What happens at a Traffic Commissioner’s Public Inquiry?
A Traffic Commissioner can call a Public Inquiry for a number of reasons including, but not limited to,
– Consideration of a new Application where there is a previous poor history or concern over ability to comply;
– Reports of a conviction or incident with a Driver or Transport Manager or Director;
-Unsatisfactory DVSA Investigation and
-Breach of Undertakings
At a Public Inquiry, the Traffic Commissioner has a wide range of powers against the Operator and Transport Manager. The most severe action is a Revocation of Licence or Loss of Transport Manager Repute with a disqualification. The Traffic Commissioner can also suspend the Licence, curtail (reduce) vehicle authority or issue a warning. A wide range of undertakings can also be made to ensure that going forward Licence conditions are met.
We are often asked if you need a solicitor to attend a Public Inquiry with you. There is no requirement, but in most cases you will be assisted greatly by having a qualified and experienced lawyer.
You will be provided with the Call In letter and the Traffic Commissioner’s Brief at least 21 days before the Hearing. These outline the reasons why the Traffic Commissioner is considering action and contains all of the evidence which has been collated by the Traffic Commissioner. There is a list of documents, with a specific set of items and business records which need to be sent either by post or digitally.
Having legal representation will allow all of the issues to be identified and to ensure that you are prepared for the likely questions. It will also allow you to provide evidence to support your position if there is anything that you disagree with. A lawyer will go through the paperwork that you are required to submit so that any shortcomings can be identified or investigated before the hearing. It is important to show that you can be proactive and do not need to have the Traffic Commissioner explain your obligations to you.
The Public Inquiry, as the name suggests, is inquisitorial, but you will have the opportunity to speak about anything relevant to the case and more importantly the impact of any action. There may be other Operators, Former Transport Managers and Drivers called to a joint Hearing if there are common links. What these people say in the Public Inquiry can impact you and you may wish to challenge what they say.
It is also common that a DVSA Examiner will attend the hearing to explain their findings to the Traffic Commissioner and in some cases to prepare a report on the new evidence submitted for the hearing.
You will usually receive a decision on the day, delivered verbally and followed by a decision in writing. In more serious or complex cases, the decision may be withheld to give the Traffic Commissioner additional time to prepare a decision in writing. In these cases a decision will usually follow within the month.
If you are aggrieved by the Traffic Commissioner’s decision, you have the right to appeal to the Upper Tribunal. The time limit is 21 days, so it is important to take advice early if you are considering this route. An Appeal can take many months to conclude, so an application will usually be made to stay (pause) the decision of the Traffic Commissioner pending appeal.
Common mistakes at a Public Inquiry are:
– Failing to provide all of the evidence in a timely and organised manner
– Failing to put things right before the Hearing
– Failing to provide evidence of the impact of Regulatory Action
SBC Public Inquiry Top Tips
- Book training for your management team – Operator and Transport Manager Refresher Training;
- Instruct a compliance team to audit and to highlight what the Traffic Commissioner is likely to find and to give you a plan to get things right;
- Instruct specialist lawyers in good time and work with them so that they can help you effectively;
- Read the paperwork from the Traffic Commissioner thoroughly and make sure you bring a copy with you.
Our team of specialist solicitors and barristers represent Operators and Transport Manager at Public Inquiries nationwide. We have many years of experience and will ensure that you are fully prepared to stand the best chance of a successful outcome. For a free initial consultation, please call our team today.