TCs' annual report 2014-15: in depth look at the East of England

Every day this week, the Transport Law Blog will bring you an indepth look at the trends in each traffic area, as detailed in the Traffic Commissioners' Annual Reports 2014-15.

The East of England traffic area has remained the largest in terms of vehicle parc and number of O-licences in issue. Some 13,117 of the 75,595 O-licences were in issue in the area in 2014-15, however, this was down slightly on the previous year’s 13,402 figure.

Resourcing has, for a number of years, been a concern for TCs and last year was no exception. East of England TC Richard Turfitt said the region was faced with a significant backlog of case referrals from DVSA enforcement staff, which had an effect on workload.

“The members of my team based in Cambridge have worked long hours to reduce the backlog to manageable numbers. They have also commenced the move to service of case papers five weeks in advance of hearings, following feedback of tribunal users,” said Turfitt.

He said the Triennial Review of the traffic commissioners, the results of which were published earlier this year, had “grossly underestimated” the amount of work TCs have to carry out each week. Turfitt noted the increase in public inquiries carried out in 2014-15 to 172, up from 129 the previous year, and claimed there had been a rise in the number of preliminary hearings.

“It is difficult to argue against further rationalisation but I also recognise the opportunities and this can be seen in the ongoing digital transformation of the courts and tribunal service,” he said of the report’s suggestion that the TC structure could allow more opportunity for them to focus more on tribunals.

He noted that the call for greater transparency in the use of operators’ fees had received strong support from O-licence holders in the East, and hoped that inconsistencies in the HGV and PSV operator licensing regimes would soon be resolved by the TCs.

East of England traffic area in numbers

O-licences in issue and goods vehicles specified:
Restricted: 6,789 O-licences in issue. 15,762 vehicles specified.
Standard National: 4,612 O-licences in issue. 32,765 vehicles specified.
Standard International: 1,716 O-licences in issue. 15,945 vehicles specified.
Total number of specified vehicles: 34,3674.
Total number of O-licences in issue: 13,117.

O-licence applications:
New O-licences issued: 1,012.
New O-licences applied for: 1,118.

Public inquiries:
PIs completed: 172.
Licence revocations: 57.
Licence suspensions: 18.
Curtailment or conditions opposed: 33.
Formal warning: 41.
Operator disqualification: 13.
Transport manager disqualification: 12.
No action taken: 23.

Operator slams DVSA over trailer MoT disc delay

A haulier has branded delays in the DVSA’s trailer MoT system “an absolute farce” after waiting more than five weeks for a replacement disc.

The Milton Keynes firm, which asked to remain anonymous, said it was forced to weigh up breaking the law and running the trailer without a disc, or parking it up until a replacement arrived.

It is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 to run a trailer without displaying a test disc and companies can be prosecuted for non-compliance.

Ordinarily, hauliers should wait no longer than five working days, but the agency admitted that its resources were stretched and that it was briefing roadside officers about the “temporary problem”.

The operator told it had applied for a replacement on 18 August after noticing its disc had fallen off. As of 21 September, it had still not received one.

The operator said: “I am running the trailer. I can’t afford to have one trailer sat around. It’s a big part of our fleet and we need to be sweating our assets. It’s an absolute farce.”

A DVSA spokesman said enforcement officers would use their discretion on whether to prosecute firms.

“While plans are to redeploy staff from elsewhere in the DVSA, and from other DVSA activity in Swansea, it takes time to carry out that redeployment,” he spokesman said.

“Unfortunately the increase in demand happened suddenly at the end of the summer where resources are most stretched.”

He added: “Only if no effort has been made to become compliant will prosecution be considered. Provided an application for a replacement has been submitted within the 21-day period following issue of the offence recertification notice then no further action
will be taken, provided the trailer is covered by a valid test certificate.”