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A little more light is shed over operators' licence

25th June 1976, Page 24
25th June 1976
Page 24
Page 24, 25th June 1976 — A little more light is shed over operators' licence
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

SEVERAL problems on road freight transport have suddenly come into focus, following the publication of a DoE document last week.

The publication is the second consultative document on road freight transport managers' licensing. And in it, the DoE says it is determined NOT to scrap the Operator's Licensing System of the 1968 Transport Act and wishes to include all operators whether for hire and reward or own account.

In following the non-activated Section 65 of the 1968 Act, the DoE has dispelled the vagueness of the EEC Directive regarding the number of licence holders. Operators will not be forced to have a licensed transport manager at each operating centre, but will have discretion to deploy transport managers over operating units which may cover several separately located depots in different parts of a Licensing Authority area.

The licence is propsed to be valid for life (in contrast to earlier suggestions of renewal every 5 years), subject to suspension or revocation, Operators will not escape sanctions when a transport manager's licence is being revoked.

Only one statutory grade of licence is proposed and the one examination would cover every type of applicant. The examination (as earlier proposed) would not be an essay-type test but would consist of a combination of multiple choice, selection of multiple answers, matching answers and true/false statements, all involving underlining or placing answers in boxes.

Any confusion about the syllabus between the EEC Directive's list of general subjects and the more detailed syllabus formulated by the Education Co-ordinating Committee for road freight (ECC), the successor to the TML Committee for road freight resolved. The DoE has suggested following the EC Committee's recommendations in which a detailed manual was drawn up under the following major headings—(i) technical law and licensing (ii) road safety and mechanical condition, (iii) financial management (iv) laws covering employment, industrial relations and taxation.

So far so good. These definitive proposals have clarified many uncertainties, but a deep curtain of fog remains about the organisation of the examination and .other educational issues, It is suggested that the running of the examinations, the formulation of the detailed syllabus and even the drawing up of a list of exempting qualifications be placed firmly in the hands of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).

The three professional institutes, Chartered Institute of Transport (CIT), The Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) and the Institute of Traffic Administration (IoTA) which have contributed so much to the syllabus and have kept alive this licensing concept over years of uncertainty since deliberations first began in 1968 would be left out.

The Institutes do not even find themselves members of a suggested liaison committee to monitor the examination system. True, they are referred to, "the professional institutes already have links with the RSA and can make their views known in that way." In fact the CIT and IoTA links are tenuous, while the IRTE have no formal or informal connections with the RSA.

The RSA was originally brought into the reckoning on the basis of its expertise in formulating the multiple choice type examination. The Society has no direct knowledge of road transport although it is advised (by CIT and IoTA among many other organisations) on the running of its Certificate in Road Transport subjects, which, currently has only been concerned with the road passenger option.

If this type of legislation is going to benefit the industry and the community, the professional institutes must play a more direct role. The real benefit will not come from the passing of the examination at this low-level statutory grade, but in encouraging those who are successful to aspire to higher voluntary grades based mainly on the examinations of these institutes.

Only in this way can there be any advance in raising the status of road transport managers and, with it, improvement of the public image of road haulage.

The lack of reference to voluntary grades above the statutory minimum — stoutly urged by the EC Committee for years—seems to be a cardinal omission in the document. I would urge that the three pro fessional institutes should take their rightful place beside the trade associations, the RSA, the Road Transport Industry Training Board (RTITB), and the DoE on the liaison committee responsible for the arrangements. The unions are suggested as having a place on this liaison committee.

This is, however, a consultative document and there will be time to put these issues right before draft regulations are introduced. It seems essential that the DOE should reconsider in detail the problem of exemptions from the statutory licence examination. The EC Committee already produced a comprehensive list of awards which should carry exemptions.

The other worry is time. The Licensing system will begin on January 1, 1978. It is true that all those in post before January 1975 will receive a licence without examination under "grandfather rights" while those appointed after that date will have a provisional licence being given until January 1980 to pass the examination.

Those in this latter category will obviously be anxious to clear the examination hurdle in 1977 and there will be applicants keen to take the examination during 1977 to be in a position to apply for a licensed manager's post.

Thus, it is urgent that the whole matter is cut and dried as soon as possible so that colleges and other bodies can promote training courses during 1977—and these have to be organised well in advance.

The DoE, after a long delay between the first consultative document of last October and this document, is now moving faster and wishes to complete consultations by mid-July.

The long-running story of implementing manager licensing which has been likened to an Agatha Christie production is at last coming to an end.

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