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17th August 1985, Page 20
17th August 1985
Page 20
Page 20, 17th August 1985 — NOW IT'S THE HAULIERS' TURN
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Keywords : Public House

NICHOL kS Ridley has as good as got his bus licensing legislation through Parliament. So in the coming year he (or his successor) may be expected to turn his attention to haulage licensing. But he is not the only Cabinet Minister likely to be interested.

Lynda Chalker has already announced that the Department of Transport is reviewing the first 12 months operation of the environmental controls over operating centres. More ominously, this was also mentioned in Lord Young's White Paper last month on removing the burdens from small businesses. And since small businesses predominate in haulage it would he surprising if this did not lead to a more radical review.

I understand that, with commendable foresight, the two trade associations are already quietly preparing for this. But what should the industry want it to achieve?

At least in theory Mrs Chalker's gaze will be restricted to the environmental question. !Despite its dislike of its measures I doubt whether the industry will seek more than a little tidying up. In particular, operators will want Licensing Authorities to resist their present habit of allowing extra-legal, if not an illegal, latitude to those making representations. The Transport Tribunal has overturned several decisions on these grounds. Operators should not be put to the expense of having to appeal because the LA has gone beyond the law.

But there will be external pressure for increased stringency_ First, representers who "win" before the LA have no rights if the operator appeals to the Transport Tribunal. They are not even told that an appeal is being lodged. The industry would be unwise to try to block a remedy for such unfairness.

But should representers be given the right of appeal, thus removing the distinction between objections and representations? Obviously, such a move would be unwelcome. But would it make much difference in practice? The Transport Tribunal is a more formal place than the Traffic Court. And it only sits in London and Edinburgh. I suspect that few local residents would bother, once they had let off steam locally.

But once underway the Chalker review might tackle other issues. After all, the DTp has still not formally decided about the changes involving discs, fees and waste disposal licences which it proposed last autumn. Once the ball is rolling the industry will want to try to influence its direction.

Hauliers who hanker for a return to carriers' licensing, or some other form of capacity control might as well save their breath. Mr Ridley has just upset a lot of his own supporters by abolishing capacity control in the bus industry. Even if such controls did not run totally against his philosophy he is certainly not going to upset another lot by bringing them back from the dead for lorries. In any case, I doubt whether the majority of hire-or-reward operators would want him to.

But most would want to toughen the criteria for getting a licence, especially the financial rtources. And it is in this field that Lord Young, rather than Mrs Chalker, is likely to cause problems.

In a television interview Lord Young summed up his approach to his task in a couple of highly relevant sentences. "In most countries big business is regulated and small business is free. Britain is the only country where the position is reversed," he said. And small businesses predominate in road haulage.

The main danger seems to be a blind application of the Government's passionate — the Prime Minister's own adjective — belief in cutting bureaucracy. Lord Young's White Paper is to be followed up by a bureaucracyhunting "task force". This title, with its Falklands overtones, is so much more impressive than "committee', which is what it really is. But whatever its title, once established it will be looking for quick successes. And it could score one with 0-licensing.

There is no doubt that, at first glance, the system is cumbersome. The formfilling necessary to apply for a first licence was bad enough even before last year's environmental provisions added advertising to the burden. Applications and Decisions might be a model for a dull official publication which few people read. Armies of clerical staff shuffle bits of paper in and between Traffic Area offices. And, cynics might say, elderl. gentlemen divide their time between playing at judges and pontificating at trade association dinners.

The task force might well ask whai this is supposed to achieve. On receiN the answer "improved road safety" it will surely ask for evidence.

When told that between October P and March 1984 only 67 of the almos 130,000 licences then current were revoked (and some of those on techni grounds) it would surely ask whether better results could not be achieved more economically.

It is a good question. But Lord Young's committee — sorry, task for — will not be seeking a comprehensil answer. It will confine its scrutiny to small haulier. Why not exempt the oi vehicle fleet? Or even the five-vehicle fleet? Or raise the threshold from 3.5 tonnes to 7.5 tonnes?

There is no legal obstacle to taking any or all of these measures where restricted licences are concerned. Witl Standard licences, however, an EEC Directive lays down a requirement fo Certificate of Professional Competent financial standing and good repute fix those operating over 3.5 tonnes gross But member states may exempt thi who have "only a minor impact on f transport market because of the natur of the goods carried or the short distance involved". This has not yet been used in Britain. By contrast, we have taken the fullest possible advant of all the exemptions and derogatiom allowed in the hours and tacho regs.

I doubt whether the industry woul welcome proposals on these lines. Tb complications caused by the wideranging and vaguely defined exempti from the hours and tachograph rules serve as a dreadful warning of the consequences of departing from legislation suitable for all operators.

Simplifying the system, thereby helping the whole industry, seems a better way forward. But exempting several thousand small hauliers from licensing would provide fodder for ti task force's eventual report shortly before the general election; applying sensible rules to all licence holders would not. So the pressure for widespread exemptions will be on.

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