A challenging year
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The number of 0-licences in the UK might well be declining but 2012/13 was still a busy year for the TCs, as their annual report reveals By Roger Brown
ITS BEEN ANOTHER busy year for the traffic commissioners (TCs), with the usual stream of public inquiries to oversee as well as industry seminars, conferences and events to address.
The TCs' report for 2012/13, published last month, showed that the total number of 0-licences in circulation continues to decline, falling from 84,072 in 2011/12 to 80,894. This came as no surprise: the number of 0-licences in issue has fallen consistently from 110,067 in
1999/2000 with only 2002/03 and 2007/08 bucking the trend with slight increases.
In his contribution to the report, North East TC Kevin Rooney said it was impossible for him to miss the continuing downsizing of Britain's CV fleet, both in terms of vehicles specified and numbers of operators. "The business realities that cause this shrinkage play themselves out day-in, day-out in the public inquiry room, whether it be an application following a pre-pack administration or an operator who has cut costs on
maintenance or not replaced his fleet," he stated.
TC for the South East Nick Denton noted the problem of so-called 'flag of convenience' transport managers — those who are named on the licence, but have little real involvement in the business. "I saw one example where a transport manager was claiming to work 32 hours a month for an operator, but charging only £100," he said. "Can he have been doing a proper job? Another failed to spot that his operator did not have two drivers as claimed, but rather one driver using two tachograph cards under different names." TC Denton also singled out operators who fail to fulfil undertakings. "I frequently ask operators to agree to undergo refresher training, or be externally audited by trade bodies, as the
price for retaining their licence," he reported. "Most carry out these promises, but some do not. I suppose it is this detachment from reality, which means they are surprised when, at our next encounter, I revoke their licences."
Nick Jones, TC for the West Midlands and Welsh traffic areas, mentioned the 2012 joint framework document published by the TCs and the Department for Transport (DfT), designed to clarify the nature of the TCs' relationship with Vosa and support their independence.
"The framework agreement referred to last year was a real hope for the future; it is unfortunate that it is too often ignored," he said. There are particular regulatory issues that need to be tackled in the principality, he said. "Annual reports for Wales have historically
referred to problems caused by TC services being administered from England; comparatively lower safety levels in parts of Wales; a comparative lack of regulatory interventions in parts of Wales; and ongoing Welsh language problems.
"In looking to the future, the secretary of state will be concerned that the above issues have not been addressed and matters are coming to a head." Paying compliments
In her report, TC for Scotland Joan Aitken said she had been heartened by the decision to build a Vosa check-site at Glenluce on the A75, which links the M74 from Carlisle to the ferry crossings to Ireland. "This year I particularly want to compliment the Vosa examiners in Cumbria and their road traffic police colleagues, with the help of Scottish colleagues, for the very
high standard of their joint working on the M6/1\474, which led to the convictions of some seriously non-compliant Scottish truck drivers and my being able to revoke their driving entitlements," she explained.
According to Western TC Sarah Bell, the past 12 months have been a challenge for the road transport industry.
However, she praised the work of trade association representatives in her traffic area — in particular Mike Moore and Nick Payne from the Road Haulage Association, and Ian Gallagher from the Freight Transport Association. "They have helped me
communicate with their members in a year where it is of particular importance because of the enhanced regime for transport managers settling in and the deadlines for the Driver CPC now on the near horizon," she said.
TC for the East of England Richard Turfitt stressed the importance of operators knowing that enforcement and regulation provide value for money.
"Any unnecessary cost places the ability of transport companies to deliver at issue," he said. Senior TC Beverley Bell — also North West TC — concluded by saying that the TCs had spent
2012/13 targeting the serially and seriously non-compliant, and would continue to do so. "I look forward to working on behalf of the TCs with Alastair Peoples [DVSA chief executive] and his board over the coming year to ensure that we are properly resourced and financed, for without this we cannot be effective," she said. •