We are well aware of the distinction between the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) and the DVSA. However, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 and the relevant statutory instruments from which the Code derives, expressly relates to both institutions and, in the constraints of a short article, we have approached both in the way that we have to seek brevity.
Further, to make one point clear at the outset; I am not saying that the OTC does not do a phenomenal amount of work both in its role as regulator and in seeking to communicate with the sectors it regulates. In many ways, it is in touch with those it regulates and approachable.
The OTC acknowledges, however, that they have finite resources. This is definitely correct and, indeed, a straightforward comparison with other transport regulators immediately reveals a huge disparity between the funds the Traffic Commissioners have to work with, and those available to, for example, the Office of Rail and Road. This is even more stark when you consider comparatively how many more passengers and tonnes of goods are carried by PSV and goods vehicles, as compared with rail, and how much larger it is as a proportion of the economy.
Notwithstanding this, Traffic Commissioners are obligated to comply with the Code. We are sure that they will accept that the road transport sector is entitled to the same quality of clear, straightforward, industry-focused advice from its regulator as any other regulated sector.
Additionally, we recognise that the guidance published by the Senior Traffic Commissioner is required – as it is a statutory document – to be legalistic. The crux of our point is that leaving statutory documents to stand on their own (focused as they are on Traffic Commissioners and not the industry) without practical guidance on how Traffic Commissioners would like to see the requirements implemented does not go very far towards the regulators’ obligations to produce clear, accessible compliance advice.
Finally, this piece is not advocating micro-regulation of the road transport sectors by infinite volumes of guidance, which would not be welcome by any party. However, there are some obvious holes in the guidance that has been issued, some of which the responsibility lies with the DVSA (eg the absence of any guidance regarding proper arrangements for managing compliance with EU and domestic drivers’ hours rules, similar to the ‘Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness’). This lack of guidance has led to some of the largest, as well as some of the smallest, operators to fall foul of their obligations at public inquiry.
We would reiterate here at the last, that we recognise the finite resource at the disposal of the Traffic Commissioners and the DVSA, and if this article assists those institutions in obtaining more funding from the government to perform their function, then so much the better.
James Backhouse, partner, Backhouse Jones
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