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Future of traffic commissioners under spotlight as DfT launches review

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a review into the future of the country’s traffic commissioners.

The eight traffic commissioners have responsibility in their region or county for the licensing and regulation of those who operate heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches, and the registration of local bus services.

They are assisted in this work by 11 deputy traffic commissioners, who preside over a number of public inquiries.

The DfT explained that the review will consider whether the current role, delivery model, governance and funding arrangements are fit for the future, as well as current issues faced by the traffic commissioner function, such as the impact of the pandemic and increased workload.

Transport minister, Baroness Vere, said: “Traffic commissioners play a key role in road safety, including helping ensure that people who operate HGVs and coaches are reputable, that there is fair competition between operators and that public inquiry proceedings are fair. 

“I want to ensure that this important function is as effective as possible, which is why I have launched a thorough review and encourage anyone with an interest to have their say.”

The review comes after the outgoing head of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Gareth Llewellyn, called for traffic commissioners to be scrapped and HGV inspections to be overhauled

Speaking to MPs on the Transport Select Committee last autumn, Llewellyn said the DVSA could save “millions of pounds” if instead it was given the responsibility held by traffic commissioners.

He told the committee that the traffic commissioners were not needed anymore and labelled them “anachronistic”.

“They were probably ok in the 1950s when majors sat in the seat and pronounced over road safety, but the reality is we have a really good track record of enforcement through the courts and tribunal service, and I think we should be doing that for operators as well, which will save millions and millions of pounds,” he said.

Publishing the traffic commissioners annual report yesterday (Tuesday, August 10), senior traffic commissioner Richard Turfitt said it identified some of the key achievements during a “very difficult” year for the transport industry. 

“Traffic commissioners take responsibility for effective licensing and regulation of the commercial vehicle industries, but the success of any public service relies on the energy and willingness of those at the frontline,” he continued.

“People are at the heart of the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) and the delivery of quality services to our stakeholders; it remains the mission of everyone in OTC to promote safe, fair, efficient, and reliable passenger and goods transport.

“It is right to record the exceptional efforts made during the last year.”

Anyone with an interest in the role of traffic commissioners, such as industry, local authorities, trade organisations and passenger groups are encouraged to respond to the consultation, which can be found here

The recommendations of the review are expected to be published next spring.

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  • Edward Handley - 11/08/2021 21:32

    Gareth Llewelleyn was right out of order with his attack on the Traffic Commissioners. I don't think it was anything to do with saving money for operators or the industry, it was an attempt at a power grab. The independance of the Commissioners is vital and the idea that DVSA should be the enforcement body and have the power to pronounce judgement on operators is an apalling idea. Judge, jury and executioner all in the hands of career civil servants with little or no understanding of how the industry works? Please, no! The Commissioners are mainly drawn from a legal background and they are there to ensure fairness as well as to eject bad operators from the industry, and they have done a very good job over many years. Gareth Llewellyn, and his predecessors, are career civil servants and CEOs dropped in to manage the organisation and to do the bidding of their political masters and most of them have come in with little understanding or sympathy for the industry. Llewellyn came in from Network Rail, Bernard Herdan went to the Passport Agency - my case rests!

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