In December 2015, the Senior Traffic Commissioner published new Statutory Guidance and directions providing further clarity and understanding on a whole host of areas relating to Vehicle Operator Licences.
One such area, which can see both regulatory action and criminal proceedings brought against an Operator, is the practice of lending, or hiring & lending of operator licences.
In recent years there have been a few high profile cases of companies and individuals indulging in this illegal practice and in particular, the Senior Traffic Commissioner’s Statutory Document on Good Repute and Fitness explains that such behaviour will not be tolerated, be it a sophisticated scams or informal arrangement between acquaintances.
An Operator Licence should reflect on paper what is happening in practice. If the Traffic Commissioner has not authorised an individual or company to hold a licence, it is very clear that they should not be given control of such large goods vehicles or passenger/public service vehicles.
Traffic Commissioners take a very dim view of the practices.
The STC’s Good Repute document refers to ‘fronting’, where a person, partnership or company which does not have an O-licence, uses one held by another entity in order to conceal the fact they are behaving in a way which requires them to possess one of their own.
“Fronting deprives the traffic commissioner of the opportunity to oversee an operator,” it explains.
“‘Fronting’ is aggravated and very much more serious where it is apparent that the entity hiding behind the legitimate ‘front’ would be unlikely to obtain or would be debarred from holding their own operator’s licence. This often happens where the person in control of the business and transport activities has been disqualified from holding a licence or being appointed as a company director, and a director in name only is notified to Companies House, when they do not have any control and are not the one who ought to be accountable to the Traffic Commissioner.
The Upper Tribunal, which hears appeals against the decisions of Traffic Commissioners and sets binding decisions and principals for them, has given clear guidance that evidence of fronting can, on its own, provide justification for deciding that the operator being used as a ‘front’ has lost its good repute.”
The guidance continues to state that dishonesty and illegal operation are very serious matters. Traffic Commissioners are entitled to conclude that a person does not have the required repute where they have decided to operate without authorisation (either on an interim or full licence) particularly in the face of warnings not to.
All operators have a positive duty to co-operate with DVSA and the Traffic Commissioner. Any attempt to deceive a traffic commissioner is serious conduct that cannot be condoned, particularly where an operator and/or applicant relies on a document that has been altered so that it might mislead a traffic commissioner.
Not only can regulatory action be taken against the Licence and those individuals involved in licence lending, but criminal proceedings can also be brought by the police or DVSA. It is a criminal offence to permit a person to Operate without a Licence or to allow an Operator Licence to be used with intent to deceive. Such offences can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court where unlimited fines and/or custodial sentences of up to two years can be passed by the Court.
The message is straightforward: until a Traffic Commissioner agrees that you are entitled to an Operator Licence trading is definitely unacceptable. It is likely to result in the licence being revoked and a disqualification from holding an Operator Licence for a significant period of time.
For further information on operator licences contact Keep Me on the Road on 0800 046 3066 or visit the website if you are looking for transport solicitors.