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How to avoid falling foul of the Traffic Commissioner

Apr 05, 2019
Simon Evans, Traffic Commissioner for the North West of England, took to the stage at last November’s Movers & Storers Show Seminar Theatre to explain some of the reasons truck operators are brought to book and why around 260 ‘O’ Licences are revoked in the UK every year.

Simon EvansIt goes without saying that for anyone running a removals business with vans over 3.5 tonnes their operator’s licence is vitally important. The show provided a rare opportunity to come face-to-face with the local traffic commissioner and learn how to avoid meeting him again in less convivial circumstances.

Simon began by jestfully saying how nice it was to see so many familiar faces from some of his recent public inquiries!  A traffic commissioner with a sense of humour? Surely not, maybe they are human after all?  As Simon continued it became clear that they are indeed human and their overwhelming aim is to keep us all safe by making sure operators act responsibly and do not put themselves and others in danger.

The Commissioner went on to give some examples of what operators can do to make sure they comply with the regulations. He reminded the audience of the importance of making sure their vehicles are not overweight and urged them to use the nearest weighbridge if they suspect they might be.

There is exemption from prosecution when travelling to a weighbridge and being able to evidence that you take loading seriously by keeping records of weight checks may help your case in any subsequent investigation.

The penalties for overloading by more than 5% start at £100 and increase on a sliding scale. In extreme cases prosecution may even result in the loss of your operator’s licence. Unlike those transporting goods of known weight, the removals industry is particularly vulnerable to inadvertent overloading, so take heed.

Simon pointed out that most of the companies who come before him at Public Inquiries do not maintain regular contact between the transport manager, their drivers and those responsible for the general running of the business. “It is important to hold regular meetings to discuss things and to keep written records of what was agreed.  Simply saying you see the transport manager every day is not good enough,” said Simon.

“Your operator’s licence is one of the most precious things you have in your business so it’s important to take a risk-based approach.  In other words, look at the most likely things that could jeopardise your licence and make sure you are compliant.”

Here is a check list of the undertakings operators agree to abide by when issued with their licence. Not doing so can result in serious consequences.

  • Keep vehicles taxed, insured and in MOT;
  • Check that drivers have the right licence to drive HGVs;
  • Keep vehicles and trailers roadworthy and not overload them;
  • Obey the drivers’ hours and tachograph rules;
  • Make sure that drivers do a daily walk-round check of the vehicle (recorded in writing) before starting to drive;
  • Keep vehicle maintenance and driver-check records for 15 months;
  • Not operate more than the maximum number of vehicles stated on the licence;
  • Operate only from the operating centre(s) stated on the licence;
  • Tell the traffic commissioner within 28 days about any convictions of the licence holder or their staff, a change in maintenance arrangements, a planned change in entity (i.e. from a sole trader to a partnership) or a change in financial status (i.e. bankruptcy or entering administration).

At the end of his presentation Simon was asked if rumours that smaller commercial vehicles below 3.5 tonnes are about to be included in the ‘O’ licence scheme had any foundation.

“I know of no current plans to introduce it in the UK but I’m told that Europe are quite keen on the idea,” said Simon. “Clearly it would take a great deal of extra funding to introduce, but who knows when we eventually get out of Europe what will emerge?”

The Commissioner also suggested that the removals industry trade associations should make their voice heard in the event of any proposals being made in the future. 

Photo: Simon Evans

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