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Compliance, Compliance, Compliance

Mike Oliver, co-author of Transport Operator Licensing, discusses the importance of compliance for licensed operators

The march of technology has gone hand-in-hand with the ever-increasing burden of regulation. Effective compliance is crucial to continued safe, lawful vehicle operation. Operator licence revocation, transport manager fitness, loss of repute and the spectre of corporate manslaughter are amongst the ultimate consequences of failing to comply.

A long-retired traffic commissioner once opened an operator licence inquiry with the words ‘Revocation, Revocation, Revocation.’ The key to minimising the risk of operator licence revocation lies in ensuring that the licence obligations and undertakings, along with the regulatory structure behind them, are known and understood. Documented procedures and systems must be set up and implemented to give effect to these requirements. Those systems and procedures must then be effectively managed, including a programme of continuous monitoring, updating, training and documented remedial action where any breach is found.

Simply reacting to problems at, or even after, the last moment will gain little credit. Traffic commissioners set much store by the speed with which effective remedial measures are put in place once a problem comes to light. Last-minute promises about contingent action to be taken at some point are not convincing. These will be met with scepticism and doubt, particularly if there is a poor compliance history. 

Operators should review and audit their procedures and documentation, involving external experts where possible. This is so that they have a clear picture of any weaknesses or failings which require attention. Once identified and addressed, these should be kept under constant review and updated when necessary, with all these actions being recorded and documented.

When traffic commissioners are faced with compliance failings, they invariably require assurances that independent audits or checks will be carried out in future. The operator would then have to satisfy the regulator that any problems have been dealt with and show how shortcomings have been addressed, and will be in the future.

There must be a starting point for new applicants, existing operators and transport managers. Working with a step-by-step guide to operator licensing applications, obligations and undertakings, together with the regulatory and enforcement process, including samples of the applications and documentation involved provides practical ongoing guidance and support, as well as an ongoing reference tool.

About the authors: Astra Emir is a barrister who has represented many haulage and coach companies and operators in courts, tribunals and public inquiries. She has written several legal textbooks and articles, and is an academic, examiner and scrutineer for various bodies, including the transport manager CPC courses for the OCR exam board.

Mike Oliver is a legal executive and owner of Trans-Law, a specialist transport legal consultancy. He is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Logistics and Transport and a member of the FTA Greater London Freight Council, the CPT Schools Transport Committee, and the CPT Claims and Insurance Group.

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