Press release

Revised statutory guidance published by Senior Traffic Commissioner

Key guidance and directions updated following consultation with industry.

The Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell, has today (3 October 2013) published revised statutory guidance documents, following consultation with the industry.

The documents, which cover key aspects of the regulatory work undertaken by traffic commissioners, provide detailed advice on how the operator licensing system functions.

They also set out the standards which haulage, bus and coach operators are expected to meet, as well as giving guidance and directions to commissioners when carrying out their tribunal functions.

The consultation sought the views of industry stakeholders on revisions to all of the publications, apart from the statutory guidance document on vocational driver conduct. This will be reviewed separately.

In addition, Mrs Bell has also introduced a new statutory guidance document on limousines and novelty vehicles, the first time the Senior Traffic Commissioner has issued a statutory document on this area of public service vehicle operator licensing.

The statutory guidance documents, in their present format, were first published in December 2011.

Commenting on the publication, Mrs Bell said:

These documents set out what commissioners expect from those working in the haulage, bus and coach industries.

They also make clear how commissioners will carry out their work, including at public inquiry.

Commissioners are committed to modern, fair and transparent regulation and these guidance documents outline how we will continue to deliver that.

We would urge all those in the commercial vehicle industry to take the time to download the documents and explore our guidance further. Use them as a starting point for any operator licence questions or concerns and keep them handy as a reference point when any changes are taking place to your business.

The revised statutory guidance documents have been published on GOV.UK, under the traffic commissioners’ corporate pages.

The consultation on Statutory guidance document 14: local bus services, has also been published on GOV.UK.

Press enquiries

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Notes to editors

The Senior Traffic Commissioner for Great Britain is Mrs Beverley Bell. There are 7 traffic commissioners in total, each supported by a number of deputies, covering 6 regions in England, Scotland and Wales. Details of each traffic commissioner can be found on GOV.UK.

The Local Transport Act 2008 requires the Senior Traffic Commissioner to provide guidance and directions as to the way in which traffic commissioners will approach the exercise of their statutory functions.

The Senior Traffic Commissioner introduced a series of statutory guidance documents on 3 December 2011, following consultation with the industry. These documents replaced existing practice directions.

The Senior Traffic Commissioner committed to reviewing the statutory guidance documents and published the revised documents for consultation on 3 June 2013.

The statutory guidance documents cover the following areas of operator licensing and tribunal work:

  • good repute and fitness
  • finance
  • transport managers
  • operating centres, stable establishment and addresses for service
  • legal entities
  • vocational driver conduct
  • impounding
  • delegation of authority
  • case management
  • the principles of decision making and the concept of proportionality
  • written reasons, decisions and publication
  • appeals
  • limousines and novelty type vehicles

The documents contain statutory guidance, which traffic commissioners must have regard to, and statutory directions, which traffic commissioners must follow.

Heavy goods vehicle operators and operators of public service vehicles and local bus routes must be licensed. The traffic commissioners’ role in this licensing process is essential to deliver safer roads, fair competition in road haulage and passenger transport, reliable and convenient public transport, and to help preserve the environment.

All traffic commissioners are statutorily independent licensing authorities responsible for bus, coach and goods vehicle operators and for local bus service registrations. They can also take action against the vocational entitlement of bus, coach and lorry drivers who commit road and certain other offences.

Traffic commissioners have the power to revoke, suspend or curtail an operator’s licence to operate commercial vehicles and to impose a condition limiting the number of vehicles authorised on licences held by bus and coach operators, if they are satisfied that the operator is failing to comply with its licence obligations such as failing to maintain vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition or failing to observe the drivers’ hours’ rules and tachograph regulations.

Action can also be taken against public service vehicle operators who fail to operate local bus services properly or in contravention of the registered particulars. Traffic commissioners have the power to cancel or restrict local bus services, or to impose a fine if services have not been operated, or operated improperly, to a significant extent.

Traffic commissioners rely mainly on evidence from VOSA but also from the police, local authorities, and the public to decide whether an operator is fit to hold a licence, or of good repute.

Public inquiries are judicial in nature and are called where concerns have been raised about the financial standing, professional competence or good repute of operator licence holders and where there appears to be a breach of any condition previously applied to the licence. Traffic commissioners can also consider environmental concerns expressed about the location of (or operations from) the applicant’s operating base.

Where concerns are raised about a lorry, bus or coach driver’s behaviour or actions – or evidence is submitted about convictions or other serious misdemeanours – commissioners will consider whether to take action against the driver. Commissioners have the power to revoke and suspend a driver’s entitlement and are also tasked with considering all applications for HGV and PSV vocational driving licence entitlements. Drivers can be called before a commissioner to consider evidence relating to their driving standards and previous conduct.