If you have been called in by the Traffic Commissioner for a public inquiry in relation to your transport operation, this is a potentially extremely serious situation. Operators of goods vehicles and public service vehicles (PSV) are regulated under the operator licence scheme. Under the scheme, operators must abide by the relevant regulations and undertakings attached to their licence.
The system is overseen by the Traffic Commissioner for the area in which the transport operation is based. Operators can be referred to the Traffic Commissioner for a public inquiry to take place for a number of reasons and inquiries can take place both following an application for a licence or during the course of the licence, if concerns arise as a result of its operation.
Public inquiries are often called as a result of a referral from the Driving Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) which may occur following a road side check or a routine operator check. A public inquiry may be called as a result of issues regarding:
- Maintenance of vehicles
- Issues over financial standing
- Irregularities with driver’s hours
- Alleged breaches of the regulations or changes to the corporate entity such as when a sole operator changes to a partnership or limited company
Issues over an operator’s reputation may be addressed at the public inquiry and if there has been any criminal prosecution for a transport related offence, it is almost inevitable that a public inquiry will follow.
The Traffic Commissioner has a number of powers they can use if they conclude that operators are not complying with the laws relating to operator licences, vehicle roadworthiness, drivers' hours and tachographs or operators are not complying with the undertakings signed up to when the licence was granted. The powers that the Traffic Commissioner can apply will depend on the seriousness of the situation and can include:
- Issuing a warning
- Asking you to make new undertakings
- Reduce the number of vehicles you can operate (curtailment)
- Suspend your licence for a period of time or
- Revoke the licence entirely
Attendance at the public inquiry has extremely serious potential consequences. The removal of an operator licence is likely to result in the end of an operator’s business. Curtailment of a number of vehicles could have equally serious consequences.
If you believe that you are likely to be called in to a public inquiry or if you receive a calling in letter requesting your attendance, it is extremely important that you act quickly. You should obtain expert legal advice from specialist transport solicitors as soon as possible. It is extremely important to understand that the Traffic Commissioner, whilst of course looking at what has happened before, will judge your operation as at the date of the Inquiry. This enables operators to put measures in place between the notification that the Hearing will take place and the Hearing itself. Any remedial action which you have taken to address perceived issues will be treated positively by the Traffic Commissioner.
The experienced transport solicitors at Hewitts can advise and assist in the build up to the public inquiry in order to get measures in place to present your operation in the most positive way.
We can then attend the public inquiry with you, expertly represent you and help put forward your case.
For further information about public inquiries, please click here.
To find out more about how we can help you, please click here or contact us for free initial no obligation advice. We are available 24/7, Freephone 0800 304 7740.