The Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain have used their latest annual report to highlight progress in reducing application processing times, and to set out their balanced approach to improving services for the compliant while tackling rule breakers.
Between 2016/17 and 2017/18, the average time for a decision about a licence application reduced from over 11 weeks to just over seven. In addition, 90.2% of digital applications were granted within seven weeks.
In his foreword to the report, the Senior Traffic Commissioner for Great Britain, Richard Turfitt, says that while there is relative safety on the roads this does not mean there is room for complacency. The report calls on those responsible for procurement to make sure quality and compliance are foremost in their considerations.
In 2017/18, the commissioners held 971 hearings into businesses reported for safety or licensing breaches, taking action to prevent the most serious offenders from running vehicles in the future.
The report reflects on the consequences of failing to keep vehicles properly maintained, using the example of an operator who is trusted to transport schoolchildren: “It will be hard for anyone to understand why some operators believe it is acceptable to take children to school in vehicles that are plainly dangerous. There is no place in our industry for people who operate vehicles this way and we take decisive action when they are brought to our attention.”
The commissioners’ role as gatekeepers to the industry and the importance of maintaining a level playing field also feature prominently in the report: “The vast majority of HGV and PSV operations are committed to running safe vehicles and working within the rules. A licence holder is entitled to assume that when they bid for work, a competitor will not be able to get that contract as a result of cutting corners – especially where safety is concerned.”
The commissioners recognise the efforts of operators who work hard to meet safety and licensing standards and set out their commitment to engage with business at industry events and meetings.
“Operators who get things right – who abide by the daily discipline of carrying out checks and completing paperwork – need reassurance and guidance to stay compliant,” says the report.
However, in dealing with those in the ‘long under-performing tail’ of the industry, invariably the underlying causes are found to be poor management and/or a failure to access proper guidance. The commissioners urge transport managers to keep their knowledge and skills up to date through refresher training. But they also remind businesses to make sure the transport managers they employ are doing the job properly – or they could lose their permission to run vehicles.