Could You Lose Your Goods Vehicle Operator’s Licence?

The RHA Sets out some things all operators should now…

The Department for Infrastructure has recommenced Public Inquires with personnel who are/were Traffic Commissioners in BG presiding over these inquiries on behalf of the Department.

A recent publication No 326 published on 04/12/2020 contains details of decision made at an Inquiry and indicates three inquiries were held in November with two operators losing their operator’s licence and one being curtailed from two vehicles down to one.

Whilst the detail or reasoning for the action taken is unclear the three operators concerned were all restricted (own account) operators operating between one and four vehicles.

It is therefore critical all goods vehicles operators, transport managers and any person who has responsibility for managing the transport element of the business take steps to ensure they operate vehicles in accordance with the relevant legislation and any conditions or undertakings specified on the operator’s licence.

As is evident with the findings of the three inquiries held this month it makes no difference whether you are a standard or restricted licence holder if you are deemed to be non-compliant the result will be the same.

The Department have published a suite of documents https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/articles/goods-vehicle-licensing-practice-guidance-documents to provide guidance to operators and managers responsible for managing the transport element of the business to ensure everyone is clear on what’s required.

All operators, transport managers and persons responsible for the management of an operator’s licence, vehicles and drivers should ensure they are familiar with the content of these documents. Some of the key requirements include:

Standard licence holders:

  • Good repute – This includes convictions and penalties against the licence holder, transport manager Directors/partners and companies’ drivers when driving vehicles specified on the licence and other issues associated with conduct. The licence holder must ensure any issues with these must be notified to the Department within 28 days. Other examples that could affect repute include failure to notify the Department within the required timeframe of any relevant issue, non co-operation with the Department and improper conduct with Departmental officials.
  • Financial standing – Having access to the required finances both for the grant and during the currency of the licence to reflect the number of vehicles authorised under the licence.
  • Establishment – Having an office within the licensing area where you manage your business from and retain all the relevant documents, records etc.
  • Professional Competence – A person within the business who has been accepted by the Department as being qualified to manage the business. This person must have the capacity and autonomy to act as the transport manager with a relevant contract of employment if he is an employee.
  • Operating centre – Needs to be available and have sufficient capacity for the number of vehicles specified on the operator’s licence and have no adverse effect of the local environment.
  • Entity of licence holder – The entity that operates the vehicles needs to be the entity that holds the operator’s licence. If you change from a sole trader to a limited company, you will need to ensure a licence is applied for in the new entity before it starts operating.
    • Conditions and undertakings specified on the operator’s licence – The operator (Sole trader, Company director or partner etc) and the transport manager need to ensure they are fully aware of the conditions and undertakings specified on the operator’s licence documents. These include ensuring:
    The law relating to the driving and operation of vehicles used under the operator’s licence are observed.
    The rules on drivers’ hours and tachographs are observed and proper records are kept, and that these are available on request; Vehicles are trailers are
    not overloaded; Vehicles operate within speed limits; Vehicles and trailers, including hired vehicles and trailers, are kept in a fit and serviceable condition; Driver report promptly any defects or symptoms of defects that impact on the safe operation of the vehicle/and or trailer and any defects are recorded in writing; Records are retained for a minimum of 15 months of all driver reports that record defects and all safety inspections, routine maintenance, and vehicle repair reports and all these are made available on request; In respect of each operating centre specified on the operator’s licence, that the number of vehicles and trailers kept there will not exceed the number specified on the operator’s licence; Any unauthorised operating centre will not be used; The Department must be notified within 28 days of the change in maintenance arrangements, financial standing, entity status or the company goes into liquidation or sole trader is declared bankrupt.

Restricted or Own

Account licence holders: This category of licence was introduced into Northern Ireland in 2012. It is surprising some smaller own account licence holders are not overly familiar with the continuing requirements of holding a restricted goods vehicle operator’s licence and if they don’t have their house in order may fall foul of the Department at Public Inquiry.

The main requirements for restricted licence holders are subtly different to that of a standard licence holder, however the same principles apply including:

  • The operator is not unfit to hold an operator’s licence due to: any activities or convictions of which particulars may be required to be given to the Department and, any conviction/penalty required to be notified in accordance with requirements.
  • The provision of the facilities and arrangements for maintaining the vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition is not prejudiced by reason of the applicant’s having insufficient financial resources for that purpose.
  • Operating centre – Needs to be available and have sufficient capacity for the number of vehicles specified on the operator’s licence and have no adverse effect of the local environment.
  • Entity of licence holder – the entity that operates the vehicles needs to be the entity that holds the operator’s licence. If you change from a sole trader to a limited company you will need to ensure a licence is applied for in the new entity before it starts operating.
  • The legislation doesn’t specifically require a restricted licence holder to have a person with a professional qualification to manage the transport element, however given there are similar requirements and implications if you’re not compliant its essential someone within the business is competent and has the autonomy to manage the element.
  • Conditions and undertakings specified on the operator’s licence – These are broadly similar to that on a standard licence as quoted above.

General

The following is some additional requirements that should feature in a well managed business that’s operates goods vehicle and includes – relevant contracts of employment, driver and vehicle policies and procedures, appropriate training and records, disciplinary procedures, driver licensing and DCPC management, driver penalty points management process, vehicle accident procedures, health & safety training, personal protective equipment, safe and efficient vehicle utilisation.

It is impossible to cover all the elements that an operator is required to manage in accordance with their operator’s licence hence the reason to ensure you get best advice and support to do so otherwise if you find yourself in front of the Department official at a Public Inquiry you could lose your operator’s licence, be barred as a transport manager or be disqualified to act as a Director in a transport Company.

Whether you are a standard licence or restricted licence holder or are applying for a operator’s licence and need expert advice before it’s too late, give me a call on 07778966287 or join the RHA.