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 oversight 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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Why might a public inquiry be called

A public inquiry may be called for a number of reasons, 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.

At public inquiries the traffic commissioner will consider whether to grant applications for new operator’s licences and whether to take regulatory action against existing licences. 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.

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 advise 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.

If you are called to attend a public inquiry you should specialist advice without delay in order to protect your business’ future. To speak to a specialist road transport lawyer immediately call 0203 816 9274.

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A guide to attending public inquiries

What is a public inquiry?

Operators of heavy goods vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles are normally required to obtain an operator’s licence and obey the undertakings attached to that licence. The licence system is overseen 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.

Why have I been called to attend a public inquiry?

A public inquiry may be called for a number of reasons, for example maintenance shortcomings, issues over drivers’ hours regulations, issues over financial standing, questions over repute and criminal prosecutions. 

Being called to attend a public inquiry has serious implications for operators – the refusal to grant a licence, or the decision to revoke a licence will be fatal to most operators. Therefore the importance of seeking specialist advice and assistance cannot be overstated.

What will the traffic commissioner want to discuss?

This will normally depend on the issues which have led to the public inquiry. For example if the issue is financial standing, the inquiry will focus on your bank accounts, overdrafts or guarantees to determine whether you have access to sufficient funds to manage your fleet. If the issue is maintenance the Inquiry will focus on maintenance and testing records, systems, drivers' checks and auditing.

However, the public inquiry will not be limited in its scope and the traffic commissioner can investigate your operation in any way they wish. Therefore it is vital that you are fully and properly prepared before you attend.

What will be the outcome?

At public inquiries the traffic commissioner will consider whether to grant or refuse applications for operator’s licences and whether to take regulatory action against licences. Regulatory action may include formal warnings, curtailment, suspension or revocation of a licence.

During 2014-2015, 859 public inquiries were held to consider regulatory action against goods vehicle operators: 259 licences were revoked, 191 were curtailed and 123 were suspended*.

A further 252 public inquiries considered action against bus and coach operators: 97 licences were revoked, 31 were curtailed and 23 were suspended.

What should I do now?

The most important fact to bear in mind is that you will be judged on the state of affairs on the date of the public inquiry. It is vital that the valuable time between receiving your calling in letter and attending the public inquiry is used effectively.

Any issues or shortcomings in your operation need to be quickly identified and rectified. Representation from a specialist solicitor and transport consultant will help you identify what needs to be done in order to maximise your chances of a positive outcome.

If you have been called to attend a public inquiry our solicitors will be happy to assist.  

*Traffic commissioners’ annual reports 2014 - 2015

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