Public Inquiry Process Guidance: Introduction

So, as an Operator Licence Applicant/Holder or a Certificate of Professional Competence Holder, often referred to as a CPC Holder & acting as the nominated Transport Manager on a Standard Operators Licence. Having got to this section of the website. You should, by now, have a general idea of the Public Inquiry process when reading through the other information on the website, which goes into more detail in specific areas of the Public Inquiry process.

You should be able to use the more detailed information on the Public Inquiry process, to use it to formulate a plan of action concerning your attendance at Public Inquiry. Including getting professional advice, helping with preparation, & obtaining professional representation.

So, as an Operators’ Licence Applicant or Holder or a CPC Holder acting as a Transport Manager on a Standard Operators’ Licence & attend a Public Inquiry. You can do so knowing that they have done all that is possible in preparing to attend a Public Inquiry

What happens at a Public Inquiry?

Arriving at the Public Inquiry Venue

Those called to Public Inquiry such as an Operator Licence Applicant/Holder or CPC Holder acting as a Transport Manager. Should arrive at the Public Inquiry venue. It should go without saying that those due to attend should be on time for the Public Inquiry; being early does nobody any harm, if for no other reason than to gather their thoughts & go over what they may wish to say, during the Public Inquiry.

If the party has professional representation, they will most likely wish to meet with their client before the Public Inquiry. Again, this will probably be an hour before the Public Inquiry to finalise with their client the plan agreed on for the Public Inquiry.

It is essential that all parties attending the Public Inquiry get to the venue on time & once there. They should make themselves known once at the venue. They usually are meet by the Traffic Commissioner’s Clerk.

The Operator Licence Applicant/Holder or the Certificate of Professional Competence Holder, acting as nominated Transport Manager. The Traffic Commissioner’s Clerk should ask them to produce some formal ID & to sign in before granting access to the Public Inquiry area.

Examples of acceptable ID would be a current valid passport or driver’s licence. So those attending need to make sure that they have such ID documentation with them, that will include any party intending to be with them during the Public Inquiry, such as representation.

Once the ID of Operator’s Licence Applicant/Holder or CPC Holder, acting as the nominated Transport Manager, is checked & accepted. The Traffic Commissioner’s Clerk may ask if they wish to submit any documentation, such as submissions or financial records. Such documentation, referred to as submissions, is usually submitted to the Traffic Commissioner’s Office before the Public Inquiry date.

Submissions & other supporting documentation should be submitted to the Traffic Commissioner’s Office before the Public Inquiry date. The date for such documents/submissions to be received by the Traffic Commissioner’s Office & is stated on the “call up” letter. However, such documentation may be handed in on the day of the Public Inquiry.

If this is the case, then the Traffic Commissioner’s Office should be contacted beforehand, giving a reason for documents/submissions for being presented on the Public Inquiry date.

Once all of the above has taken place, those attending the Public Inquiry will usually wait until the Public Inquiry is due to start. They will be directed to a room, often known as the advocate’s room. When the Public Inquiry is scheduled to start, they will be led into the room where the Public Inquiry is held.

Please Note: When an Operator’s Licence Applicant/Holder presents financial documents to the Traffic Commissioner’s Office. Those documents must be correct, relevant to either the date requested for submission of documents as per the “call up” letter or the Public Inquiry date.

Therefore, they will, in most cases, be at least the previous full three months or for the period requested by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner. Oplas Transport Consultancy’s advice is to show the last six months to have a redundancy level if no period is requested within the “call up” letter.

The showing of the correct level of financial standing related to the Operator Licence applied for or held. It is a statutory requirement at every Public Inquiry if an Operator Licence Applicant/Holder cannot show financial standing. Then the Traffic Commissioner conducting the Public Inquiry may have no choice but to either. Deny granting of the Operator Licence Application. Or revoke the Operators Licence currently held.

The Start of the Public Inquiry

Before going into more detail about the Public Inquiry Process, please note the following points.

  • The Public Inquiry will be recorded. Therefore, it is important to speak clearly when giving evidence.
  • When addressing the Traffic Commissioner, it should be either Sir/Ma’am/Madam or by their name, e.g. Mr/Mrs
  • Public Inquiries are open to any party wishing to attend. Therefore, parties attending could include members of the press and other government bodies, such as local council officials. There may also be employees, along with competitors.

Therefore, it is essential for either an Operator Licence Applicant/Holder or a CPC Holder who has/is acting as the nominated Transport Manager. To be seen to be prepared & professionally handling the Public Inquiry.

So, when the Public Inquiry is due to start, the Traffic Commissioner’s Clerk will lead all the parties to attend into the room where the Public Inquiry is held. It will have the feel & look of a courtroom in many cases, & you will be asked to take a seat.

Once the Traffic Commissioner’s Clerk is happy, all that is due to attend are present, & the room is set up correctly. The Traffic Commissioner’s Clerk will indicate to the Traffic Commissioner to enter the room. (This is typically done via a buzzer). When the Traffic Commissioner enters the room, everyone must stand. The Traffic Commissioner will then tell everyone to be seated.

Usually, the Clerk will make the opening statement, including the date, the matter to be considered & the name of the Traffic Commissioner conducting the proceedings. Along with those attending, such as an Operator’s Licence Applicant/Holder or CPC Holder acting as the nominated Transport Manager on the Operator Licence, & any other party such as DVSA officer(s). Also, part of the opening statement will include informing all those present of the Traffic Commissioner powers,   

Then the Traffic Commissioner ask those present to confirm who they are & their role in the proceedings. Next, the Traffic Commissioner would generally lay out how they wish the Public Inquiry to proceed & any preliminary remarks that they may want to make. After which the Public Inquiry has formal started

Public Inquiry Opening Statements   

The Traffic Commissioner will then indicate either the Operator’s Licence Applicant/Holder or the CPC Holder acting as the nominated Transport Manager on the Standard Operator Licence. (Or to the parties’ representation), to make an opening statement, if they wish.

It is their opportunity to make the Traffic Commissioner aware of any evidence they feel is essential to bring to the Traffic Commissioner attention. Such as clarification of errors they think have been made in the “brief” received with the “call up” letter. Along with points of law, or any other preliminary issues they think need to be pointed out, to the Traffic Commissioner.

It is not usually once the above points have been discussed & agreed on. That the Operator Licence Applicant / Holder’s financial standing evidence to be addressed & considered & then the Public Inquiry will continue.

Please Note: Financial Standing can be a complicated matter; this is especially true when an Operators’ Licence Holder uses financial instruments such as invoice factoring. In such cases, The Traffic Commissioner may consider it appropriate to be assisted by a financial assessor.

In determining whether or not an Operator Licence Applicant / Holder meets the required level of Financial Standing needed, for the authority of the Operator’s Licence applied for or held. Under the Operating Licensing Regulations. 

The Order of Giving Evidence at Public Inquiry

Depending on what is determined at Public Inquiry will determine how evidence is then presented at a Public Inquiry. Please see the examples below:

Operator Licence Application or Variation

An Operator Licence application or a variation at this type of Public Inquiry is usually just the Operator Licence applicant, or the Operator’s Licence Holder & possible the nominated Transport Manager, along with the Traffic Commissioner in attendance at the Public Inquiry. The order in which evidence is presented is therefore straight forward in most cases.

However, there can be “Valid Opposition” from what is known as statutory objectors if a statutory objector(s) wishes to object to an Operator’s Licence being granted. Then their evidence will be considered, along with the applicants. The order would generally be the statutory objector(s), then the Operator Licence Applicant/Holder. With all parties allowed to cross-examine.

Operating Centre Application (Goods Vehicle Only)

In reviewing an operating centre application (Goods Vehicle Only), at this type of Public Inquiry, the Traffic Commissioner considers evidence from the operator & those from valid complainants. From parties objecting to the use of a property for any operating centre. The order would be as that shown in the previous example.

Environmental Concerns

If a Public Inquiry has been called about environmental concerns. Typically there will not be a DVSA Officer giving evidence. Also, it is only the Operator Licence Holder called to Public Inquiry. Evidence is heard from witnesses or objectors. The Operator Licence Holder or their representative can then cross-examine those witnesses or objectors. Then, as before, the Operator Licence Holder can give their evidence; they need to be cross-examined on that evidence.

Regulatory Matters

The Traffic Commissioner may request that DVSA officer (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) if the Public Inquiry is about none compliance matters. The DVSA Officer(s) will give their evidence in most cases by reading aloud a report they have prepared. The DVSA Officer may be a Vehicle Examiner, or it may be a Traffic Examiner. Which one it is will be done to the area of compliance being looked at the Public Inquiry.

However, it is uncommon for some DVSA traffic areas for neither type of examiner not to attend. If it is the case that a DVSA Officer is to attend a Public Inquiry, then the Operator’s Licence Holder or the Transport Manager CPC Holder will be told that they are to attend the Public Inquiry.

Once evidence against the Operator’s Licence Holder or the CPC Holder acting as the Transport Manager has been presented. The Operator’s Licence Holder or the CPC Holder acting as the Transport Manager, or their representation. Is allowed to cross-examine the evidence submitted.

Once the Operators Licence Holder or Transport Manager or their representation has finished with cross-examining the evidence. In most cases, the Traffic Commissioner has questions of their own if a DVSA Officer is present.

Please Note: It must be remembered that the Public Inquiry is not a “Court of Law”; therefore, the cross-examination should not be conducted in an adversarial manner, which can be the case in a “Court of Law”. If done in such a manner, the Traffic Commissioner conducting the Public Inquiry may stop such cross-examination from taking place. Therefore, cross-examination should carry out in a more calm & forensic manner & not an adversarial one. 

Once all the parties’ evidence as seen as being against the Operator’s Licence Holder or the Transport Manager has been presented. It is then that the Operator’s Licence Holder or the Transport Manager CPC Holder, along with their representation if they have any. They are allowed to present their case, including parties giving evidence on behalf of the Operator’s Licence Holder or the Transport Manager.

Once the Operators Licence Holder or CPC Holder acting as the nominated Transport Manager or their representation has finished presenting their evidence. They should be prepared to cross-examined & their evidence probed by the Traffic Commissioner as they will most likely have questions about the evidence just presented.

Traffic Commissioners are very good & experience in cross-examining those parties before them. It can be an uncomfortable experience, as the questioning can be direct & forensic. Therefore, any Operator’s Licence Applicant, Holder, or Transport Manager must be prepared for such an examination.

Public Inquiry Closing Statements

Once all the parties evidence has been presented to the Traffic Commissioner. The Operator’s Licence Holder or the Transport Manager CPC Holder or their representation are allowed to make a closing statement.

Closing statements typically include a summary of the evidence that has been presented, legal arguments & an overview of the case made by the Operator’s Licence Holder or the Transport Manager, often known as a closing submission. After hearing all the parties closing submissions. The Traffic Commissioner will make their decision.

For information on the types of decisions made by a Traffic Commissioner at Public Inquiry. Please follow the indicated link. Types of Public Inquiry Decisions (Goes to the decision page of the website)

How can Oplas Transport Consultancy Help with Your Attendance at Public Inquiry?

Oplas Transport Consultancy has understood that formal legal representation & professional transport knowledge & experience both have a part to play in Public Inquiry Process, making up the best combination & achieving the best possible results for clients. Who has been called to attend a Public Inquiry?

Therefore, Oplas Transport Consultancy Public Inquiry service has a range of solutions, giving its clients access to both professional transport experts & qualified legal representation. In delivering the best possible results for our clients, when having to attend a Public Inquiry.

Oplas Transport Consultancy offers a full Public Inquiry Service for Operators Licence Holders, & Transport Managers called to Public Inquiry. This service includes consultation, public inquiry preparation, & representation.

Please remember that access to those professional service & solutions does not have to stop once the Public Inquiry has finished?

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.