What happens at a Public Inquiry?

It should go without saying that the operator licence holder should be on time for the Public Inquiry in fact being early does nobody any harm, you may be ask to show some ID before being granted access to the area were the public inquiry is to take place such as a current valid passport, so have some with you & those you wish to attended also. The Traffic Commissioner’s clerk will come and speak to you at some point and take your details, & ask for documentation such as financial records, to show that the operator has the required financial standing in relation to the operator licence held, this is a statutory requirement at every Public Inquiry.

When the inquiry starts the Traffic Commissioner clerk will read out a formal statement which includes those who should be attending & the reason for the public inquiry being called. Then the Traffic Commissioner will confirm all are present & there role in the proceedings at which part the Public Inquiry has formal commence.

The operator licence holder or their representation (if they have given instruction to a suitable party) will have the opportunity to address the Traffic Commissioner, making the Traffic Commissioner aware of any evidence that is felt is important to bring to the Traffic Commissioner attention. Then depending on the reason for the public inquiry being called for as the examples shown below;

A public inquiry that has been called to determine an operator’s licence application or a variation to a current operator licence, the Traffic Commissioner will consider evidence from the applicant and if required any valid opposition to the application.

Public Inquiry reviewing an operating centre application (Goods Vehicle Only) the traffic commissioner will consider evidence from the operator and any valid complainants from parties which have objected to the use of a property for any operating centre.

In regulatory cases the traffic commissioner will consider evidence from the operator and usually evidence provided by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (incorporating VOSA and the DSA) In some cases Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (incorporating VOSA and the DSA) may have witnesses who are police officers or from other regulatory bodies. The Traffic Commissioner may in any Public Inquiry also hear from additional witnesses they feel are necessary &, if the Traffic Commissioner considers it appropriate, may be assisted by a financial assessor.

Once the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (incorporating VOSA and the DVSA) or other interest parties have presented their evidence. The Operator Licence Holder or their representative are allowed the opportunity to cross examine those parties & question the evidence that has been presented against the operator licence holder, The Traffic Commissioner will then also have the chance to question those parties & their evidence. Once this process has been completed, it is the operator licence holders turn to present their evidence.

At public inquiry the evidence presented by the operator licence holder is mainly in the form of documentation, but also verbal evidence from the licence holder themselves, which is a good, as it can show that the operator is aware of their obligations in relation to the operator licence regime, (it is important that the operator is aware of their obligations before going to PI, therefore preparation like so many things is key). Also witnesses can be called examples of which are transport consultant who has been ask to help with the creating systems of work for compliance or they may have done a compliance audit for the operator to show if there was any areas of weakness in the system of work used for compliance by the operator & how those weakness have been address. Again The Traffic Commissioner may wish to question those parties & their evidence, presented on behalf of the operator licence holder.

Once all parties have presented their evidence to the Traffic Commissioner, & the Traffic Commissioner is satisfied with the questions that he/she may have ask. The operator licence holder or their representative is invited to give a closing statement. This will normally involve a summary of the evidence and legal argument, even a straight forward looking public inquiry can become a complex matter, & therefore the legalities & fine details of your case are important. Therefore the operator licence holder & their representative need to be prepared. If nothing else common sense should tell all that the last part of any process or meeting is remembered more than the start. Therefore the closing submission if done by an operator on their own or by their representative is very important to get your side across in a positive & professional manner.

Then as previously stated The Traffic Commissioner is the party who makes the final decision, & the decision is in most cases given on the day to the operator licence holder, the Traffic Commissioner may also inform the operator licence holder in writing. (The operator licence holder, transport manager, must not have to wait for the decision no longer than 28 days) Either way the decision is based on legal powers given to a Traffic Commissioner under a number of acts shown previously & below.

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act1995 (the Act), the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995, the Road Transport Operator Regulations 2011. Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, The Transport Act 1985, The Public Service Vehicles (Operators’ Licences) Regulations 1995 & The Road Transport Operator Regulations 2011.

Next Steps

We have only provided a basic informal guide in relation to the Public Inquiry process, but if after reading this information, you still have questions or other issues you would like to discuss, then please use the links shown below, or contact information above, so that we can help you further.

From our experience, questions will typically fall into two categories:

1: You are an Operator Licence Holder (or are currently applying for an Operator’s Licence) and have received call up papers for a public inquiry & are looking for some more formal advice; If so Click Here.

2: You are a suitably Qualified Transport Manager who has read the information on this website and are now worried that you may need assistance with issues pertaining to your role as the nominated transport manager or with compliance itself, or have received call up papers for a transport manager public inquiry, & are looking for some more formal advice if so, Click Here.

This Guide Has Been Produced As a Basic Guide To The Public Inquiry Process & Therefore Cannot Be Considered As Legal Advice.