Traffic Commissioners & the Ready-Mix sector

After recently delivering our MixerSURE© Ready-Mix Roles and Responsibilities course, it was interesting to see the reaction when we covered the section on the role of the Traffic Commissioner (TC).

It’s easy for me to stand up there and tell everyone about the TC’s role and what they’re responsible for, but there’s a more significant impact when it comes straight from the source.

That doesn’t mean we had the TC in attendance, but by using a recent podcast from our friends at Driving for Better Business, Sarah Bell, Traffic Commissioner for London and the South East, gives an excellent insight into what some of the common failures from operators are.

Now for obvious reasons, I’m not going to go through it here word for word, but it’s worthwhile listening for anyone involved in transport.

Some things mentioned in the interview aired in September 2022 resonated with me for several reasons, and I wanted to highlight some of them in this blog.

Firstly, the role of the TC in regulating the haulage industry and its drivers, operator licencing, safety regimes (business and drivers) and vocational licence holders driving and their approach to safety.

Secondly, the undertakings on the operator’s licence are all focused on the roadworthiness of vehicles and the drivers being safe.

How they receive reports from the Driver and Vehicle and Standards Agency (DVSA) and referrals from the Police, especially those forces with a Commercial Vehicle Unit (CVU). 

Thirdly, they also act on referrals from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA) because the TCs regime is safety focused.

For example, suppose there’s been a health and safety enforcement notice not complied with or prosecution from the EA. In that case, the TC will call in the operator, and the transport manager, to consider their good repute.

So at this point, people in the room are interested, but there’s more.

The question is then asked about the common failures at the operator level seen regularly and whether these failures are through ignorance, inexperience or lack of care – and it gets an interesting response.

Sarah Bell explains that she’s been in the role since 2007, and unfortunately, it’s the same stories, just different people.

The promises you sign up for with an operator licence that you know what you’re doing and the systems you’ll already have in place.

Easy enough – or is it?

An appeal court case is referenced, MGM Haulage and Recycling 2012/030 and an essential part as to why the licence was turned down.

“Operators, transport managers and applicants are deemed to know all the advice and guidance in the public domain.”… and as pointed out, it’s vast!

Senior Traffic Commissioner statutory documents, guide to maintaining roadworthiness, drivers hours, and everything else that goes with it.

Ignorance, at which point, there are some nervous faces in the room.

It goes further, talking about mistaking “experience for expertise” and how the “experience” can get in the way because they’re still doing things the way they’ve always been done. 

Lack of care when managing the health and safety of vehicles and their drivers is one of the things they see the most. Having a system in place that hasn’t been reviewed or fallen by the wayside because of a change in personnel is another biggy.

And the worst one of all, in the view of the Traffic Commissioner, is where the commercial need is put ahead of compliance.

So, there you have it, straight from the source.

Many ready-mix companies run on a restricted licence without needing a transport manager. Ultimately, the director/s must “know all the advice and guidance in the public domain.”

Their past experience will count for nothing, and any advice they get from a transport consultant or advisor will also come under scrutiny.

More importantly, and remember the worst of the lot, putting commercial needs ahead of compliance will definitely NOT go down well.

Some companies have different sides to their haulage operations, some with two or three named transport managers on the O licence. Still, regardless of the reason it’s done, they all have the same responsibilities.

Being able to influence and manage the transport side of a business isn’t just done in name only. 

Restricted or National licence, responsibilities stay the same; ignorance is no defence and profit over safety won’t wash.

With the recent announcement that the government is adding road policing to national policing priorities and the launch of the Road Safety Investigation Branch (RSIB), one thing’s for sure across our sector; we definitely need to up our game.

Just because “it’s the way it’s always been done” won’t help if you get invited to see the Traffic Commissioner… food for thought.


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