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A Fundamental Error?

23rd July 1954, Page 32
23rd July 1954
Page 32
Page 32, 23rd July 1954 — A Fundamental Error?
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

THE action of the Northern Licensing Authority 1 (reported in The Commercial Motor, July 16) in refusing to allow the substitution of one vehicle specified on an A licence by another of the same— or substantially the same—weight unladen, and his reasons for refusing to renew the licence, are bound to lead to controversy amongst operators and those concerned with the administration of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933.

The Authority purported to act under the powers conferred on him under Section 10 (3) of the Act, which provides: "Where it comes to the knowledge of the Licensing Authority by whom a licence was granted that a vehicle specified therein has ceased to be used under the licence for any reason other than a fluctuation in business, or is specified in another licence, he may vary the licence by directing that the vehicle shall be removed therefrom."

The applicants had applied in April, 1953, for their existing vehicle to be deleted and another one of the same weight "to be acquired" to be substituted. The obvious necessity of catering for the applicant who knows the type of vehicle he wants but cannot yet name the specific vehicle, is recognized by Section 5 of the Mt—dealing with procedure on application for licences—which provides that he must give in respect of vehicles "he intends to acquire" such particulars as may be prescribed in forms laid down. Moreover, the forms for application laid down under the Licensing Regulations ido not require identification of such vehicles other than by unladen weight and type.

The applicants, however, waited over a year before actually acquiring their substitute vehicle, although they were careful to do so and to apply for it to be specified in the licence before the latter expired at the end of May, 1954. The Authority ignored the obvious argument that he had no option but to grant the application for variation— Section 10 (2) providing expressly that if made during the currency of the licence this was so— and is reported to have based his refusal on the ground that as a vehicle had not been specified since April, 1953, there was no haulage business in existence and the vehicle had ceased to be used for reasons "other than a fluctuation in business."

With respect to the Authority, he appears to have made a fundamental mistake in using his power to remove a vehicle from a licence under Section 10 (3). The very exercise of that power pre-supposes not only the existence of a specified vehicle on the licence, but also on that has been used under the licence, for the words of the subsection are "a-vehicle specified therein has ceased to be used under the licence." One cannot, ex hypothesi, remove a vehicle from a licence when it has not yet been placed on the licence!

Whether he was not satisfied as to the business in existence and the need for the continuation of the licence after its expiry, was entirely a matter for the Authority's discretion, but it seems clear that the express provision in Section 10 (2)—of the pure formality of granting such a variation applied for during the currency of the licence—has been infringed. The adoption of such an interpretation of the relevant section of the Act would render entirely nugatory the provisions dealing expressly with just such an application, and would lead operators to feel so unsure of their ground that they might feel forced to keep an unsuitable vehicle on the road, or to rush out and replace it with another, the suitability of which had not been properly assessed, rather than risk any waiting period before such a purchase.

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