New legislation on Transport Operator Licences - what it means for you

DWF’s Senior Solicitor in the Transport and Logistics Group, Vikki Woodfine discusses the biggest shakeup to hit the operator licensing system in many years and what transport companies should be doing and should expect. 

On 4 December 2011 new rules were announced in relation to transport operator licences.  The numerous changes include increased flexibility on financial standing, new rules for Transport Managers, changes to CPC requirements and qualification by grandfather rights.  Whilst every vehicle operator will not be necessarily affected, all operators need to be aware of the changes that are coming. 

To avoid the problem of professionally qualified Transport Managers spreading themselves too thinly and being nominated on numerous operator licences, the new rules state that the Transport Manager cannot be employed by more than four vehicle operators with a total fleet of no more than fifty vehicles.  Transport Managers will also be liable for direct action being taken against them by Traffic Commissioners, whereas previously they could only be called before a Public Inquiry along with an operator.  Traffic Commissioners can still remove a Transport Manager’s repute but could also order training or re-training.  

In relation to financial standing, it appears that finally we have the much needed increased flexibility, given the state of the country’s economy at present, and the profit margin that many operators are working to.  The Government has indicated that it will allow financial guarantees to be sufficient evidence of financial standing however; more guidance on this is awaited though.  

A further change that Transport Managers have to be aware of is that from 4 December 2011 they must have an International CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) even if they are only working with an operator holding a Standard National Licence.  This applies to all new candidates undertaking CPC examinations.  Effectively, the National-only CPC is abolished.  However, National CPC holders issued pre-4 December 2011 will still have a valid certificate, and they can still upgrade to an International CPC by just passing an additional international module if they wish.  Therefore, from the 4 December 2011, all standard National Licence holders must have a Transport Manager with either the new International CPC or a National CPC gained prior to 4 December 2011 or an exempting qualification gained prior to 4 December 2011.  Those already nominated on operator licences with grandfather rights giving them professional competence will maintain these rights however, where somebody with grandfather rights is not currently nominated on an operator licence they will need to follow a process to maintain these rights prior to December 2013.

Anybody that is part-qualified for the Operator CPC who missed the last examination date of 2 December 2011 would have to start all over again.  Making matters worst, the new course would be longer and more expensive.  Given how notoriously difficult this course is to pass, businesses should also plan for the worst when looking at time scales as re-sits for those who fail the National Exam will not be available in 2012.  Therefore, our advice would be, to any operators putting employees through the Operator CPC or for any partially qualified Transport Managers, is to act sooner rather than later.  There are a number of further changes to operator licences coming but, those stated are the key ones which all operators must be aware of.

All these changes will not be the only changes operators come up against, as new Traffic Commissioners are popping up across the country.  New Traffic Commissioners are to be recruited for the South Eastern region and for the North Eastern Region following the retirement of Phillip Brown and Tom Macartney.  The Traffic Commissioner for the North West, Beverley Bell, is currently acting as the Deputy Senior Traffic Commissioner pending the appointment of the next Senior Traffic Commissioner (which was previously Philip Brown). With Beverley Bell’s statistics showing that she continues to have more Public Inquiries that any of her colleagues, operators in the North West must pay close attention to transport compliance to ensure that they avoid meeting their Traffic Commissioner in the wrong circumstances. 

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Vikki Woodfine, Senior Solicitor on 0161 603 5060 or

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Vikki Woodfine

Partner - Head of Road Haulage & Logistics

Best known as the “Lorry Lawyer” I am also Head of the Road Haulage & Logistics group at DWF and specialise in health and safety defence work and road transport law.