TCs' annual report 2014-15: in depth look at London and the South East

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.

Nick Denton, traffic commissioner (TC) for London and the South East, said there were a number of recurring themes at the 358 public inquiries (PIs) undertaken by the TC and his deputies last year, resulting in the revocation of 56 O-licences and the suspension or curtailment of 118 others.

The quality of transport managers was a concern and Denton questioned why there is no requirement for continuous professional development for them, particularly as the Driver CPC is now in force.

“But too many cannot be bothered, taking pride in being ‘old school’ (too often just a synonym for ‘useless’),” Denton said in his report. “If you are an operator with one of these transport managers, please get them trained urgently, get someone else or just surrender your licence to me now.”

He described the approach of many restricted O-licence holders as “amateur” and said many would save lots of time and money if they had complied with the law.

“I have boiled down the requirements of a restricted licence into a simple list of commandments on one sheet of paper which I intend to give to all applicants in future, with instructions to nail it over their bed and check before going to sleep every night that they are doing what they need to,” said Denton.

Denton was concerned about the state of vehicles operating in the waste sector, and said he had seen a large number receive multiple prohibitions for heavily deflated or damaged tyres. He said operators do not always choose the most suitable tyres for use on waste sites, where vehicles are often forced to drive over metal or noxious sludge, and drivers often fail to check their vehicles upon leaving the site.

He said: “I have no authority over the way in which waste site operators conduct their business, but there is something wrong with a business model whose result is that a large proportion of the heavy goods vehicles leaving the site are unroadworthy and dangerous.

“I intend to hold talks with the waste industry to see if this problem can be overcome.”

The TC also warned operators to comply with the undertakings attached to their O-licence at a PI, as by the second PI he will be asking whether to trust the operator to be compliant in future; the chances of which are small.

“There must be something in Eastbourne’s sea air that causes some operators to forget these undertakings the moment they leave the inquiry room. They fail to carry out the undertakings by the deadline or at all,” said Denton.

South East traffic area in numbers

O-licences in issue and goods vehicles specified:
Restricted: 5,123 O-licences in issue. 13,889 vehicles specified.
Standard National: 2,907 O-licences in issue. 19,533 vehicles specified.
Standard International:  1,160 O-licences in issue. 9,469 vehicles specified.
Total number of specified vehicles: 42,891.
Total number of O-licences in issue: 9,190.

O-licence applications:
New O-licences issued in full: 775.
New O-licences applied for: 854.

Public inquiries:
PIs completed: 205.
Licence revocations: 51.
Licence suspensions: 64.
Curtailment or conditions opposed: 43.
Formal warning: 38.
Operator disqualification: 11.
Transport manager disqualification: 26.
No action taken: 12.

60-second interview: Damian McCusker, used truck & rental manager, Dennison Commercials.

60-second interview: Damian McCusker, used truck & rental manager, Dennison Commercials.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Algarve in Portugal - good food, nice people and the kids enjoyed it. 

What car do you drive?
A red two-litre Volkswagen Passat
Shooting, hunting, fishing.
How did you get into the industry and why?
My father owns a haulage business and has always operated Volvo trucks so growing up within the industry I always knew that I wanted to work in it.  I had more of an interest in the administrative side than the mechanics, although I learnt a lot working on my father’s trucks. I started at Dennisons in 1996 as warranty administrator.

How would you encourage more young people into the industry?
The transport industry is one that is always going to be needed, particularly on the Island of Ireland, where almost everything is moved by road so it’s an industry that offers stability. Good job security is rare these days so is very important in today’s employment market. I am currently trying to encourage my son into the industry via the Volvo apprentice technician scheme, operated by Dennisons.

What will be the outlook for the used truck market in 2015?
The used market is surprisingly buoyant at the moment, given the strength of new truck sales. Traditionally Dennisons were more focused on new truck sales but having recognised an opportunity for growth, appointed me as used truck & rental manager at the beginning of 2013.  Since then I have been increasing the number of retail used truck sales and have further ambitions to grow. Year to date, used truck sales are up 20% on the same period last year and over 50% greater than in 2013. I am working on building our customer base and the Volvo product is being well received. We are in a fortunate position that our rentals fleet can feed used stock, therefore we are able to offer fresh and well maintained vehicles.