DVSA chief labels traffic commissioners “anachronistic”

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The outgoing head of the DVSA, Gareth Llewellyn, has called for traffic commissioners to be scrapped and HGV inspections to be overhauled.

Speaking to MPs on the Transport Select Committee yesterday (Wednesday, November 25), Llewellyn said the DVSA could save “millions of pounds” if instead it was given the responsibility held by traffic commissioners.

They are responsible for the licensing and regulation of those who operate HGVs, buses and coaches, and the registration of local bus services.

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

Llewellyn explained: “I’m firmly of the view that we don’t need the traffic commissioners anymore. They’re 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.”

"Traffic commissioners supported industry to keep goods and services flowing, to keep the country running, unlike DVSA," David Wells, Logistics UK

Llewellyn says the savings wouldn’t necessarily come in terms of people, but in terms of simplifying systems and removing “unnecessary estate”.

David Wells, chief executive of Logistics UK, however, hit back. “To say the traffic commissioner service is anachronistic and the haulage industry does not need its support totally ignores the huge benefits in safety and compliance which the service provides to the sector,” he said.

“During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the traffic commissioners supported industry to keep goods and services flowing to keep the country running, unlike DVSA, which closed down all its services and only reacted to the urgent needs of operators when pushed by industry. 

“The traffic commissioners kept their doors open to assist the work of our members throughout 2020 – a modern and forward-thinking approach, and not one rooted in the 20th century, as Mr Llewellyn claimed.”

Annual HGV test overhaul

Llewellyn also called for an overhaul of HGV inspections, telling MPs that road safety could be better improved by changing when vehicles were tested.

“If you have an HGV that is one or two years’ old, the likelihood is it will fail the test is around 3% of the fleet. If you have a vehicle that is 12 years’ old, 33% of those fail every year," he said.

“My suggestion would be is we don’t ask owners of vehicles that are one or two years’ old to come in for an annual test. We leave them on the road, because they don’t pose a significant road safety risk.

“But, for those that are 12 years’ old or more, we should test them many more times – two times a year or four times a year – because that’s where the road safety benefit is.”

The Transport Select Committee session with Llewellyn was the first in a series of accountability hearings with the agencies of the Department for Transport.     

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