Business Law: Transport operators face a bumpy ride, says Jonathan Ripman of Gotelee Solicitors

THE latest Traffic Commissioner’s report notes comments on a significant increase in the number of new applications for an operator’s licence which were opposed by local residents and councils.

This suggests an increased awareness of the rights of local residents, individuals and statutory bodies to oppose applications. There is a real need for applicants entering the industry to give very careful consideration to their operating centre proposals before making an application.

There is a stark comparison between the local response to operating centres used by different haulage companies. For example, those based on the Felixstowe port industrial estates and business parks rarely receive complaints from residents, whereas operating centres situated in the lovely Suffolk countryside are far more sensitive and attract the wrath of local residents who are well aware of their legal rights.

Inevitably, if there are objections, there will be a public Inquiry. These can be difficult and emotional hearings, usually conducted in a village hall or school close to the location of the proposed operating centre. These venues are often not best suited to public hearings and I can recall sitting, as the solicitor for an applicant, just feet away from objectors very bitter about the operator’s application.

The conditions that a Traffic Commissioner can attach to an operators licence may include restrictions on:

: : The number, type and size of motor vehicles or trailers which may operated from the proposed site;

: : How or where the vehicles are to be parked;

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: : Plans of operation and the hours of use (no movements in or out between, say, 8pm and 6am Monday to Friday or after 1pm on Saturdays and before 6am on Mondays);

: : Vehicle speeds, or a stipulation that vehicles may only enter and leave the operating centre in forward gear and turning left or right out of the operating centre.

Besides owners or occupiers of nearby land, groups and individuals such as trade unions and associations, local authorities, planning authorities and chief police officers are also entitled to make objections.

Sometimes difficulties finding a suitable venue for the public inquiry can mean that the haulage company simply cannot start operating, because the grant of the operators licence is delayed by the requirement for the Traffic Commissioner to consider the environmental and general suitability of the operating centre.

In short, if you are thinking of applying for an operators licence, then you will need legal advice.

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