COVID-19 and the SeniorTraffic Commissioner's Temporary Guidance

In view of the current uncertainty surrounding Covid19, we are keeping in regular contact with our clients, to offer practical guidance on responding to the situation. 

The DVSA has emailed the industry highlighting the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) initiative to match operators with capacity to assist, with those organisations with an increased need for haulage services, e.g. the NHS, PPE distributors and supermarkets.  Details of how to register for the CILT scheme can be found at: https://ciltuk.org.uk/covidresponse.   

Where additional work is obtained through this initiative, it will remain the responsibility of the operator to ensure that they are able to carry out the work and that they are comfortable that they will be remunerated for it. 

The obligation to maintain vehicles and ensure financial standing will continue to apply to all operators and licence holders, but the Senior Traffic Commissioner has responded to this crisis and has issued temporary guidance which is being updated regularly as the situation evolves.  The most recent update was released on the evening of 01 April 2020 and can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/advice-heavy-goods-and-public-service-vehicle-operators-covid-19?utm_source=4ac2bd97-88ea-42a5-94b9-496f090ca31f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

This guidance can be summarised as follows:

  • An operator of HGV or PSV vehicles can only operate more vehicles than authorised if a temporary extension has been granted by the Traffic Commissioner.  Our team can assist in drafting these requests.
  • Whilst the obligation to maintain financial standing remains, an operator who cannot meet their obligations but wants to continue operating can ask the Traffic Commissioner for a period of grace.  This applies to standard licence holders only.
  • There is no power to grant a period of grace to a holder of an existing restricted licence.  However, the Senior Traffic Commissioner suggests offering an undertaking to the traffic commissioner to provide financial evidence at a later date.
  • It is recognised that access to operating centres may not be possible at this time.  If that is the case, an application should be made to the Traffic Commissioner for a period of grace to operate from an alternative site.  This applies to standard licence holders only.
  • There is no provision for restricted licence holders to request this period of grace, but should notify the Traffic Commissioner for direction as to how to proceed.
  • An operator needing to operate more vehicles from their operating centre than currently authorised must make an application for a grant of variation to the Traffic Commissioner.  The number of vehicles used must remain within the operator’s overall authorisation.
  • If an operator (either a standard licence holder or restricted licence holder involved in essential transport services) is unable to commit to maintaining their vehicles in line with undertakings previously given, they should continue to maintain their vehicles and ensure that these are in a safe condition.  In limited circumstances, PMI’s can be extended by 50% to a maximum of 17 weeks, taking account of any defects previously reported.  In these circumstances, records should be kept of workshop unavailability and be ready for production on request.
  • Restricted licence holders who do not operate “essential services” should continue to implement their PMIs as stated on their application to the Traffic Commissioner.
  • Vehicles which are not being used during this period may be subject to a frozen PMI schedule but no vehicle will be put to use if more than 17 weeks have passed since the last PMI inspection.  During any frozen PMI schedule, enhanced walk around checks should be undertaken and brake road tests.
  • Transport managers who need to self-isolate, work from home or are furloughed, must give consideration to how this may impact their professional competence.  Those transport managers working from home should consider submitting a proposal to the Traffic Commissioner, outlining how they will fulfil their role from home and keep records of how they have done so.  These records may be inspected at a later date.
  • If operators or transport managers are unable to fulfil training requirements up to 30 June 2020 they should notify the Traffic Commissioner of this.
  • Operators with public inquiries or driver conduct hearings in the near future should contact the traffic commissioner to see whether these will be adjourned.   Operators and drivers should be aware that the traffic commissioner may still issue directions in the meantime.  It is understood that the Traffic Commissioners are looking at the feasibility of holding public inquiries via video facilities and one such PI has been held in this way.
  • Operators running registered bus services may be able to obtain a short notice dispensation from the Traffic Commissioner where they are unable to run their regular services, or seek to assist in the transportation of essential workers.  Should you require any assistance with this, please contact our transport team.
  • Where an operator has insufficient staff to operate a registered bus service, the guidance allows for a flexible approach to the functions of operators.  Operators should keep up to date with the latest guidance from the Traffic Commissioner as the situation develops.

Operators deemed as providing “essential services” will include those concerned with the supply of goods, transportation of waste products and public transport provision.  However the DfT have made clear that it “… considers it essential that the work of the logistics sector should continue to the greatest extent possible through the Covid-19 crisis.  Haulage drivers, managers, warehouse staff and all other logistics professionals need to continue to go about their business to keep supply chains moving, and government policy is clear that this applies to all supplies chains and not only those for food and medical supplies… At all times workers should however follow Public Health England guidelines on social distancing.”

Our clients have made us aware of the difficulties faced within the industry in the financial short term.  An operator experiencing these difficulties should monitor the situation as it develops but in the meantime, a range of measures are available.  For instance, checking whether vehicles which are not currently in use could be de-taxed and whether any employees are eligible for the government backed furloughing scheme.

In the meantime, those operators who continue to trade should keep up-to-date with the latest Public Health England guidance to protect themselves and their employees.  For instance, an operator may wish to implement enhanced cleaning regimes and if  possible  drivers should avoid sharing vehicles. 

The RHA, FTA, DVSA and Gov.UK are publishing regular updates to their advice to the industry and we would encourage all operators to check these regularly.

To discuss further, please contact Tim Culpin, Head of Transport on 01244 405533 / 07776 210621 or tim.cuplin@aaronandpartners.com.

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