O-Licence application times need speeding up

More needs to be done to reduce the time it takes for O-licence application decisions to be made, the RHA and FTA said, as the DfT publishes recommendations for how the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) could be improved.

Recommendations from the government’s Triennial Review of the TCs (CM 4 December 2014), carried out in part by consultants JMP with input from former RHA chief executive Geoff Dunning, include: introducing a single national licence for operators with sites in more than one traffic area; transforming the role of the senior TC into a formal leadership position, reducing the number of deputy TCs; and giving OTC staff responsibility to grant O-licences, which is hoped to allow TCs to focus on enforcement.

It was also recommended that the traffic area boundaries are redrawn to help spread the workload, although the concept of a “strong local traffic commissioner in each area” should remain in place.

The associations said the recommendations, while mostly welcomed, do not address concerns with the slowness of some of its procedures.

RHA head of policy Jack Semple said the Triennial Review report did not reflect the level of dissatisfaction with the time it takes to get a licence.

“The turnaround time needs to be improved,” said Semple. “The nine weeks that the OTC is working towards is too long and the process is getting more onerous and complex. Times should be reduced for compliant operators.”

FTA head of road freight enforcement policy James Firth said: “There needs to be a service level agreement like with other bodies. It seems peculiar there is not one.”

Both said they would like the STC to remain as a working TC. The report recommended that an additional TC is appointed to cover the traffic area covered by the STC, giving the role more time to focus on leading the TCs.

Also recommended is reducing the number of deputy TCs. Semple said deputies “have merit, but we have concerns about being overly reliant on them”.

Firth also criticised the report for “not giving any answers” as to how the relationship between the TCs, OTC staff and DVSA could be improved.

An OTC spokesman said: “Traffic commissioners are committed to working with the DfT and the DVSA to carry out impact assessments and evaluate the recommendations to see how an even better service can be provided to the CV industry as well as ensuring seriously and serially non-compliant operators and drivers are effectively targeted.”

Owner of impounded vehicle wins appeal to have its case reheard

The owner of a vehicle impounded by the DVSA last year has won an Upper Tribunal appeal to have its case for the vehicle’s release reheard by a different traffic commissioner (TC).

Upper Tribunal Judge Mark Hinchliffe said the O-licence holder should be given the opportunity to demonstrate in front of a different TC that it is the operator of the impounded vehicle, and not the vehicle’s owner.

A vehicle owned by the W Martin Oliver Partnership was stopped by the DVSA in July 2014. Although the partnership was the owner of the vehicle, the O-licence disc in the windscreen belonged to operator Garry George.

In the initial July hearing in front of North East TC Kevin Rooney, Stuart Oliver of the W Martin Oliver Partnership claimed Garry George was the vehicle’s operator and had haulage work subcontracted to it by the partnership. George hired the vehicle, trailer and driver from the partnership to carry out the work. George did not attend the hearing to give evidence.

During the PI, the TC indicated that the vehicle was unlikely to be returned.

Following the hearing, and before a decision was made, the DVSA wrote to George on 1 August to request additional information that would prove he was the operator of the vehicle and not the partnership. The request included digital tachograph records, working time records, maintenance records, copies of all drivers’ driving licences and copies of Driver CPC records, covering a period from January 2014 to the date the truck was impounded. The letter did not request digital tachograph download data from the vehicle itself.

However, in his written decision in September 2014, TC Rooney said he requested the vehicle download data, which would prove that George was the vehicle’s operator. TC Rooney said he had received driver digital downloads from George, but not the vehicle unit data which would have given him and the W Martin Oliver Partnership the “best possible opportunity to establish their case”.

In February the tribunal heard that the one piece of evidence the DVSA did not request in its August letter was the tachograph download data from the vehicle itself. It found that TC Rooney was under the impression that George had been given ample time to provide the data, which Judge Hinchliffe said was not actually true.

In his written decision, Judge Hinchliffe said there had been “a material procedural irregularity”, which meant the TC had a “serious misapprehension” as to the information the DVSA requested from George.

The tribunal has allowed the case to be reheard by a different TC, given TC Rooney’s comments about the vehicle being unlikely to be released.

Summing up: Judge Hinchliffe said George should be given a “proper opportunity” to produce vehicle download data, given the irregularity in the information requested by the DVSA and the TC which “undermined the fairness of the process” .

  • This article was published in the 2 April issue of Commercial Motor. Why not subscribe?