A Definition & Basic Guide to Public Inquiry Proceedings

Public Inquiry A Basic Definition

A Public Inquiry, in simple terms, is a legal hearing to determine if there has been a breach of the Operator’s Licensing Regulations. By those formally associated with an Operator’s Licence, an example of which would be an Operator’s Licence Holder or a CPC Holder acting as the nominated Transport Manager

The Office of the Traffic Commissioner convenes it; it is also known as a PI within the road transport industry. It is conducted in a formal judicial manner & tone. The Public Inquiry is held in a court room-like setting. However, it is not a “Court of Law,” i.e. a criminal court.

Public Inquiry: Basic Guide on the Proceedings of a Public Inquiry

Types of Public Inquiry 

A Public Inquiry will fall into one of two common types. The first type & the most common are those Public Inquiries conducted for regulatory reasons due to the attending parties’ failures in maintaining the regulations surrounding the operating of commercial vehicles’. There is the possibility of disciplinary action being taken against those attending a Public Inquiry.

Those attending a Public Inquiry are generally either Operator’s Licence Holder, Transport Manager or a Driver, or a combination of those mentioned.

The other Public Inquiry type; Is where a Public Inquiry is convened to decide on such matters as:

  • New Operator Licence Applications.
  • When an existing licence holder wants to make changes to their licence, this is known as a variation (Such as operating extra vehicles) to the exciting Operators Licence held.
  • A public inquiry may also convene concerning a property being proposed to become a new operating centre & there are objections to a property being used as an operating centre (Goods Vehicle Only).
  • A Public Inquiry may also be convened if there are environmental concerns relating to using an Operator’s Licence.

As with the second type of Public Inquiry, there several areas of regulation that are dealt with, but on the whole, they are more of an administrative nature. However, if the decisions (Known as undertakings) made at these types of Public Inquiry are not adhered to, then the parties obligated to adhere to such decision(s). Such as Operator’s Licence Holder, CPC Holder who has/is the nominated Transport Manager on a Standard Operators Licence. Can lead to a Public Inquiry & disciplinary action being taken.    

How Are You Notified of a Public Inquiry

The Office of the Traffic Commissioner decides to convene a Public Inquiry, then those parties due to attend, i.e. an Operator Licence Applicant or Holder. Or a CPC Holder acting as the nominated Transport Manager on a Standard Operator’s Licence.

Operator Licence Applicants or Holders. Or CPC Holders acting as the nominated Transport Manager on a Standard Operator’s Licence are informed by a correspondent that they must attend a Public Inquiry. It is often known as a “Call Up Letter” The call-up letter will give between 14-28 days notice period. The notice period’s length will depend on the type of Operators Licence & if the nominated Transport Manager is called to the Public Inquiry.

The letter will state that the Traffic Commissioner considers disciplinary action under several sections of the Operator Licensing legislation. This legislation (Acts of Parliament) gives the Office of the Traffic Commissioner the power to convene a Public Inquiry. Along with the ability to request the attendance at Public Inquiry of parties such as Operator Licence Holders or Transport Manager CPC Holders. Examples of which are shown below.   

S19: Consideration of action concerning an Operator’s Licence; this section is used to deal with objections on environmental grounds against an operator licence at application.  

S26: Consideration of disciplinary action under Section 26; This refers to Revocation, Suspension & curtailment of Operators Licences

S27: Consideration of disciplinary action under Section 27; Is for the Revocation of a Standard Operator licence

S28: Consideration of disciplinary action under Section 28; Possible disqualifying of an Operator’s Licence Holder for a certain period

Sch.3: Consideration of Transport Managers Good Repute under Schedule 3 

Bullet Point Guide to Public Inquiry Proceedings

Below are the various stages of a Public Inquiry; for a more detailed account, please go to the What happens at Public Inquiry page of this website.

  • Office of the Traffic Commissioner decided to call a Public Inquiry
  • Attending Parties are contacted by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner requesting that they attend the Public Inquiry called.
  • Those parties required to attend the Public Inquiry arrive at the venue.
  • Parties asked to enter the Public Inquiry room & wait for the Traffic Commissioner to enter.
  • Public Inquiry starts, with the Traffic Commissioner’s clerk statement on the convening of a Public Inquiry & then the Traffic Commissioner opening remarks
  • Attending parties such as an Operator’s Licence holder or Transport Manager or their representation gives an opening statement.
  • Parties such as DVSA submit their evidence to the Public Inquiry
  • Attending parties or their representatives may cross-examine the DVSA & ask questions of the evidence submitted
  • Traffic Commissioner conducting Public Inquiry may ask questions concerning the evidence given by the DVSA
  • Attending parties or their representatives may present their case to the Public Inquiry.
  • Traffic Commissioner conducting Public Inquiry will ask questions concerning the attending parties’ evidence or their representatives.
  • Closing statements are made by those attending Public Inquiry or their representation.
  • The Traffic Commissioner will announce their decision at the Public Inquiry to the Operator’s Licence holder or Transport Manager CPC Holder attending. Or that their decision will be in writing instead of announcing their decision at the Public Inquiry.


Allowed Representation at Public Inquiry

All those attending a Public Inquiry such as Operator’s Licence Holder, or a Transport Manager CPC Holder, may have representation. The representation can take a barrister in England & Wales or an Advocate if the Public Inquiry is held in Scotland. Also, a Solicitor with rights of audience. Finally, with the Traffic Commissioner’s agreement conducting the Public Inquiry, a party such as a Transport Consultant may act as representation for an attending party as long as they can show that they have the necessary knowledge & experience of the Public Inquiry process.  

How are Decisions Made at Public Inquiry?

A Public Inquiry will determine facts & conclude from the information & evidence presented on the Public Inquiry day. These conclusions provide the basis for any disciplinary action taken against an Operator’s Licence Holder or a CPC Holder acting as the nominated Transport Manager. Any other parties may be formally connected with an Operator Licence & found to be in breach of the Operator Licensing Regulations.

Possible Decisions & Results of a Public Inquiry  

The likely results from attending a Public Inquiry are very serious for those attending. Such as an Operator’s Licence Applicant or Holder. Or a Certificate of Professional Competence Holder acting as the nominated Transport Manager on an Operator’s Licence. If the Public Inquiry has been called concerning a failure of compliance, then the disciplinary action could range from a formal warning to disqualification & Revocation.

Can a Decision Made at Public Inquiry be Appealed?

Decisions made at Public Inquiry by the Traffic Commissioner are very difficult to overturn / appeal because acceptable reasons for having a Traffic Commissioner decision set aside are few.

Those wishing to appeal a decision made at Public Inquiry. Such as an Operator’s Licence Applicant or Holder. A CPC Holder who has acted as the nominated Transport Manager on a Standard Operator’s Licence or other parties formally associated with a Public Inquiry. Need to appeal to the Administrative Appeal Chamber (Transport) of the Upper Tribunal.

How can Oplas Transport Consultancy Help with Your Public Inquiry?

Oplas Transport Consultancy has understood that formal legal representation & professional transport knowledge & experience. Both have a part to play in the Public Inquiry Process to make up the best combination in achieving the best possible results for clients. Who has been called to attend a Public Inquiry? In many cases, it is not a choice of one or the other, but using the skill sets of both the formal legal representation & professional transport knowledge & experience. That has delivered the best results for clients.

Therefore, Oplas Transport Consultancy Public Inquiry service & the range of solutions offered within it gives Oplas Transport Consultancy clients access to both professional transport experts & qualified legal representation. To deliver the best result for our clients, when having to attend a Public Inquiry.

For more information on this service & you are an Operator’s Licence Holder, please go to our Contact Page.

For more information on this service & you are a Transport Manager CPC Holder, please go to our Contact Page.

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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.