How to Prepare for a Public Inquiry Before a Traffic Commissioner

Occasionally, operators and transport managers may be called to a public inquiry before a Traffic Commissioner. Public inquiries deal with regulatory action against an O-licence, applications for an O-licence and variations to an O-licence where there is a previous adverse history or environmental objections and/or representations. If the public inquiry is about problems with compliance (the most common reason), then sanctions may be imposed which will adversely affect the operator’s business, such as:

• licence revocation

• suspension of the licence for a period

• reduction in the number of vehicles authorised.

In extreme cases, the operator may be disqualified from holding an O-licence altogether for a period of time. Consequently, it is important to fully prepare for the hearing. Operators, therefore, should consider these points of action.

• Read the “calling in” letter from the Traffic Commissioner’s office carefully and the attached brief setting out the issues.

• It is advisable to take legal advice from a practitioner specialising in road transport law.

• Take the calling-in letter and the Traffic Commissioner’s brief to the public inquiry.

• Ensure that any promises made in response to an adverse report by a DVSA examiner have been carried out before the public inquiry takes place.

• If you, the operator, wish to challenge the DVSA examiners’ evidence, request their presence at the public inquiry.

• It is recommended that you arrange an independent audit of your systems in place for compliance and implement any recommendations made. (We know a guy)!

• Take all relevant documentation to the public inquiry that supports the remedial action taken, including details of any staff training.

• Collate and take the original documentation requested in the calling in letter.

• Prepare a statement — from the operator and possibly the transport manager, along with statements from other supporting witnesses.

• Make sure all the documentation, reports and records that the Traffic Commissioner wishes to take into account are produced either before or at the hearing.

• Be prepared to inform the Traffic Commissioner what effect each of the possible sanctions would have on the business.

• Make plans to deal with the various possible outcomes to minimise the business risk.

• If the public inquiry has been called because of environmental objections or representations from neighbouring residents, prepare to outline the consequences of the business of any restrictive conditions imposed on the O-licence.

(Don’t forget to attend the public inquiry at the venue, date and time set!)

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