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• I drive a shunter tractive unit in a docks area to move trailers between various parking areas and forwarders' premises. The vehicle is not taxed, and I drive it on a car licence.
The dock police say the tractors should be taxed, because the dock roads are public roads, and I should hold an HGV licence, but they don't seem all that sure.
Are they right and, if so, should the tractor be tested and insured as well?
II Whether the vehicle should be taxed, and whether you should hold an HGV licence and the vehicle be insured and tested, are separate matters, because they are dealt with in separate Acts of Parliament which define public roads in different ways.
Driver licensing, testing and third-party insurance are subject of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and the requirements relating to them apply where a
vehicle is used on a road. In that Act a road is defined as any highway and any other road to which the public has access.
The question as to whether roads in Dover docks were public roads was the subject of the High Court case DPP v Coulman [19931RTR 230. There, a driver who had disembarked from a ferry drove his truck in the inward freight immigration lanes while over the alcohol limit.
He was convicted by magistrates of the drink-driving offence, but the conviction was quashed by the Crown Court which said the lanes were not open to the public. The prosecution appealed to the High Court and the conviction was restored.
The High Court decided that, although the freight lanes were not open to the public from the landward side, anyone disembarking from a ferry could enter the lanes and they were, therefore, open to the public.
This case followed the High Court ruling in DPP v Cargo Handling Ltd  RTR 318, that roads at Heathrow Airport, owned by the Airports Authority, were public roads even though there were signs restricting their use to access only and a traffic regulation prohibited use by through traffic.
Whether the roads you drive on are open to the public depends on the facts of your particular case, but you would have difficulty in getting around the Dover ruling.
The requirement to pay tax is dealt with by the Vehicle Excise & Registration Act 1994, which states that a vehicle excise licence is required for a vehicle used or kept on a public
road. In this Act a public road is defined as one repairable at the public expense. Whether the public has access to the road is not relevant. Whether the tractor should be taxed depends, therefore, on who pays for the repair of the dock roads in question.
IMPOUNDING TO BEGIN
• In Commercial Motor some time ago I read that lorries being used without an Operator's Licence are going to be clamped. Is this still going to happen, and if so, when?
We have a licence for 12 vehicles, but never have 12 discs, because we often hire vehicles for a short period. We do not keep the vehicles for more than a month, so do not get a licence disc. How will police and traffic examiners know that a vehicle without a disc is being lawfully used In that month?
Also, if a lorry Is clamped can its load be trans-shipped on to another vehicle? Is there any law on this yet?
• Clamping is only part of the new enforcement procedure which the Department of Transport plans to introduce in July. After clamping the vehicle will be impounded, and can be sold or destroyed if the owner does not succeed in having it returned to him.
Law already exists on this subject in the Transport Act 2000, which inserted the new impounding powers into the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 on 1 February 2001. The powers, in a new Schedule 1A to the 1995 Act, can be implemented only by regulations, and these have been circulated in draft form by the DoT before being laid before Parliament.
Under the new law, where an authorised person, lea Ministry examiner—not police—believes a vehicle is being used to carry goods without an 0-licence in contravention of Section 2 of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995, he can attach a wheel clamp (referred to as an immobilisation device) to the vehicle. He can also require the vehicle to be taken elsewhere to be clamped. The next step the examine' can take is to direct that the vehicle and its contents be removed to the custody of a person specified in the directii and who has made arrangements with the Secretary of State to detain vehicles and their contents.
The regulations will provick that a vehicle which is detainee can be driven, towed or removed by other reasonable means, and any action can be taken in relation to the vehicle assist its removal, eg breaking windows or locks or disconnecting a trailer.
In relation to the load on a vehicle, the draft regulations say the examiner may allow th vehicle driver to deliver the IN to its destination or some othe suitable place before taking it the vehicle pound.
The load may also be removed if it is reasonable to so to facilitate removal of the vehicle; where there is a good reason for storing the load at t different place from the vehicli or if the condition of the load requires it to be disposed of without delay.
When a person produces satisfactory evidence of his identity and his entitlement to the property, the load must be returned to him.
To obtain the return of his vehicle, the owner must apply within 21days of the incident tc the Traffic Commissioner of th area in which it was detained. The application must state the grounds on which it is made. The only grounds on which an application can be made are: • That at the time the vehicle detained the person using it held licence (whether or not authoris ing the use of the vehicle); • That at the time it was detained no 0-licence offence was being committed; • That the vehicle owner did not know it was being used when such an offence was beir committed.
If the TC decides the grounds are made out he must order the return of the vehicle; but if not, the vehicle may be sold or destroyed.
An appeal to the Transport Tribunal can be made against the TC's decision.
If the owner does not apply for the return of the vehicle or any application or any appeal fails, the vehicle and contents ca be sold or destroyed. The proceeds of sale, less costs, must be given to the owner.