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Traffic Commissioners – FTA says powers to issue O-Licences must not go to VOSA

The Freight Transport Association has rejected Department for Transport proposals for a radical change in the structure of the Traffic Commissioner system which governs the issue and maintenance of goods vehicle Operator Licences. FTA says that continuity of the current system with a new statutory role for the Senior Traffic Commissioner would be preferable, together with the establishment of a separate bus industry regulator.

FTA members have expressed particular concern regarding the proposed delegation of Operator Licensing direct to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA). FTA Director of Policy, James Hookham said, 'It would be entirely inappropriate and unacceptable for VOSA not only to be acting as the primary enforcement agency, working at operational level in carrying out tests and roadside enforcement, but also to be managing and taking decisions on the actual issue, renewal and legal management of Operator Licences. There can be no judicial system which allows one agency to act as both judge and jury on the one hand, and policeman on the other. The separate operation of these functions by the Traffic Commissioners and VOSA is fair and works reasonably well at present – albeit both organisations requiring increased funding. The current arrangements should be allowed to continue. The Department has failed to show that the system for HGV licensing is broken so we don't believe it needs fixing in this way.'

FTA's response to the consultation:

opposes the proposal to create a Board of Traffic Commissioners as this places the independent role of the Traffic Commissioner in jeopardy. FTA supported an alternative option of a panel of Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain (retaining the positions of TC for Scotland and Wales) which would maintain more or less the current structure with a new statutory role of Senior Traffic Commissioner to allocate casework.

opposes plans to introduce time-limited, reviewable contracts for Traffic Commissioners.

opposes delegating the function of O-licensing direct to VOSA. The current system whereby Traffic Commissioners delegate authority for VOSA to issue licences only in straightforward cases must be retained.

rejects an increase in fees to pay for any new governing structures for Traffic Commissioners. Bus operators account for less than 10% of the total number of O- licences.

urges DfT to establish an independent bus industry regulator to deal with quality partnerships, complaints and punctuality matters.

A copy of FTA's complete response to the Department for Transport consultation on Strengthening Local Delivery – Modernising the Traffic Commissioner System is available from Jackie Langridge in the FTA press office on 01892 552253.

The Freight Transport Association represents the interests of companies moving goods by road, rail, sea and air. FTA members operate over 200,000 goods vehicles – almost half the UK fleet. In addition they consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and over 70 per cent of sea and air freight.

There are 8,700 licensed bus operators and 100,000 HGV operators. The need for overhaul of the system is being justified on less than 10% of the problem but will be paid for by everyone.

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