Last reviewed 27 January 2016

The Senior Traffic Commissioner’s revised Statutory Guidance and Directions came into force on 1 January 2016. In this feature, Tim Ridyard of Woodfines Solicitors analyses some of the main revisions in these new documents that are of particular interest to transport managers and their drivers.

Introduction

The “Statutory Documents” are published through the Senior Traffic Commissioner’s statutory powers. They cover a very wide range of areas such as: good repute, finance, transport managers, operating centres, legal entities, vocational driver conduct, impounding, case management, decision-making and appeals among others.

They are described as “an available resource for applicants, operators, transport managers, vocational drivers and other interested parties”.

Some parts are extremely important and relevant to operators, transport operators, transport managers and drivers, notably Statutory Documents No. 3 (for transport managers) and 6 (for vocational driver conduct).

It should be noted that large parts of the statutory documents are also guidance and directions intended for Traffic Commissioners and Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) staff for their daily work and decision-making activities. While benefit can be derived from reading all the material, operators and transport managers will likely derive most immediate assistance from the parts that relate to the core activities of licensing such as those relating to good repute, financial standing and transport managers.

Vocational driver conduct

The material on vocational driver conduct in Statutory Document No. 6 addresses the fitness of vocational drivers to obtain and be permitted to retain their large goods vehicle (LGV) and/or passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) entitlement. The previous version has been revamped with additional and reformatted material making it more accessible and more informative. It contains tables setting out the starting points for the consideration of applicants for, or holders of, licences where the driver has convictions or other adverse histories. It also lists examples of aggravating and mitigating features that Traffic Commissioners will take into account when looking at the fitness of drivers to hold a vocational licence.

It is strongly recommended that every operator downloads a copy of this document so that drivers not only understand the ramifications of committing road traffic or other offences, but also that the operators themselves understand what can befall drivers in whom they invest time and training.

One concern of Traffic Commissioners is that vocational drivers are either entirely unaware or only vaguely familiar with the powers available to the Traffic Commissioner when applications are made or when convictions or other events occur after a licence has been granted. In fact they can:

  • issue letters proposing to refuse applications

  • grant applications with a warning letter

  • defer the return of vocational licences after longer driving disqualifications

  • issue warnings for offences committed by holders of existing licences

  • suspend licences

  • revoke and disqualify for a period of time.

When considering a case, a Traffic Commissioner only considers the issue of fitness to drive. He or she does not take into account personal mitigation (such as loss of employment if suspended from driving); this distinguishes the jurisdiction from a criminal court where this can be taken into account. Examples of the starting point for action for various categories of offences and for adverse driving records are set out in an extremely helpful table in Annex A.

The document also includes new and specific details about the approach to handheld devices including mobile phones and tablets. The following are all regarded as aggravating features.

  • Committing an offence in a PCV with passengers on board.

  • Deliberately disregarding employer’s instructions.

  • Texting/typing while driving and a failure to respond to effective procedures in place to prevent the use of electronic devices — Traffic Commissioners have repeatedly voiced concern about the dangers of mobile phone misuse when driving heavy good vehicles (HGVs) or PCVs. Independent of this, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced proposals that penalty points be increased for mobile phone offences — four penalty points for small vehicles but that the penalty for large vehicles drivers be increased from three points to six points. (See page 7 of Working Together to Build a Safer Road System published on December 2015 Cm 9175.)

Case examples

As part of the approach to inform and educate operators and drivers, Annex C of the guidance document has been created that provides no fewer than 26 typical scenarios or case studies depicting LGV/PCV drivers facing driver conduct hearings or setting out how licence applications may be treated following periods of driving disqualification/convictions.

The document specifically sets out that the case examples “may be useful in instruction of drivers by an operator or transport manager”. It would indeed certainly be sensible to use this for driver meetings, classroom tuition and as part of Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) training.

Finally, Annex D sets out a simple list of offence codes that may be a useful reference tool when interpreting endorsements on driving records when licences are being checked.

Transport managers

The Statutory Document No. 3: Transport Managers contains two interesting additions or revisions of particular significance and assistance.

At paragraph 50, a list of all the duties that a transport manager might be expected to undertake has been drafted. This was not previously set out. It is expressly described as a non-exhaustive list. The benefit of this is that it will be much clearer to know what is expected of a transport manager by the Traffic Commissioner and of course what is expected by an operator in terms of the duties of a transport manager.

The document sets out the general responsibilities that would be expected of a transport manager, ie to:

  • manage, audit and review compliance systems to ensure that they are effective

  • review any shortcomings such as prohibitions and/or annual test failures

  • ensure that relevant changes are notified in accordance with operator licence requirements

  • keep up to date with relevant changes in standards and legislation.

It then lists more specific duties under the following headings.

  • Drivers — Administration.

  • Drivers — Management.

  • Drivers — Operations.

  • Vehicles — Administration.

  • Vehicles — Management.

The second area of interest is additional material relating to the Traffic Commissioner assessing a transport manager’s capacity to exercise “continuous and effective management” over transport operations. This material has been added into the material at Annex 1 used by OTC staff when processing licence applications and applications for appointment of new transport managers.

The document identifies “general indicators as to effective transport management”, namely:

  • knowledge and skills (that require more than simply a formal qualification)

  • impact (is the CPC holder a key person within an organisation influencing decisions?; does his or her position reflect the professional personal responsibility vested in him or her?)

  • decision-making (is the CPC holder close enough to drivers to influence behaviour and senior enough to influence the deployment of resources and to inform the decision of the owner/director/partners?).

When an application is received by the Central Licensing Unit at the OTC in Leeds, case workers review the application to determine the qualification and suitability of transport managers. Where the starting points set out are met, delegated authority can be used and then the application can be processed under the delegated authority. Otherwise, the application has to be referred to the Traffic Commissioner for a decision if it requires further consideration.

The starting point as to what Traffic Commissioners expect in terms of hours worked by a nominated transport manager is contained in Annex 1; this has been changed in the revised Statutory Document No. 3. These have been reduced, in particular for smaller fleets.

The purpose of setting out the suggested hours to be worked by a transport manager is felt by Traffic Commissioners to have been misunderstood by operators. They were not intended as a rigid or mandatory stipulation. The intention was to suggest those hours that an operator should make available to a transport manager so that he or she could carry out the necessary duties free from other work. These were only intended to be starting points: Traffic Commissioners always wish to see that continuous effective management can be achieved — and it must by law be achieved — but will permit the appointment of transport managers where the hours/vehicle ratio set out below may not necessarily be met.

For example, a large operator may be permitted to run a fleet of, say, 150 vehicles with only 2 nominated transport managers if the transport team structure and organisation is explained to the Traffic Commissioner to his or her satisfaction. It is often the case that large fleets have compliance subdivisions or subteams overseen by the nominated transport managers. The figures in the table below must not therefore be seen as immovable or rigid.

The table sets out the starting point of hours/vehicle ratios contrasting with the previous figures. (We have taken the figures from the previous version of Statutory Document No. 3 and the new one.) Where an operator wishes to apply for the appointment of a transport manager and the revised hours starting points are not met, it is important to provide detailed information to the Traffic Commissioner as to how the role of the transport manager will be met through additional staff assistance and support.

Transport Manager Hours/Vehicles Table

Motor vehicles

New hours (per week) from 1 January 2016

Old hours (per week)

2 or less

2 to 4

8

3 to 5

4 to 8

15

6 to 10

8 to 12

20

11 to 14

12 to 20

25

15 to 29

20 to 30

Full time

30 to 50

30 to Full time

Full time and additional assistance required

Above 50

Full time and additional assistance required

Full time and additional assistance required

Conclusions

It is suggested that operators should also download a copy of the statutory document and in particular review the list of transport duties to ensure that the various areas set out there are indeed being carried out by the nominated transport manager(s). It would also be advisable to consider what time is indeed being allotted to transport duties, whether this corresponds with the above and, if not, what support is in place for the transport managers to carry out their role.