TCs' annual report 2014-15: in depth look at the West

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

The industry “could do better” when applying for an O-licence, according to West of England traffic commissioner Sarah Bell.

In her annual report, Bell said 80% of applications received were incomplete or did not meet the TCs’ criteria. Of the new applications processed in 2014-15, some 823 applications, 88% were incomplete or inaccurate. This results in applications being handled multiple times by Office of the Traffic Commissioner staff, which in turn causes delays for all applicants.

“The forms have been revamped and the guidance enhanced. It is time for industry to act,” added Bell.

Like East of England TC Richard Turfitt, Bell also believes there is still a lack of transparency in regards to how O-licence fees are used.

“Some progress has been made but TCs are still prevented from providing assurance to licence fee payers about the expenditure of their fees,” she said.

Bell has been working with North East TC Kevin Rooney and the DVSA to improve communication between the TCs and the agency. It is hoped this will allow more targeted enforcement to take place and those who pose the most serious risk to be called to a public inquiry sooner.

West of England traffic area in numbers

O-licences in issue and goods vehicles specified:
Restricted: 5,811 O-licences in issue.  13,589 vehicles specified.
Standard National: 3,902 O-licences in issue. 26,154 vehicles specified.
Standard International:  1,172 O-licences in issue. 9,981 vehicles specified.
Total number of specified vehicles: 49,724.
Total number of O-licences in issue: 10,885.

O-licence applications:
New O-licences issued in full: 740.
New O-licences applied for: 823.

Public inquiries:
PIs completed: 82.
Licence revocations: 27.
Licence suspensions: 8.
Curtailment or conditions opposed: 17.
Formal warning: 18.
Operator disqualification: 5.
Transport manager disqualification: 6.
No action taken: 13.

Ed Weetman admits former HGV driver was exposed to high levels of dust, claims law firm

Midlands haulier Ed Weetman has admitted that one of its HGV drivers was exposed to high levels of dust that led to a debilitating lung condition, according to solicitors.

Ian Gear was diagnosed with alveolitis, also known as farmer’s lung, in September 2012 – shortly after leaving the Stafford haulage firm.

Gear worked for the company for eight years as an animal feed delivery driver and his role included driving a blower lorry to farms around the country to deliver animal feed and grain.

He said loading and unloading led to dusty conditions but told lawyers he was only provided with a basic paper mask.

By June 2012 Gear was suffering from tightness in his chest and he was often out of breath; tests discovered his lung capacity had been reduced to 52%.

According to Irwin Mitchell solicitors, doctors have confirmed that the most likely cause of this was his exposure to grain dust during his employment.

It said it had now secured an admission of liability from Ed Weetman’s insurers, which marks the next step in Gear's legal battle: “We will now be looking to work with medical experts to ensure Ian is able to access the treatment he needs to help alleviate his symptoms and allow him to reduce the effects of the alveolitis he has been diagnosed with,” added Alex Shorey, Irwin Mitchell workplace illness lawyer.

Gear said: “To find out my condition was caused by my exposure to grain dust while working was a real shock and the fact I was only ever provided with a basic face mask and never really warned of the dangers the dust posed to me just added insult to injury.

“I can only hope that by taking legal action it will persuade Ed Weetman to introduce better protection for staff and provide workers with guidance on the dangers posed by dust in the workplace.”

Ed Weetman said it was not making any comment.