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licensing casebook

3rd April 1970, Page 49
3rd April 1970
Page 49
Page 49, 3rd April 1970 — licensing casebook
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

It's fitness that counts

by David Spain.

THE skeleton that is Part V of the Transport Act 1968 is already beginning to take on muscle, flesh and blood. The early public inquiries on operators' licence applications begin to show how the pattern will develop.

Warnings and friendly advice have been common at the earliest public inquiries and LAs and their deputies have, in some cases, sat together initially to ensure that they take a common approach within the same area.

In the Eastern area, Mr H. E. Robson and his Deputy have already held a joint sitting and, in the Metropolitan area, Mr D. I. R. Muir and his deputy will sit together on April 7. While this will produce a common approach it would be inadvisable for operators to think that grants or refusals would form a pattern and become automatic on particular types of evidence. Nothing can be certain at a public inquiry, least of all the decision.

Licensing Authorities up and down the country are putting particular emphasis on Section 64 (2) (a) and (d) of the Act. Paragraph 2 (a) states that the applicant should he a fit person to hold an operator's licence and, in this connection, the LA's attention is drawn to the applicant's previous conduct as an operator, director, partner or employee engaged in road transport. This applies whether or not the connection was with a transport contractor or an own-account operator. The second consideration. in 2 (d), is that there will be satisfactory facilities and arrangements for maintaining the authorized vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition.

The Metropolitan LA undoubtedly had a most prominent "fit person" public inquiry when he was considering the Charles Poulter Ltd application where Mr Ronald Davis was a director of the applicant company. It was not altogether a surprise that the application was refused; it is now the subject of an appeal.

There was, however, considerable surprise when the "0" application of W. A. Glendinning Ltd, of Shotleybridge, was refused by Mr J. A. T.• Hanlon, in the Northern area. In this case, the LA considered the previous record of the applicant in respect of vehicle operation. This case, too, has gone to appeal; a conderable onus now bears upon the Transport Tribunal.

In the South Eastern area, Maj-Gen A. J. F. Elrnslie has already fired a warning shot by telling an operator, to whom he was granting a licence: "If your subsequent performance as a haulier indicates that you have not taken advantage of this hearing, it can mean your licence can be reduced or eliminated."

In some areas, operators are finding themselves called to public inquiry under Section 178 of the 1960 Act and at the same hearing their 0-licence application is being considered. There is no doubt that the LAs are considering the "fit person" clause as being vitally important.

It appears that part of the difficulty facing both applicants and LAs, when past conduct is a consideration, is that where an operator has been before magistrates, the sentence often cannot be used as a guide to the extent of the offence because the variation is so wide.

'Authorized vehicles'

It is vitally important to remember that sub paragraph (d) talks of "the authorized vehicles" and this means that when considering maintenance facilities the Licensing Authority wants to be satisfied that these facilities will be adequate and not only for the vehicles to be put on the road immediately. but for the total number of vehicles which he is authorizing.

When considering the applicant's maintenance facilities, the extent of the margin is extremely important. Operators have been asking for more vehicles than were authorized on the old carrier's licence. These margins have varied from what Mr Hanlon describes as an acceptable limit of 10 per cent to an attempt to obtain one of 200 per cent which came before Mr C. R. Hodgson. the North Western LA. The Metropolitan area had an application for 50 vehicles to be authorized from an operator who was in possession of four.

. Crow Carrying Co Ltd applied for 55 vehicles, with a margin of 23, to the North Western LA. The company was granted an interim licence for 55 vehicles pending the LA satisfying himself that suitable premises were available for the maintenance of the 23 additional vehicles. And this despite the fact that the LA said that he knew the applicant to be a very reputable company. This is commendable caution and one would hope that it is the pattern for the whole country.

However, it has not all been a case of warning and refusal in these early days. For example, the North Western LA granted a licence to A. S. Jones and Co Ltd, of Liverpool, for 102 tractive units and 68 trailers with a margin of 75 units and 65 trailers. The evidence before him indicated that the company had made adequate provision. for maintenance facilities and for keeping records.

Having facilities goes beyond the physical aspect of pits, ramps, greasing equipment and staff. This is well illustrated in a remark made by Mr R. R. Jackson, the South Wales LA, who told A. D. Thomas and Son: -An important part of the

business, in the future, is to keep your finger on maintenance records if you want to keep your vehicles."

Only after an inspection of their premises will M. Swift Ltd. of Skelmersdale, know their fate. An earlier report to the North Western LA from an examiner said that the facilities were suitable but records were not being kept.

The early signs are clear. The LAs are being tough. If your previous record was not 100 per cent clean, you may face reduced grant after an inspection, particularly if you ask for a margin—no matter how small.

Those who have yet to apply—the own-account men—would do well to ensure that they can maintain and keep records for all vehicles they want authorized.

"Keeping records is for your own protection," said Mr Hanlon recently and he went on to say that Parliament did not intend the LAs to drift along as they had done in the past.

Funny thing, I hadn't noticed them drifting—had you? If this is a promise of a tougher line then the big clean-up operation is getting under way—and a good thing too.

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