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

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.

Resourcing was once again a major concern for West Midlands traffic commissioner (TC) Nick Jones, who said he spent most of his time in the Birmingham office, rather than the Wales traffic area he also oversees.

He claimed that there had been shortages of permanently employed case workers and senior staff, which had an impact on the efficiency of the TC service.

“When resources are so scarce there is always a risk that the regulation of the West Midlands suffers as a result of my additional commitment to Wales,” he added.

Aside from the Scotland and Wales traffic areas, the West Midlands had a significantly lower number of O-licences in issue last year than other areas, which dropped from 8,605 in 2013-14 to 8,360 in 2014-15. It is only two thirds of the size of the largest traffic area, the East of England, in which operators hold 13,117 licences.

Jones said: “The needs of hauliers in relatively remote rural areas are different to those in the industrial heartland; however the need for a level playing field throughout industry remains.

“It is not surprising that the numbers of standard national licence holders in the Birmingham area is proportionately less than elsewhere as it is difficult for good compliant standard national licence operators to compete where there is a lack of a level playing field.”

He hoped issues with the length of time it takes for applications to be processed will be addressed, and wants “unnecessary bureaucracy” to be removed from the O-licensing regime by the end of the 2015-16 period.

He also called for more provision to allow the TCs to educate operators, as Jones said he is currently unable to reach those who are not part of a trade association.

West Midlands traffic area in numbers

O-licences in issue and goods vehicles specified:
Restricted: 4,489 O-licences in issue. 10,397 vehicles specified.
Standard National: 3,035 O-licences in issue. 17,502 vehicles specified.
Standard International:  836 O-licences in issue. 9,808 vehicles specified.
Total number of specified vehicles: 37,707.
Total number of O-licences in issue: 8,360.

O-licence applications:
New O-licences issued in full: 547.
New O-licences applied for: 615.

Public inquiries:
PIs completed: 79.
Licence revocations: 37.
Licence suspensions: 5.
Curtailment or conditions opposed: 13.
Formal warning: 12.
Operator disqualification: 7.
Transport manager disqualification: 6.
No action taken: 12.

Hireco rental fleet gets 35 trucks

Trailer hire provider Hireco has strengthened its position in the truck rental sector by  investing in a new fleet of tractor units.

The latest additions to its fleet are 35 high-specification Mercedes-Benz Actros 2545 BigSpace models powered by 330 kW (449 hp) straight-six engines, which drive through Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated transmissions.

Newtownabbey Dealer Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (Northern Ireland) supplied the new trucks which are equipped with fuel-saving Mercedes Predictive Powertrain Control systems.

Features include colour-coded bumpers, air management kits and fridges beneath the bunks.

The availability of the PPC system was key to the decision, as several of Hireco’s customers had reported that they were considering investing in new Actros units with the technology.

PPC is an adaptive cruise control that employs three-dimensional GPS mapping to read three kilometres of topography ahead then responds by controlling speed, braking and the transmission to maximise fuel efficiency.

Mercedes-Benz says the system can cut fuel costs by up to 5%.

James Smith, Hireco MD said: “For some time now operators who take trailers from us on long-term contract hire have been asking if we can supply tractors as well.

“We did buy a small number of trucks back in 2007 but the market dropped off a cliff, so we didn’t persevere.

“Now things are picking up again, though, we felt the time was right to dip our toe back in.”