Public inquiry - Traffic Commissioner

Our road transport solicitors have an excellent track record of successfully representing operators called to public inquiry before Traffic Commissioners. We regularly assist clients applying for new operator’s licences and clients facing regulatory action. If you have been called to public inquiry it is important that you seek specialist advice and representation. For advice from one of our road transport lawyers, call us on 0203 816 9274.

Operators of heavy goods vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles are required to obtain an operator’s licence and obey the undertakings attached to that licence. The operator’s license system is subject to scrutiny by the Traffic Commissioner for the relevant traffic area. If any concerns arise during the application for, or use of a licence, the Traffic Commissioner may call the operator to attend a public inquiry.

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What is the Traffic Commissioner and what do they do?

A Traffic Commissioner has responsibility for the licensing and regulation of individuals and businesses who operate heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches, and the registration of local bus services. The responsibility extends to the regulation of both professional drivers and transport managers alongside the operator licence holder. Public inquiries can be called to consider whether it may be necessary to take any action against a licence. There are currently 8 different Traffic Commissioners in Great Britain who have their own designated traffic area to preside over:

  • North West of England
  • West of England
  • London and the South East of England
  • North East of England
  • West Midlands area of England
  • Scotland
  • Wales

Our team of lawyers can assist in any of those traffic areas and can provide effective advice and representation relating to any matter of concern that could be subject to the scrutiny of the Traffic Commissioner.

What is a public inquiry and why might it be called?

A public inquiry is a formal hearing before the Traffic Commissioner which is typically called to obtain more evidence and assist the Traffic Commissioner in deciding if they should:

  • Grant or refuse applications for new operator’s licenses for HGV or PSV operators
  • Take any regulatory action against existing vehicle operator, bus service operator or driver of a bus, minibus or lorry

At application stage a public inquiry could be called if an objection to the granting of a licence has been received during the application stage or it could be that the application itself has failed to satisfy the Traffic Commissioner  considering the application that all requirements are fulfilled relating to the repute of the operator, that any professional competence requirements and proof of financial standing that may be required are met and all other requirements relating to facilities and systems are met.

An existing operator could be called to a public inquiry if the Traffic Commissioner thinks an operator may have broken the terms of their licence, for example maintenance shortcomings; issues over drivers’ hours regulations; issues over financial standing; commercial insolvency; changes to company appointments or corporate entity; questions over repute; and criminal prosecutions.

What action may be taken?

Regulatory action may include curtailment, suspension or revocation of a licence.

Therefore being called to attend a public inquiry has serious implications for operators – the refusal to grant an operator’s licence or the decision to revoke a licence will be fatal to most operators. Curtailment can have serious financial implications and can prevent business expansion.

How can we help?

The most important fact to bear in mind is that if you are called to attend a public inquiry, you will be judged on the state of affairs on the date of that inquiry – it is therefore vital that the valuable time between receiving the calling in letter and attending the Inquiry is used effectively so that any issues can be identified and rectified.

We can assist with every aspect of the public inquiry process. We will visit your operating centre to discuss your case and provide advice on what steps need to be taken. We will assist in rectifying the issues which have prompted a public inquiry. We will then accompany you to the public inquiry to represent you and make submissions on your behalf. Call us on 0203 816 9274.

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