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Office of Traffic Commissioners Announces End to GV81 Paper Applications for Major Applications

The increasing digitisation of the working world has reached the Office of the Traffic Commissioner’s applications process, with the induction of digital applications about to be a requirement for all Major applications from 1st August 2022 onwards.

The Office of the Traffic Commissioners made the announcement on 23rd June 2022 stating; “…applications made on paper forms are [often] on old outdated forms that cannot now be processed, leading to delays with applications“.  The announcement goes on to say that submitting a fully completed online application with all supporting evidence attached cuts down on “extra work for you [the operator] and for us“.

This change is squarely aimed at trying to deal with applications more quickly and more efficiently and in turn ensure that more operators can obtain authorities with less delay.  The new system means that all operators will need to have a VOL account through which the applications are made.  According to the OTC, over 94% of businesses are now using the VOL system for their major applications or major variation applications.  If you are one of the 6% who do not already have a VOL account click here to sign up for one.

This change supports the OTC’s aim to reduce application processing times and it seems clear from this announcement that this will not be the last change to application processes that will be made to achieve this aim.

For help and assistance with an OTC application or any other assistance with your transport operation, click here to send an email, or call 01279 818280 to speak with one of our team.  We are here to help.

Changes to Sentencing Rules for Dangerous Driving Offences – Life Sentences from 28th June 2022

Road traffic accidents can be difficult, traumatic experiences for all involved, especially if there is an accusation that the driver causing the accident was “under the influence” when the accident happened.  In recent years the police and Government have had a growing concern over the number of traffic offences that lead to death in which the driver has been under the influence of either drink or drugs.  This has been compounded by the anecdotal feeling of the general public that many of these drivers do not serve their full sentence given by judges due to the “automatic release” clause which means that some individuals are released early from a custodial sentence and thus deny the families of the victims of these offences their sense of due and proper justice.

Maximum Sentences:

Currently the maximum sentence for the offence of causing death to a person by dangerous driving when under the influence of drink or drugs is 14 years imprisonment.  From next week (28th June 2022) this is set to be increased to life imprisonment under The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill introduced earlier this year in April.  The thinking behind this quite dramatic change to the sentencing guidelines is said to reflect the belief that causing death when driving is a very serious offence and as such should be treated in line with manslaughter or murder charges.  The Government is on the record that it hopes that the harsher sentence will lead to a reduction in the number of people who may feel tempted to drive on the UK’s roads when under the influence, and therefore the number of these tragic incidents will also reduce.

All laudable, but it will remain to be seen if the courts take up the mantle offered by the new guidelines and start handing out lifetime sentences to offenders convicted of the offence of dangerous driving.  After all the lifetime sentence is the maximum sentence available to the Courts and is not the mandatory one.  Similarly, how many cases will be pursued as ‘dangerous’ as opposed to the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving (which does not carry the lifetime maximum sentence guideline) and which is easier to prove.  It will be interesting to watch this space.

Professional Drivers:

From an Operator’s point of view, as the employers of professional drivers, the safeguards the company has in place to ensure that no one drivers their vehicles whilst under the influence should be updated to inform their employees of the new sentencing and to underline the serious of driving when under the influence of drink or drugs.

If you need any assistance with updating your staff handbook or if you are an individual affected by this change to the law, then please do get in touch.  Click here to send us an email or call 01279 818280 to talk to one of our team.

24 June 2022

PSVAR – Accessibility for Coaches – Further Extension to Vehicle Exemptions

The Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000, to give “PSVAR” its full name is a piece of legislation which prescribes accessibility requirements for public service vehicles, i.e coaches and buses etc.  Since the regulations’ inception in 2000 the general position has been that all new buses and coaches designed to carry more than 22 passengers used on local or scheduled services have been required to be fully accessible in accordance with the terms specified in the regulations.  Initially vehicles manufactured before October 2000 were exempt but the legislation was drafted in such a way as to allow for a staged roll-out of the regulations for older vehicles at set dates, the last one of which was on 1st January 2020 (see our article here to refresh your knowledge).  After this date only Home to School services (“HTS”) and Rail Replacement services (“RR”) were exempt from the regulations, with a date of 31st March 2022 set for both HTS and RR services to be included under the regulatory umbrella.

In December 2021 Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Transport Minister for Roads, Buses and Places) wrote to the Chief Executives of the Bus & Coach Trade Bodes, the Association of Transport Co-Ordinating Officers and the Rail Delivery Group expressing her wish to ensure that disabled people can travel as easily as non-disabled passengers on coaches and buses, but acknowledging that when the regulations expire on 31st March 2022 the “lack of clarity on what will follow them could prevent local authorities, schools and colleges from making plans for the remainder of the current academic year”.  She therefore proposed extending the exemptions to 31st July 2022, but reminded all operators who are still using vehicles subject to the Regulations but unable to comply with them that they must be covered by a further exemption to operate such services, or be adapted to be compliant.

Exemption Extension:

The extension of the exemption is applicable to operators with coaches that are non-compliant or partially compliant with PSVAR 2000 which are used to provide either or both of the following services:

  • A ‘closed door’ home to school (HTS) services, transporting eligible passengers to and from educational institutions
  • A rail replacement (RR) service, transporting passengers to their destination when train services cannot run.

The deadline for applying for an exemption extension depends on whether you offer both services or just one or the other;

  • For fleets providing only RR services the deadline is 17th May 2022 to apply;
  • For fleets providing both RR and HTS services the deadline to apply is 17th May 2022; and
  • For fleets providing only HTS services the deadline to apply is 31st May 2022.

Only one application will be required from each operator, whether they are applying for exemptions to operate HTS, RR or both.  In order to complete the application you will need to provide:

  • Your contact details
  • Your O Licence number
  • Your vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle in your fleet (whether it is PSVAR compliant or not)
  • The contact details for the commissioning train operating comany(ies) for RR services.

You can click here to access the application form on the government’s website.

Where granted, exemptions will commence on 1st July 2022 and expire on 31st July 2026, assuming the holder meets the applicable compliance terms.

If granted an exemption, a copy of the exemption document must then be carried onboard any vehicle in the operator’s fleet that is not fully compliant with PSVAR 2000 and is used for HTS or RR services.  The exemption does not absolve the commissioner of an HTS or RR service from the obligation to provide alternative accessible transport to passengers who cannot access vehicles covered by an exemption because they are not PSVAR compliant and as such operators holding an exemption must obtain and retain alongside the exemption written confirmation that such alternative accessible transport will be provided.

Once an exemption has been applied for and granted, the operator must then ensure that they comply with new “medium term exemption” band requirements which give deadlines depending on the size of the fleet for when a certain number of vehicles within their fleets must be fully/partially compliant.

For example, Band A requires operators of fleets of between 1 and 5 vehicles to ensure that 25% of their fleet is “partially compliant” by 1st August 2023, that at least 50% of their fleet is partially compliant by 1st August 2024 and that by 1st August 2025 they are using at least 1 fully compliant vehicle, with the rest of the fleet partially compliant.  There are 4 bands, with band D for fleets of 30 vehicles or above.  Click here for further information.

The government advice makes clear that non-compliance with the terms and conditions listed on the exemption certificate will be treated as non-compliance with PSVAR and may be subject to enforcement action by the DVSA and that this includes adhering to exemption terms which will require increasing levels of compliance with PSVAR over time.

Final Deadline:

All operators should note that from 1st August 2026 all operators of PSV vehicles designed to carry more than 22 passengers will be expected to comply with PSVAR in full, so operators would be well advised to begin planning for this hard deadline as soon as possible.

If you need any advice or clarification as to whether your transport business is affected by these regulations, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.  you can call 01279 818280 or click here to send us and email.  Our team of lawyers are here to help.

Latest Update to Traffic Commissioner Guidance – 12th April 2022

Here is the latest round up of updates from the Traffic Commissioners’ Office:

The series of amendments published on 12th April 2022 incorporate the new regulations on Light Goods Vehicles (LGV’s) across the Traffic Commissioners’ Guidance documents.  Specifically they deal with how the traffic commissioners should approach the licensing of light goods vehicles and how the legislation differs between vehicles classified as “Heavy Goods Vehicles” and those as “Light Goods Vehicles”.  the guidance details the need for light goods vehicle operators, upon application for a licence to satisfy the traffic commissioner that any risk to endangering people, vehicles or property when entering or exiting a proposed operating site can be safely managed, (click here to view further documentation) as well as details of the new inclusion of financial standing rates for operators of Light Goods Vehicles.  For Heavy Goods Vehicle operators, the first heavy goods vehicle authorised is set at £8,000 with each additional heavy goods vehicle authorised set at £4,500 and then any authorised light goods vehicle at £800 each.  For operators using only light goods vehicles the first authorised vehicle is set at £1,600, with the same figure of £800, as required for operators of HGV’s, for each additional authorised vehicle.

With regard to the requirements for “stable and effective establishment” of operating centres, the new guidance states that a separate application must be made in relation to each traffic area in which there is to be an operating centre, so Light Goods Vehicle operators must apply in each traffic area they operate in.  The guidance can be accessed here.

The new regulations on LGV’s also means that the provisions for the recognition of holders of acquired rights to fulfil the professional competence requirement now apply for light goods vehicle operators too (click here to view further information), and details the approach that Traffic Commissioners will take when considering appeals against the refusal of the Secretary of State to grant acquired rights for light goods vehicles.  It also gives a general update to the requirements for all transport managers; in particular the requirement for transport managers to be resident in the United Kingdom and introduces a new minimum disqualification period of one year where a transport manager has been found not to be of good repute.

Statutory document number 8 gives clarification to operators of Light Goods Vehicles of the suggested delegations the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) may take when reviewing their operation.  Along with the amendments to the OTC guidance documents, there are the new EU rules, due to come into operation on 21st may 2022 that require operators to have an International operator’s licence if they are to use LGV’s such as vans, vans or cars towing trailers to transport goods for hire or reward into or through the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.  This will require operators to have a qualified Transport Manager within the business and to have documents to prove that they have access to a set amount of finance to run their business.

You should also be aware of the Cabotage or cross trade rules if you are transporting goods between two points in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway for commercial purposes, which require you to make a “posting declaration”.  This means registering the operator, driver, driver employment details, dates of travel and the vehicle used for the journey.  Further details can be found on the government website if you click here.

The inclusion of Light Goods Vehicle’s into the wider regulatory regime has, not surprisingly, lead to widespread changes to the guidance published by the OTC and all operators would be well advised to ensure that they familiarise themselves with how these changes might (or might not) affect their transportation operations.  For further clarification on any of the amendments published this month by the OTC and Department for Transport or for help and advice generally with your transport operations, please contact us on 01279 818280 or click here to send us an email.  Our team of expert Transport Lawyers are here to help.