Operator's Licence Public Inquiry

What is the relationship between a Public Inquiry, & an Operator’s Licence?

In understanding the relationship between an operator’s licence, & the public inquiry process, it is first useful to be aware of the regulation, & enforcement bodies, & who they are, & their basic function in relation to an operator’s licence. 

Operator’s Licence & Office of the Traffic Commissioner

The Office of the Traffic Commissioner, is the regulatory body, for the Operator Licensing Regime in the United Kingdom. It is split into a number of traffic areas, the total being eight, & are as follows; Scotland, North East, North West, Eastern, West Midlands, Wales, South Eastern and the Western traffic & Northern Ireland. (Northern Ireland is considered separate due to the way in which governing bodies are set up in relation to the Good Friday agreement).

In each traffic area there is an appointed head known as the Traffic Commissioner, plus a number of deputy Traffic Commissioners who have a legal duty to regulate all goods vehicle operators & passenger carrying vehicles (When those vehicles being operated are subject to the Operator Licence regime) within their defined traffic area. There is also a Senior Traffic Commissioner for the whole of the United Kingdom.

It is the Traffic Commissioner in each traffic area who solely has the power to grant an operator licence, along with the power to request attendance of an operator licence holder, transport manager, or both at a Public Inquiry, & impose disciplinary action(s) on those parties as mentioned, for alleged misconduct.

As a very basic rule of thumb the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, & the Traffic Commissioner(s) can be seen as a Judicatory like body & The Traffic Commissioner(s) perform a Judge like functions, by the use of a public inquiry on matters obtaining to Road Transport

Operator’s Licence & Vehicle & Driver Standards Agency (DVSA)

Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, or DVSA, is a UK wide, (apart from Northern Ireland were the Transport Regulation Unit performs the role, & functions of DVSA).

The agency provides a range of licensing, testing, and enforcement services with the aim of improving the roadworthiness standards of vehicles ensuring the compliance of operators and drivers with road traffic legislation, and supporting the independence of the Office of the Traffic Commissioner.

Again, as a rule of thumb DVSA, (The Transport Regulation Unit in Northern Ireland). Can be seen as performing a Police like function IE enforcement in connection matters effecting Road Transport regulation.

What is a Public Inquiry?

The Traffic Commissioner can convene a special legal hearing know as a Public Inquiry or PI as it is known in the transport industry, which is held in a court room like setting. The Traffic Commissioner or a Deputy Traffic Commissioner at public inquiry are considered by law to be a judicial body having the powers and procedures resembling those of a court of law. There are obligated to objectively determine facts and draw conclusions from them, so as to provide the basis of any disciplinary action taken against an operator licence holder, or parties connected with an operator licence, where it is felt that the public interest needs to be protect.

At the end of this formal judicial like process, (Public Inquiry) The Traffic Commissioner makes a decision, based on common law & the legal powers given to a Traffic Commissioner under the Operator Licensing Regime.

How Does a Public Inquiry Effect an Operator’s Licence?

The Powers of the Traffic Commissioner are far ranging & are there to remedy a situation(s) which may affect the public interest in relation to road transport. This may include the imposing legal penalties, which in turn may affect the legal rights, duties or privileges of specific parties. Please find below common examples of how a Traffic Commissioners use their legal powers when in connection with transport regulations.

  • Where a new licence or variation to a current licence is being considered, the Traffic Commissioner decides whether to grant or refuse the application or whether extra conditions should be attached to an operator’s licence, before being granted
  • In disciplinary cases, the Traffic Commissioner can decide to place extra conditions (Undertakings) on an Operator licence, a curtailment (reduce the number of vehicles an operator is authorised to use) suspend the operator’s licence for a length of time or even revoke an operator’s licence.
  • The Traffic Commissioner can if it is found that those parties connected with the operator licence held, that their professional competence, also known as fitness or along with their “good repute” has been lost. This can mean the disqualifying of the licence holders and possibility of the transport manager(s) also, if a standard operator’s licence is held. Which means the inability of the parties mention to hold an operator’s licence, or being involved in the operation of commercial vehicles in the future, were the holding of an operator’s licence is required.


Oplas Transport Consultancy offers a full Public Inquiry Service for those Operators Licence Holders, who have been called to Public Inquiry. The service includes, consultation, public inquiry preparation, & representation. For more information please contact us.

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This Website and the information shown on it, has been produced as a basic guide, to show the relationship between a CPC Holder, & the Operator Licence Regime. Therefore, it cannot be considered as formal legal advice.