The Office for the Traffic Commissioner recently published their annual operator licensing report for 2018-19.

In the report, regulators reflect on the highs & lows of operator licensing in the past year, looking at the achievements and areas of concern, as well as setting out plans for the years ahead.

The Office for the Traffic Commissioner

The Office of the Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain (OTC) work with the Department for Transport (DfT), the police and other agencies & stakeholders to keep roads safe, by supporting the compliant, licensed operation of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and public service vehicles (PSVs). The OTC supports HGV and PSV operators and drivers, with a mission to:

“promote safe, fair, efficient and reliable passenger and goods transport through effective licensing and regulation of the commercial vehicle industries… providing a proportionate, accountable, consistent and transparent approach”

Objectives for 2016-2019

The report revisits the OTC’s strategic objectives, set out in 2016, to:

  1. “Deliver a modern, effective operator licensing regime that ensures operators are fit to hold a licence whilst minimising the regulatory burden on the compliant”
  2. “Promote a safe road transport industry which supports compliance, fair competition and protects the environment”

So, how are they measuring up? Key achievements outlined in the report include:

Modernised licencing

The commissioners have introduced average processing times, a new reporting measure that has made the licencing application process more transparent. The measure offers a more realistic assessment of how licensing functions are performing, making the OTC fully accountable for all cases. Average processing times have been slashed to just over six weeks for applicants providing complete applications, meeting all statutory requirements, via digital services.

Digital services for operators and applicants

Operators can now apply for, change, amend and give up their licences online through the Vehicle Operator Licensing (VOL) project, in a fully paperless transaction. For 2018-19, 82.91% of applications were made digitally through VOL, with an 82.3% satisfaction rate with the service – both exceeding targets of 70%.

Prompt regulatory decisions

The OTC aims to list public inquiries, within 12 weeks of a case being called by a traffic commissioner, in 95% of cases. Listing within 12 weeks was achieved in 91.6% of cases for 2018-19, in line with last years’ performance.

Effective use of regulation

Results from a commissioned report have shown a broad positive relationship in cases of regulatory intervention. The analysis shows that operators typically improve compliance after attending a public inquiry (and keeping their licence), which results in safer practices.

Transparent decision-making

The OTC now publish written decisions for the most serious or complicated cases online, offering useful lessons and transparent decisions for other licence holders.

Areas of compliance causing concern in 2018-19

Additionally, the commissioners have outlined some of the compliance areas which have caused concern in the past year, and how those areas are

Transport manager accountability

The report identified transport manager accountability as another key issue when it comes to fleet safety and compliance in 2018-19. Transport managers are a highly trained and essential part of fleet operations and should be treated as such. Licence holders should set performance indicators that trigger warnings when things begin to go wrong. Operators can use Stream Check to manage all the staff roles within your business – including transport managers.

A key part of transport manager responsibility is for vehicle daily walkaround checks and defect reporting, but a common compliance issue identified last year was around recording and reporting those defects. With paper reports often lost or damaged, and printed check sheets often out-of-date, defects that can and should be identified by the driver end up overlooked. Use Stream Check to report, record & resolve defects 

Additionally, it was reported that vehicles often miss inspection frequencies. Here again, a system like Stream Check, that can automatically schedule service bookings & inspections and send out reminders when they are due based on date and/or mileage can virtually eliminate the risk of forgotten or missed inspections.

In order to to avoid detectable defects appearing in roadside checks, transport managers need to be able to ensure that:

  • Regular checks and inspections are completed thoroughly
  • The results are recorded and reported properly
  • Any defects identified are followed through to resolution

Or risk penalties, prohibitions and even public inquiries – especially if the vehicle has previously been signed off as roadworthy.

Brake test performance

Brake test performance was identified as a major issue a few years ago, with the OTC calling on the industry to pay attention to adequate and meaningful brake testing (and recording of those tests). Evidence from public inquiries, however, shows brake failure is still one of the top ten reasons for HGVs & PSVs failing their MOT. The use of a vehicle bookings scheduler like Stream Check can help to maintain compliance, by reminding operators when a brake test is due (based either on date or mileage) and storing a record of brake test results.

Digital tachographs and driver management

Some operators and licence holders have been discovered using digital tachographs without a company tachograph card – which means the company has no access to the data collected on drivers’ tachograph cards. Equally, many of the licence holders and operators who do download the data aren’t using it to discuss potential safety, compliance and efficiency improvements with drivers. Stream users can now integrate with Teletrac Navman DIRECTOR, to access key telematics data directly in their Stream dashboard. This vehicle and asset intelligence data allows operators and licence holders to identify patterns and correlations that might otherwise go undetected. This leads to more informed operational decision making and highlights areas that may need improvement, including changing driver behaviour or reducing fuel consumption.

Bridge strike incidents

One issue that’s come to light this year is the “unacceptable number” of incidents involving bridge strikes. A separate report, from Network Rail, found that almost 2000 bridge strikes occurred across the UK in 2017-18 (almost 40 strikes every week), costing the UK taxpayer around £23 million a year in repairs – and that number has risen steadily over the past ten years. There are two key ways for drivers and operators to tackle the issue:

  1. Operators need to take responsibility for risk-based route planning. This can be done with the help of specialist routing software like Co-Pilot, which integrates with Stream, and can offer advanced turn-by-turn navigation for commercial vehicles – including avoiding low bridges based on vehicle height
  2. Make sure drivers truly appreciate the height of their vehicle (which may change depending on the load), by customising the daily walkaround checklist to make measuring and recording vehicle and load height a standard check each day

Operator licensing last year in numbers:

  • The Haulage and logistics industry is worth £124 billion GVA to the UK economy
  • Haulage and logistics is the UK’s 5th largest employer, with 2.54 million people working in the sector
  • There are 309,000 freight drivers and 133,000 bus and coach drivers registered in the UK
  • More than 13,000 Lorry and 1200 Bus & coach licence applications were processed
  • 4.85 billion passenger journeys were taken on local bus services
  • On average, it took 8 weeks to determine HGV licence applications and 13 weeks to determine PSV licence applications but just 6 weeks to process digital applications
  • Daily walkaround check sheets from the 1970‘s were discovered still in use by an operator this year
  • 10,000 fewer failures for service brake performance at commercial vehicle annual tests, compared to 2013-14
  • Almost 1600 public inquiries were held
  • Over 3000 hearings held and 21,000 cases closed on driver conduct
  • 140 Traffic Commissioner written decisions were uploaded to GOV.UK and individually viewed over 42,000 times.