Having to attend a Public Inquiry before the Traffic Commissioner can be a daunting experience. A bad outcome can have a serious impact on your livelihood and your reputation.
Many operators approach Public Inquiries with trepidation and worry and its not hard to see why. The call-in letter will usually contain a clear warning setting out the possible courses of action the Traffic Commissioner can take following the Inquiry. This can include revoking your licence, curtailing it, suspending it, and attaching conditions to it. In some cases, you could even be disqualified from holding one in the future.
However with some careful preparation and specialist legal advice you can ensure that you show yourself in your best light to the Traffic Commissioner and improve your chances at Public Inquiry.
Below we highlight some of the things you can do to improve your chances Public Inquiry.
- Carefully read through the papers sent to you by the Traffic Commissioner – then read them again
When you receive your call-in letter to Public Inquiry you may have just 28 days until you appear in front of the Traffic Commissioner.
Ensure you make the most of this time. Read all the paperwork you have been sent about your hearing and make sure you understand the issues. The papers will usually clearly set out what their concerns are. Find out what to expect during the Inquiry by reading our Public Inquiry information sheet.
If the call-in letter asks you to supply additional information and evidence at the hearing or before, make sure you do this well in advance. If your Public Inquiry has arisen following concerns with your financial standing, then you will need to provide financial information to ensure you have sufficient funds for your fleet. Likewise, if the main issue is poor maintenance the Traffic Commissioner is likely to want to see evidence of maintenance records, auditing, systems and drivers checks.
Don’t assume that the Traffic Commissioner will only focus on one area of your operations – they have the authority to investigate and question you on any area of your operation they feel they need to. Make sure you have your records in order and on hand to answer any questions that may be asked of you.
- If you haven’t done so already, seek professional help
The chances are you will not have been to Public Inquiry before, and will be unaware of procedure, and the approach of the Traffic Commissioners. Getting expert help is strongly advised. You should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. There is a great deal of preparation that needs to be done for the Public Inquiry, so try not to leave it until the last minute. In some cases it can be useful to get an independent compliance audit carried out. This can identify parts of your operation that need improvement. Our transport lawyers can advise you on the type of audit you may need, and how to arrange one.
- Consider how you can demonstrate financial standing
The Traffic Commissioner can revoke your operator’s licence if you do not satisfy the requirements of financial standing.
If, before the Inquiry, you are having trouble demonstrating that you have enough finance available at all times to cover the costs of running your fleet, then a road transport lawyer can advise you on your options. The statutory guidance rules relating to financial standing can be quite complicated. Don’t just assume that a vague, verbal offer of a loan will be sufficient.
You don’t have to go it alone…
Whilst a call to a Public Inquiry can be a traumatic experience, it can also be the wake-up call needed to get your house in order. This is not a situation that you have to face alone – our dedicated team of transport lawyers at Rothera Sharp have years of experience representing operators at Public Inquiries nationwide.