The Risks of Running a Restricted Operator’s Licence – How to Preserve your Licence and Protect your Business
You might think Restricted Licences are pretty cool: They allow you to operate with half the financial standing of a Standard National Licence and you are not put to the expense and bother of employing a Transport Manager. What’s not to like?
Actually, quite a lot. The Traffic Commissioner will expect the same level of compliance from your operation that he or she would from a business running hundreds of vehicles. You can only move your own goods and there is a world of trouble awaiting you should you come unstuck or get caught operating outside your licence.
Most Restricted Licences are held by businesses whose main business is not transport. Typical examples include scaffolders, manufacturers shifting their own products or skip-hire. Many are smallish operations with limited resources in time, labour and, as always cash. Whilst concentrating on the main business it can be easy to take your eyes off the trucks. Don’t!
What Are My Responsibilities?
Well of course you know what your responsibilities are. You must keep your trucks properly maintained. You must maintain a forward planner of that maintenance and keep an eye on your PMI intervals, MOTs and roller brake testing. You must ensure that your drivers are keeping to their drivers’ hours, that they are properly trained, that they are driving your vehicles legally and within their licence and that their eyesight is adequate. You must have an adequate disciplinary procedure in case of any infringements. You must keep the Office of the Traffic Commissioner informed of any changes to your business and of any convictions that you or your staff may acquire. All of this, and your day job too! You cannot delegate or forget: it is your licence and your responsibility.
Get it wrong and you can be called to Public Inquiry before the Traffic Commissioner, where you might lose your licence. If a tired driver or one of your ill maintained trucks kills or injures someone then you could find yourself in prison.
So What can I do?
Get organised. It is far easier to run a transport operation if you have the systems set up and properly used. If in doubt spend some money on a reputable Transport Consultant, who will audit your business and help you set up the systems.
Strongly consider outsourcing your tachograph analysis; there are many companies who will take your driver card and vehicle unit downloads and analyse them for you. You will receive proper records covering drivers’ hours and working time directive compliance. These go into the relevant driver file and will save you hours of work and stress.
Keep your forward planner up to date. Make sure that your vehicles attend their PMIs. Monitor your drivers’ daily defect inspections and make sure that they are done properly. Make sure that faults and rectifications are recorded properly – the Traffic Commissioner is interested to see that the defect procedure is working as it should. As far as the TC is concerned, if it’s not written down then it didn’t happen. Proper records could save your licence and in some cases your freedom. By all means get your staff to help you with the work involved but remember, it is your licence and you are responsible for the undertakings made when the licence was granted.
Above all, if you know or suspect that you are not compliant then get some help. Yes it will cost money, but hundreds of pounds spent now will save you thousands later.
Smith Bowyer Clarke have long experience in representing Operators, transport Managers and drivers in front of the Traffic Commissioner. Much of what we do involves helping to turn around Operators who are failing in their compliance. We have access to first rate consultants in a number of areas who can be trusted to give up to the minute advice. Speak to one of our transport lawyers today for a free initial consultation.