As consultants at Fleet Planner Compliance Solutions Ltd., we have seen common pitfalls and mistakes that operators should keep in mind when preparing for a PI. In this article, we will describe five essential tips to help companies navigate these inquiries and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Traffic Commissioners may call vehicle operators for Public Inquiries (PI) for various reasons, including disciplinary actions that can jeopardize a company’s operations.
Respond Promptly and Prepare Documents in Advance
One of the first crucial steps in preparing for a PI is to respond promptly to any letters or requests from the Traffic Commissioner. They may ask to see company documents and records in advance to prepare for the hearing. Delays in responding or failing to provide required information can put the company at a disadvantage right from the start. In some cases, companies have lost before the hearing simply because they did not submit documents on time. Therefore, it is essential to be diligent in providing all necessary documentation promptly.
Address Issues Immediately after DVSA Findings
Many companies called for a PI due to disciplinary actions have found themselves in this situation because of serious negative findings from the DVSA investigation. When the DVSA highlights shortcomings during an audit, it is crucial for the company to take immediate action to rectify the issues. Waiting until receiving the PI call can lead to further compliance problems accumulating. Some examples we have encountered include the use of unauthorized vehicles, additional prohibitions for roadworthiness, failure to notify major changes to the operator’s license, driving hours offenses, and failure to download tachograph records. Acting quickly and demonstrating meaningful improvements can significantly impact the outcome of the PI.
Seek Legal Representation Early on
Hiring legal representation is an important decision that should not be left until the last minute. Engaging a lawyer only for the day of the hearing may result in limited preparation time and may not yield the best possible outcome. The best work done by solicitors is in the preparation phase and advising the company before the hearing. Therefore, operators should decide on hiring legal representation early on to ensure they receive proper guidance and support throughout the process.
Proactively Address Responsibilities and Compliance
Operators should not wait for the Traffic Commissioner to remind them of their responsibilities. Seeking advice from consultants or transport solicitors regarding necessary actions and training is highly recommended. Completing essential tasks early on can prevent potential issues from escalating. This includes refresher training for Transport Managers and OLAT courses for other responsible staff. Undertaking an independent compliance audit and conducting driver training sessions, such as walkaround training, defect reporting, and driver’s hours regulations, are also essential steps to take. Your next step should be revision of your existing compliance systems. Is it time to invest in fleet management system or easy to use tacho analysis?
Maintain Good Repute and Honesty During the Inquiry
The Traffic Commissioner issues operator licenses based on trust. Maintaining good repute is crucial for any operator, and being fully honest during the PI is vital. Attempting to deceive the Traffic Commissioner during the hearing can severely damage the trust placed in the company when the license was granted. Loss of good repute can have serious consequences, including the inability to reapply for an operator’s license. It is essential to approach the PI with integrity and honesty to protect the company’s reputation and future.
In conclusion, Traffic Commissioner’s Public Inquiries are significant events that can impact an operator’s business. To prepare effectively and recover compliance systems to satisfy the Traffic Commissioners, operators are strongly advised to follow tips in this article. Responding promptly, addressing issues immediately, seeking early legal representation, proactively recovering compliance systems, and maintaining honesty during the inquiry are essential steps to have a chance of a successful outcome and preserve the company’s good repute. By taking these considerations seriously, operators can navigate the PI process maximising the chances of positive outcome. It needs to be said that breaches of operator licence undertakings are likely to be met with a form of disciplinary action despite best efforts of the operator to recover systems and demonstrate improvements. The commissioners need to apply the rules fairly therefore some form of disciplinary action need to be considered. The aim of the operator needs to be that the licence is not revoked but suspensions, curtailment or warnings need be considered as best outcomes. Therefore it is best to maintain healthy compliance systems which will keep the company out of traffic commissioners office altogether.