Many operator licence holders don’t give much thought to their operator’s licence once it has been granted. Once the discs are in the windows, it can be too easy to forget about all those undertakings you signed up to when you applied for it.
Be warned – complacency is dangerous. The Traffic Commissioners don’t just grant licences, they also monitor and enforce them. If a DVSA inspection discovers that you are breaching the terms of your licence, you can soon find yourself called to a Public Inquiry hearing to explain yourself. The Commissioners have the power to revoke, suspend and curtail O licences which aren’t being managed properly.
Below we highlight seven common ways you can endanger your operator’s licence:
- Unplanned changes to your business entity
This most commonly arises when a sole trader operator converts to a limited company on the advice of their accountant. Operator licences are non-transferrable. This means that the limited company would need to apply for a licence in its own name before it could operate vehicles. If you start to operate vehicles as a limited company without having first obtained an operator’s licence, you can be committing a criminal offence.
Changing business entities can raise some tricky problems and you should always seek advice from a transport lawyer if you are unsure what you should be doing.
- Not telling the Traffic Commissioner about a change in transport managers
Operators need to apply to the Traffic Commissioner before appointing a new Transport Manager. They will want to ensure that the new person being appointed has the right qualifications and is of good repute. They will also consider any other licences he/she is attached to, to ensure that they have enough time to properly devote to managing your transport operations. Changing Transport Managers without applying to the Traffic Commissioner is a red flag that you can be sure will be followed up.
- Failing to report criminal convictions
As the holder of an O licence, you have a duty to let the Traffic Commissioner know of any notifiable criminal convictions you have. This duty extends to all directors, transport managers, drivers and maintenance staff of the business. You are also responsible for regularly checking the driving licence records of your drivers, and to report these if necessary. Criminal convictions are key factors that can affect an operator’s good repute. The Traffic Commissioners will expect to be informed.
If you are unsure whether a criminal conviction is notifiable, speak to one of our team.
- Un-notified change of maintenance providers
If you change your maintenance provider you must keep the Traffic Commissioner informed. Many DVSA enforcement investigations begin following a discovery that the maintenance provider specified on a licence is not the maintenance provider being used. Keeping your vehicles roadworthy is a fundamental legal duty – having an appropriate and properly notified maintenance provider is crucial to meeting this duty.
- “Tick Box Exercise” Daily defect reports
Another responsibility of operators is to make sure drivers carry out thorough and effective walk-around inspections of their vehicles and complete their driver defect reports accurately. Whilst some drivers may be tempted to skip the checks and just tick all the boxes from the comfort of their cab, it will sooner or later end in disaster. If a roadside check takes place and the DVSA find driver-detectable defects that were not recorded on that day’s walk-around check, an investigation will usually follow.
- Vehicles that are insecurely loaded or overloaded
Allowing your vehicles to drive overloaded and not securing your loads properly are criminal offences. If one of your vehicles is involved in a fatal accident whilst it is overloaded or insecurely loaded, you could find yourself in the dock facing charges of manslaughter. At the very least, the Traffic Commissioners will start to ask questions about how you manage your licence.
- Ineffective tachograph analysis
The Traffic Commissioner will expect you to have “continuous and effective control” over all aspects of your operator’s licence; this includes making sure you regularly download and analyse your drivers’ tachograph cards and vehicle units to make sure they are following drivers’ hours rules.
As you can see from the list above, cutting corners on compliance and not keeping the Traffic Commissioner informed is one of the easiest ways to endanger your licence.
At Rothera Sharp our specialist transport lawyers have a wealth of experience in assisting operators who are at risk of losing their licence who need advice and representation at Public Inquiry. Call us today on 0115 910 6218 to speak to an expert and see how we can help you.