Transport Investigations Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Who are the DVSA?

The DVSA are the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. They effectively replace the old VOSA (Vehicle & Operating Standards Agency). They are responsible for setting, testing and enforcing driver and vehicle standards in the UK.



2. Do I need an Operator’s Licence?

If you are looking to transport goods (i.e. not passengers), you will need a goods vehicles operator’s licence if you are operating vehicles with a Gross Plated Weight in excess of 3.5 tonnes or (where there is no plated weight) an unladen weight of 1,525 kg where that vehicle is being used to transport goods in connection with a business or for hire or reward.

If you are looking to transport passengers, you will need a public service vehicle (PSV) licence



3. What type of Operator’s Licence do I need? An HGV License? Or a PSV License?

If you are transporting goods, you will need a heavy goods vehicle operator’s licence (HGV License). If you are transporting passengers, you will need a public service vehicle licence (PSV license). There are different types of licence available in each category:


HGV Licences (Heavy Goods Vehicle )

There are 3 types of HGV licence; Restricted, Standard National or Standard International.

  • Restricted Licence
    You only need a restricted licence if you are looking to carry your own goods in the connection with your own business on the road. A restricted licence enables you to carry your own goods in both Great Britain and abroad.
  • Standard National Licence
    You need a standard licence to carry your own goods on your own account but also enables you to carry other people’s goods for hire or rewar (e.g. where you are receiving money for transporting other people’s goods and produce). With a Standard National license, you will be able to carry your own goods internationally but not other people’s goods; these can only be carried within the UK.
  • Standard International Licence
    A standard international licence is similar to a Standard National License but also enables you to carry your own goods as well as goods for other people for hire or reward both in Great Britain and abroad.


PSV Licences (Public Service Vehicle)

There are 4 types of PSV licence; restricted license, special restricted license, standard license – national only and standard license – national and international.

  • Restricted Licence
    You will only need a restricted licence where you operate 1 or 2 vehicles and neither are able to carry more than 8 passengers. It is possible for one of the vehicles to carry 16 passengers if it is not being used as part of a passenger transport business, or if the vehicle is being used as a sideline rather than the main job of the operator.
  • Standard Licence – National Only
    This is the most common type of licence where you are simply carrying passengers in Great Britain only.
  • Standard Licence – National and International
    You will also need the licence to permit international travel where you are transporting passengers abroad as well as within Great Britain.
  • Special Restricted Licence
    This is a special licence which is used to operate licensed taxis on local services.



4. Information on Applying for an HGV Operating License

Operators looking to apply for an HGV Licence should complete a form GV79. This form will include questions and details of the following;

  • Who will be the operator? Will it be a Ltd Company or in the name of Individual(s)? (You must remember that the Licence will be granted in this name so you can’t change it later without making a new application).
  • Who will the Transport Manager be? (if required for the type of licence applied for);
  • Where will the business operate from? a.k.a. The Operating Centre – You will need to show that it will be the appropriate size and location and where the land is not owned by you, you will need to show that you have permission to park there;
  • Financial Standing – you will need to send bank statements (or other evidence) to show that you have sufficient funds to maintain the operation;
  • Maintenance Requirements – you will need to show you have the capacity to maintain the vehicles in-house or via a maintenance contract with an external business.



5. What is a Transport Manager?

In order to be a Transport Manager for the purposes of an Operator’s Licence, an individual will need to hold the appropriate qualifications. An operator themselves can be a Transport Manager (so long as they hold the relevant qualification) or you can employ an internal Transport Manager or employ an External Transport Manager on a part time basis. Whichever type of Transport Manager you have, they must have the appropriate qualifications, be of good repute and be available to undertake the requisite number of hours needed to oversee your Operation.



6. What is the role of a Transport Manager?

A transport manager for the purposes of the Regulatory Framework is different from a transport manager in a general sense. A transport manager for a HGV or PSV operation must hold the relevant qualifications and they effectively ensure that an operator is running safely and compliantly. They can be either internal (e.g. employed by the contractor) or external. Whichever type of transport manager you use, they must be able to demonstrate that they can effectively and continuously manage the transport activities of the operator.



7. Do I need a Transport Manager?

You will need a Transport Manager where you hold a Standard Operator’s Licence (either for goods vehicles or PSVs). You do have to have a Transport Manager if you are only running a restricted licence. However, with any type of licence, it is essential that the Operator understand the Regulatory Framework so they can understand their obligations under the Licence. So in circumstances where no Transport Manager is needed, it will be no defence for an Operator to say they did not understand the law in respect of their duties under their Licence. Conversely, it will be no defence for an Operator to say they left compliance with the Regulatory Framework solely to their Transport Manager.


8. What is a Public Inquiry?

Why have I been called? Should I be worried? What will be the outcome?

This is a formal hearing held by a Traffic Commissioner. They can be called for a variety of reasons. For example, they may be called if there has been an application for a new Operators Licence and the Traffic Commissioner has concerns which they wish to address. Alternatively, they can be called in respect of a review of Operating Centre. They are also called for regulatory reasons where the Traffic Commissioner is considering taking action because of shortfalls in respect of an existing Operator.

If a Public Inquiry is called, you should take this very seriously as the action which may be taken could lead to either a Operators Licence being refused (where you are making a new application) or revoked. In many cases, this would be terminal to any transport business and therefore you should consider representation to ensure your case is put forward properly and professionally.

The outcome of a Public Inquiry depends on what happens throughout the hearing itself. If things go well, the Traffic Commissioner will grant any application made by the Operator or take no action in respect of any alleged shortcomings in respect of the Operation. Alternatively, the Traffic Commissioner can:

  • Refuse your application for a Licence;
  • Grant the application on a lesser basis (e.g. for fewer vehicles than had been applied for);
  • Attach conditions to a Licence;
  • Refuse to vary a Licence;
  • End or Suspend an existing Licence;
  • Curtail an existing Licence (e.g. reduce the number of vehicles you are allowed to run);
  • Disqualify an individual or business from holding a Licence;
  • Disqualify Transport Managers.

For more information on Public Inquiries, read our dedicated Public Inquiry Guidance.



9. What is a Driver Conduct Hearing?

This is a hearing before the Traffic Commissioner and usually takes place where the driver has been convicted of a motoring offence or other offence which is so serious that the Traffic Commissioner does not think the driver is fit to hold a vocational licence.



10. I have been called to appear before a Traffic Commissioner as an Operator, what action can they take against me?

Once a Public Inquiry has been convened and the Traffic Commissioner has heard all the evidence and representations from the relevant parties, they can decide to take no action, issue a warning, curtail your licence, revoke your licence or refuse to allow your application for an Operator’s Licence. It is also open for the Traffic Commissioner to find that an individual has lost their repute meaning they will be unable to apply for an Operator’s Licence on behalf of a separate business.



11. Can the Traffic Commissioner issue a fine?

No, the Traffic Commissioner cannot fine an Operator, Transport Manager or driver (if called to a driver conduct hearing). There powers only extend to regulatory action against the Operator’s Licence, the repute of the Operator or Transport Manager and vocational licence of a driver.



12. We have decided to change our business from a partnership to a Ltd Company, are we allowed to use the Operator’s Licence in the name of our partnership to Operate from the business?

No, you must obtain a new Operator’s Licence in the name of the Ltd Company before operating from your new company. You should ensure that you obtain a new licence before handing in your old licence. If you attempt to use the Operator’s Licence in the name of the partnership, you will in effect be operating without a licence which is a criminal offence for which you could be taken to Court. It is likely that your would also be called to attend a Public Inquiry and there is a risk that you could lose your original licence as well as being refused a licence in the name of the Ltd company.



13. Can a Traffic Commissioner disqualify me from driving completely?

The Traffic Commissioner has no power to take away a standard driving licence. If a driver is called to a conduct hearing, the Traffic Commissioner can remove their vocational licence either by way of a suspension or disqualification.



14. What are the consequences/penalties of a tachograph offence?

Failing to adhere to driver hours legislation can lead to substantial fines being imposed against both the business and driver involved. Allegations involving the falsification of tachograph data can even lead to a prison sentence being imposed. Offences are dealt with in either the Magistrates or Crown Courts. Operators Licence Holders and drivers are required to notify the Traffic Commissioner of any convictions of this nature and could face further action from the Traffic Commissioner.



15. Ask another question

Do you have another question relating to transport investigations that hasn’t been covered in our guide? Feel free to ask Richard Nelson LLP’s transport investigation solicitors and we’ll endeavour to get back in touch with you as soon as possible.

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If you’re facing a Transport Investigation and require representation and more advice, feel free to contact our Transport Solicitors for an initial free consultation.  

Transport Solicitors


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