The Freight Transport Association has welcomed the news that the Goods Vehicles Licensing of Operators Transport Bill has been unanimously passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The legislation was submitted at Stormont today (11 June) by Environment Minister Alex Attwood. Its success is being seen as good news for responsible operators by FTA which has for many years represented its members in Northern Ireland by campaigning for the new licensing system to be implemented for the commercial road transport industry.
The system will extend Operator Licensing, commonly known as O-licensing, to all operators of commercial vehicles above 3.5 tonnes; and is designed to improve road safety and environmental standards, introduce fairer competition and help tackle organised crime.
Similar legislation has been in existence for many years in England, Scotland and Wales and will be a welcome addition in Northern Ireland, bringing it in line with the rest of the UK, and is backed by the majority of operators in the industry.
The new legislation will see the introduction of much needed road safety enforcement, including new vehicle safety checks and planned preventative maintenance requirements together with greater powers of enforcement at the roadside, in operator premises and through licensing curtailment.
The implementation of the new legislation will also ensure that unscrupulous operators can no longer continue to pollute through poorly maintained operating centres and goods vehicles which have hazardous effects on the environment.
In addition, the Organised Crime Task Force and the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee (which had also been behind the introduction of the O-licensing project) are likely to see the new operating licence as good news, as it has been commonly recognised that organised crime generally requires goods vehicles, and without the implementation of the legislation criminals would have been able to continue to act with greater freedom and would allow more illegal ‘cowboy’ operators on the road.
Tom Wilson, FTA’s Head of Policy in Northern Ireland said:
"The Goods Vehicles Licensing of Operators Transport Bill has been an overriding priority for FTA in Northern Ireland for many years, and to know the final hurdle has been cleared and that the much needed legislation has now been approved, can only be good news to the industry. We acknowledge the Minister’s support and commitment to making this important piece of road safety legislation a reality."