If you require advice and assistance concerning any investigation carried out by DVSA and/or advice concerning operator licensing (including Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry and preliminary hearing matters), please contact us using our online enquiry form or by calling 0330 404 7949.


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