Frequently asked questions

• Operator License Applications

What are the current operator licence financial standing levels?

Operator licence financial standing levels are adjusted on an annual basis. As of January 2021, for a Standard type licence, you must show financial standing of £8,200 for the first vehicle and £4,450 for each additional vehicle. For example, if you apply for a three vehicle licence, you must have available resources of £16,900.

For Restricted licences, you must show £3,100 for the first vehicle and £1,700 for each additional vehicle. Again, as an example, a two vehicle licence would require financial standing of £4,800.

How long does an operator licence application take to be granted?

Historically and in our experience, an operator licence application can take between 9-12 weeks to be granted. However in recent times, we have been able to help businesses receive their operator licence within 4-5 weeks which demonstrates the value of involving specialist consultants like LM Transport Consultant.

The time it takes for your licence to be granted depends greatly on the information disclosed at the point of application. Many operators submit incomplete or inaccurate applications which take time to be processed and then have to be sent back out to be recompleted. Failure to disclose previous history in the licencing system or unspent convictions for example, can result in your application being referred to the Traffic Commissioner who may decide a Public Inquiry is required. In some extreme cases, we’ve seen applications take up to 1 year to be granted which has an obvious debilitating effect on the business.

If you need to start operating sooner, you can request interim authorisation – Contact us for more information.

How many hours do I need to contribute as a CPC holder to a Standard-type licence?

The Senior Traffic Commissioner approved “guideline” hours that transport managers must spend on any specified licence – the table can be found on page 19 here. Please note that these aren’t suggested hours – if you fail to allocate and evidence the minimum number of hours when applying, you will likely be refused as CPC holder for the licence.

Do I need a transport manager?

Transport managers (or CPC holders as they are also known) are required for Standard-type licences. Restricted licences do not require a transport manager to be listed on the application but a ‘responsible person’ should still be nominated by the licence holder to assume the responsibilities of ensuring compliance with all latest legislation.

Will I get an operator licence with a criminal record?

Notifiable convictions are specified offences that the Traffic Commissioner will take into account when deciding whether you are a fit and proper person to be holding an operator licence. A list of all relevant convictions that should be declared can be found here on page 28-29. If you have a notifiable conviction, the Traffic Commissioner may request your attendance at a Public Inquiry to decide whether to grant a new licence.

What are the current operator licence fees?

There are two (and sometimes three) operator licence fees payable when applying for your licence.

An application fee of £254 must be paid upon submission; this fee is non-returnable. Once the licence has been granted, an additional fee of £449 is applicable for its issue.

If you are looking for interim authorisation, an extra fee of £68 is applicable and this can be paid when submitting the application. Alternatively, you can fill in a paper INT1 form and submit with a cheque.

A fee of £449 is due every five years should you wish to continue your licence.

• General Compliance

Nil defect reporting – what is it? How long should I keep reports?

Nil defect reporting is the most common method for reporting defects. This requires drivers to complete a check form even if no defects are present. It is highly recommended to implement a nil defect reporting system as it can be your first line of defence when trying to demonstrate that your vehicles are maintained in a roadworthy condition.

It is important to ensure your drivers are completing defect reports fully to include all required information. This includes:

  • date
  • driver name
  • vehicle registration
  • odometer reading
  • details of any discovered defect
  • who the defect was reported to

It is also very important to ensure rectification work is recorded on the defect report and signed off by the repairer. Any reports with recorded defects must be retained for 15 months in your vehicle files.

Nil reports where no defects have been recorded should be kept as they are a useful means of checking that drivers’ are carrying out their duties. The daily forms can be compared to safety inspection reports to identify shortfalls in driver reporting.

Contact us for advice on how nil defect reports can be used to identify the effectiveness of your driver(s) daily walk round checks.

Can I use a mobile HGV mechanic?

The Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness was revised in 2014 to include the requirement “access to an adequate under-vehicle inspection facility”. In general, a mobile HGV mechanic may be able to perform inspections adequately during the brighter, summer months but in the depths of winter, it is unlikely that the quality of checking will be of the same standard.

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How long do vehicle maintenance records have to be kept?

You should retain all maintenance records for a minimum of 15 months.

How often should my vehicle be inspected?

Safety inspection intervals for all commercial vehicles should fall between 4 – 13 weeks. The standard interval is generally 6 weeks but depending on the type of work you’re doing, the mileage covered and the terrain the vehicle is usually travelling on, this can differ. For example, if you are involved in quarry work or regularly drive on building sites, these type of conditions can contribute to accelerated ‘wear and tear’ and inspecting vehicles more frequently would be recommended. Alternatively, if your vehicle accumulates low mileage and is only ever lightly loaded, it may be more practical to inspect every 8-13 weeks.

What is an S marked prohibition?

An S marked prohibition is the most serious of these prohibitions and is issued when an examiner believes a severe defect is due to a significant breakdown in the vehicle’s maintenance procedures. Failing to connect the EBS line between the trailer and unit is a common example of when an S marked prohibition could be issued. Other examples include driving incomplete vehicles on the public road without trade plates and severe tyre damage.

S marked prohibitions are referred to DVA Regional Enforcement and are almost always followed up with a maintenance investigation which scrutinises the procedures that the operator has in place to ensure compliance. Unless the operator is able to demonstrate a satisfactory level of compliance across the rest of the fleet, there is a high possibility of the case being referred to the Traffic Commissioner who may then decide to hold a Public Inquiry to determine whether any restrictive measures should be placed on your licence.

It is important to drill down into the circumstances of the S marked prohibition as soon as you receive notification of its issue. Getting a clear and accurate picture of what caused the prohibition to be issued allows you to take proactive steps to ensure remedial action is taken before DVSA arrive to inspect which can stand you in good stead.

HGV brake testing – how often? Are road tests acceptable?

HGV brake testing should be one of the most crucial components in your preventative maintenance systems. EVERY safety inspection must assess the braking performance of the vehicle or trailer. It is strongly advised that a calibrated roller brake tester is used at each safety inspection to measure individual brake performance and overall braking efficiencies.

It is also acceptable to use an approved and calibrated decelerometer to test vehicles without trailers to measure overall brake efficiency values.

Road tests are permitted – however if this is the only method of brake testing, it will be deemed inadequate. It is normally expected that a vehicle should complete at least three successful brake efficiency tests spread throughout the year in addition to the annual MOT test.

Guidance was issued by the DVSA in April 2016 which you can read here.

How long should a daily walk around check last? Is there any minimum time limit?

There is no legal minimum period; however, we would suggest taking between 5 and 10 minutes to carry out a comprehensive check. Some companies adopt policies that drivers’ must take 15 minutes but there is no legal requirement for this specific period.

Remember to insert your tachograph prior to carrying out your daily walk around check and set the mode switch to “cross hammers” to record the activity of other work as this is a legal requirement.

Some operators can have doubts over the effectiveness of a driver’s daily check. This can result in ‘driver discoverable’ defects being picked up during safety inspections. Contact us today for some free advice on how to address these issues.

Here is some guidance on what your daily walk around check should include.

• Tachographs

How often must a digital tachograph be checked and calibrated?

Unlike analogue tachographs where the tachograph head is checked every two years and re-calibrated every six years, digital tachographs must be fully re-calibrated:

  • every two years
  • after any significant repair (particularly involving gearbox)
  • if the vehicle registration number has changed
  • if there has been a change in tyre circumference

Can I still drive if I have lost my digital card?

If you have lost your digital card, you can continue to drive for a maximum of 15 days from the date it was lost.

You must apply for a replacement as soon as possible and in any event, within 7 days.

Whilst awaiting your replacement card, you must take a printout at the start and end of each duty period. You should write your name and driving licence number on the back of the print. These must be retained in your records for 28 days so they can be produced if stopped at the roadside.

It is vital that these printouts are handed into management and matched up to the vehicle mileage report as the VU tachograph will show unaccounted distance which would require explanation.

How much does it cost to apply for a replacement digital card?

If your card has been lost, stolen or damaged, you can request a new one from the DVLA. You must re-complete the initial form which you can download from our VOSA Documents section. The cost of a replacement card is £19.

• Public Inquiries

Can I appeal a decision against me?

You can appeal against a decision made by the Traffic Commissioner to the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber.

You need to complete a “Notice of Appeal” within one month of receiving the Traffic Commissioner’s written decision.

It is advisable to get some advice on the decision that you intend to appeal – get in touch with us where we can connect you with a highly experienced specialist solicitor.

What happens at a Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry?

What is a Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry?

A Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry is a serious and potentially business-ending event that must be dealt with properly.

In order to get to the stage where a Public Inquiry is required, something has to have gone seriously wrong in your company’s compliance procedures.

Most commonly, operators are called to Public Inquiry under section 26 of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995. This permits action to be taken against a licence for a failure to meet the requirements of holding a licence. This can include:

  • Matters affecting repute
  • Matters affecting financial standing
  • Changes to the name and/or legal form of the company
  • Changes to the type of authorisation, e.g. number of vehicles, where they are stored, etc.

Where will the Public Inquiry be held?

Generally, a Public Inquiry will be held at the Transport regulation unit Office in Belfast.

A Public Inquiry will be held in a hearing room, similar to a Magistrate’s court. The Traffic Commissioner and their clerk will be present – and as the name may give away, these hearings are open to the public to attend. If you have a forthcoming Public Inquiry, it would be beneficial to attend one to get an idea of the format and what to expect. You can check all upcoming Public Inquiries in the weekly release of the Applications & Decisions.

What happens at a Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry?

Operators will be expected to discuss their business and transport needs in detail to demonstrate how they are presently achieving compliance.

The operator will be invited to present their case first. This is where legal representation can be extremely beneficial in ensuring you get your message across. LM Transport Consultant can connect you with a highly experienced transport solicitor who will help plan your response and support you on the day. Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiries are nuanced legal hearings and it pays to recruit a specialist solicitor who works on these cases every week.

If you have been subject to a roadside stop or subsequent investigation, the DVA examiner may be present to give evidence and explain their report. The Traffic Commissioner will then ask questions and cross-examine all parties.

There will be a short adjournment and normally, your case will be decided on the day. For more complicated hearings involving many issues or multiple operators, the Public Inquiry may extend over a few days and the Traffic Commissioner may wish to communicate their decision in writing.

What are the possible outcomes at a Public Inquiry?

The Traffic Commissioner has a variety of options available when deciding how to dispose of cases:

  • No further action
  • Formal warning
  • Curtailment – reduction in number of vehicles operated
  • Suspension – licence suspended for period of time
  • Revocation of licence
  • Disqualification from reapplying for period of time or in severe cases, indefinitely

Operators often ask whether the Traffic Commissioner can impose fines on operators at Public Inquiry. This is not possible explicitly – however the above measures impose an indirect financial penalty on operators by restricting their ability to earn or forcing them to use third party transport.

What can I do to improve my chances of avoiding action at a Public Inquiry?

The best course of action in our experience is to carry out a full and exhaustive investigation of why the non-compliance event happened. To do this, you may consider having an operator licence compliance audit carried out by LM Transport Consultant.

This audit would provide full transparency into your operation and would outline the steps required to achieve compliance.

As referenced above, a specialist transport solicitor will also help to guide you through the Public Inquiry and prepare the best possible case. The most important thing is to demonstrate on the day of your Public Inquiry is your improvement since your non-compliance event. The Traffic Commissioner must be satisfied that they can trust you to operate in their jurisdiction

• Driver CPC Training

Can I check how many Driver CPC Hours i have online?

In NI this is still not possible but you can email with your name and licence number and they will email you back with your information.

I’ve got a National/International CPC – do I still require periodic training?

Yes. National or International CPC’s are separate qualifications and if you hold either of these and still drive professionally as part of your job, you will also need to complete 35 hours of periodic training.

What should I do if I have lost my CPC card? Can I still drive?

You should contact the DVA if your Qualfication Card has been lost, stolen or damaged. If stopped by DVA or the Police, you can be fined £50 if you’re unable to produce your card.

There will be a £25 fee for the replacement. You can still drive professionally while waiting for your replacement card to arrive so long as you have paid the fee.

I hold PCV and LGV licences – do I need to complete two sets of periodic training?

You only need to complete one set of periodic training every five years.

Once I have completed 35 hours of periodic training, is that it?

No – your Driver Qualification Card (DQC) lasts for five years. To retain your qualification, you will need to complete 35 hours of periodic training every five years to continue to drive professionally.

Am I exempt from the training?

Any drivers of lorries over 3.5 tonnes and minibuses with nine seats or more must obtain the Driver CPC qualification. There are a few exempt groups, however:

  • Drivers under the control of the armed forces, civil defence, the fire service and forces responsible for maintaining public order
  • Drivers of vehicles used for non-commercial carriage of passengers or goods for personal use
  • Incidental drivers – those whose who carrying material or equipment to be used in the course of his/her work, provided that driving the vehicle is not the main activity, e.g. a bricklayer carrying bricks to a site

You can contact us for some free advice if you feel an exemption may apply to you.

CPC Initial Qualification – What Is It?

The CPC initial qualification must be completed by new drivers since the introduction of the CPC legislation in 2008/09. This consists of four modules:

  • Theory test – a multiple-choice test followed by hazard perception clips
  • Driver CPC case study – 50 multiple-choice questions
  • Practical driving test
  • Driver CPC practical test – a demonstration covering 5 sections relating to vehicle safety

We have heard from many drivers who were never advised by their training company that they required the initial qualification. Failure to complete this means that you do not have a valid licence and could be prosecuted for driving a vehicle without the appropriate entitlement.

Once you have completed your initial qualification, you will have five years from the date of completion to attain 35 hours of periodic training in order to retain your Driver CPC.

As of March 2015, drivers who have not yet acquired their Driver Qualification Card can bypass periodic training by sitting module 2 and 4. More information can be found here.

What were ‘acquired rights’?

“Acquired rights” ended for PSV and LGV drivers on 10th September 2013 and 10th September 2014 respectively. Previously, you could have the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) through ‘acquired rights’ if you were already a professional lorry, bus or coach driver – provided that you held your licence prior to 10th September 2008 and 10th September 2009 respectively. This meant that because you had already been working as a lorry or bus driver, your experience counted as the same as taking the Driver CPC initial qualification. However, you were still expected to complete 35 hours of periodic training to retain your driving entitlement.

What is Driver CPC?

Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) is a qualification introduced for all professional bus, coach and lorry drivers. It has been introduced to help maintain and increase driving standards and road safety.

Banking CPC hours – is this allowed?

It is not possible to bank CPC hours beyond your current 5-year period. For example, if you have a card that expires in September 2019 but have completed 35 hours by September 2017, you won’t be able to start your next cycle of training until after the expiry date.