The Transport Law Team at Keep Me on the Road – Rothera Sharp have built an enviable reputation across the UK helping and advising Transport Operators to allow them to run their businesses. No two weeks are ever the same so we thought we would show you just what we offer our clients over the course of a week.
Head of Department Anton Balkitis, Olivia Maginn & Laura Newton work closely together bringing together a wealth of expertise in all aspects of Transport Law and Motor Defence.
Road Traffic & Transport Law is wide ranging, complex and often confusing, but with our contacts in the industry, our links with the major trade associations, our countrywide network of agents and our heritage, we are well placed to advise on almost any problem likely to be encountered by vehicle operators, professional drivers, and private motorists. This makes us better placed to offer competent and accurate advice on issues such as obtaining and preserving an Operator’s Licence, the defence of prosecutions, representation at Public Inquiry, conditions of carriage and contractual disputes etc.
First up, the team is approached by a new operator looking to apply for their first Operator Licence and the team swing into action in order guide our client into applying for the correct licence for their business needs as well as advising on their legal obligations. It is vital that Transport Operators apply for the correct licence at the outset as without a licence in place they cannot operate under the law. We request documentation and draft the application in readiness for the client. Asking an expert to assist with advertising and documentation can save money in the long run and ensure that the application is granted without delay.
If there has been an association with a previous Licence which has been subject to revocation, new applicants may find it difficult to obtain an Operator Licence. We have assisted applicants demonstrate their good repute and fitness in order to successfully obtain their Licence.
Following swiftly on, we are approached to advise another freight haulage client in regard to a change to their existing Licence. Any changes to transport operations need to be notified to the Traffic Commissioner and some new changes require a new licence. If changes are required then we advise on the best course of action for the client. The team are here to guide clients through the complexities of Licencing and have developed long-standing relationships with organisations to help them stay within the law.
A client who has been called to a Public Inquiry before a Traffic Commissioner is next on the agenda due to drivers’ hours and tachograph infringements. The team have previously attending the Operating Centre during a DVSA visit and represented drivers who were prosecuted through the Criminal Courts. A 400 page bundle has been served which we will need to go through with the client. The drivers have now all been called before the Traffic Commissioner for driver conduct hearings and the Operator and Transport Manager must attend Public Inquiry. This will involve a full day hearing before the Traffic Commissioner and lots of preparation. The Traffic Commissioner will wish to see over 12 months of documentation relating to record keeping, vehicle maintenance, driver walk around checks and company finances. A Traffic Commissioner will look at all the pillars of Operator Licencing and it is essential to be fully prepared and to anticipate the matters which might arise.
There are a number of reasons why an Operator may called to a Public Inquiry such as if your application for a new Operator’s Licence or to change an existing one has been objected to for not keeping to conditions. Alternatively, clients may have a call-up because there has been an unsatisfactory maintenance investigation by DVSA (formerly VOSA) or there have been criminal convictions of drivers/ operators. Being called to attend a Public Inquiry can result in regulatory action for operators and their drivers and it is our role to guide clients through the process for Public Inquires, the documentation required and the possible outcomes that may affect the business.
It is vital that Transport Operators contact Rothera Sharp at the earliest opportunity to ensure clients have time to plan and prepare. The Traffic Commissioner has significant powers including the ability to suspend or revoke vocational licences which may be avoided or limited with the right advice and guidance.
Another area we regularly advise clients on is the pitfalls concerning Drivers hours and the tachograph rules and this is next up on our agenda. Often haulage companies have a number of drivers working for them both employed and on a sub-contract basis and all need to be following the same procedures.
Driver’s hours and tachograph rules are complex but must be adhered to. Our Transport Law team help operators to:
- Set up the correct procedures
- Driver awareness
- Monitoring of driver hours
- Help & advice if the organisations receives fixed penalties or a summons.
We regularly represent clients at Courts across the UK where driver’s hours have been breached or rules have not been followed. If it important that advice is sought at the earliest opportunity.
Drivers are often called before the Traffic Commissioner to consider whether to suspend or reduce the driving licence following the court hearing and our team can assist to present your case and limit any action taken.
Vehicle stowaways / Clandestines are in news a lot at the minute especially for vehicles using the port at Calais. Commercial vehicle operators need a system to prevent the carriage of stowaways to the United Kingdom. We regularly advise clients upon prevention procedures and have considerable expertise in connection with the civil penalty regime and prevention of clandestine entrants.
We have successfully had penalties reduced or removed saving clients tens of thousands of pounds!
Our team are experts in assisting operators to persuade the UK Border Agency to reduce a penalty from that initially issued, or even to waive it entirely.
One client, a Belgian haulier had a driver stopped with 8 migrants in his vehicle. The company and the driver were each given penalties of £16,000. These were removed upon the evidence being submitted to show that all the correct policies had been followed saving £32,000 overall.
We were involved in Court of Appeal litigation where the penalty regime was found to be incompatible with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court also held that the power to detain vehicles to secure payment of financial penalty without allowing access to an independent tribunal to review the exercise of the power, was in conflict with Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR. As a result, the government introduced a more flexible system which operates on the basis of variable penalties which reflect the degree of care taken by operators to prevent the carriage of stowaways. A statutory right of appeal against penalties was also introduced.
When companies are regularly travelling overseas and back again we are the first port of call for prevention and support if stowaways are found. We also advise on the Border Force Accreditation Scheme. Are your procedures robust enough?
In amongst these cases we also advised clients on Motorist Defence issues such as Drink Driving, Drug Driving, Speeding and Careless & Dangerous Driving. Laura Newton has been out at Courts for much of this week across the Midlands, Manchester & Luton providing representation to motorist for a variety of matters and has seen clients have their notice of prosecution withdrawn, reduced penalty points and disqualifications.
Anton Balkitis added “The Transport Law Team at Rothera Sharp are passionate about helping clients through often complex legal matters and every member of the team is able to bring something different to the table. The variety of our work and needs of the clients are paramount in the every changes environment of Transport Law.”