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Transport operators – be aware of responsibilities

Businesses operating in the transport sector should be aware of their legal responsibilities, a lawyer has warned.

Those businesses which operate large vehicles, and therefore need HGV licenses in place for staff, are often not aware of the practical effect of the extent of their responsibilities.

Operators always have to give undertakings when obtaining a licence. Hayley Bamber, solicitor in the Litigation team at Lancashire law firm Napthens, warns that operators, for instance bus or haulage companies, often inadvertently forget their undertakings.

Undertakings set out the regulations to the service, maintenance and safety inspections on vehicles. For example an undertaking may include the duty to have a vehicle serviced every eight weeks and for safety checks to be conducted on the vehicle before every journey. It is vital that up to date records are kept.

As a result they risk legal action if, for instance, they are found to be in breach if stopped by the police or if they are subject to random checks by the industry’s governing body, the office of the Traffic Commissioner.

This can sometimes result in a costly public inquiry which can be very detrimental to a business. The Traffic Commissioners have the power to revoke an operators licence, reduce the number of vehicles that can be operated and suspend the licence.

Hayley Bamber explained: “Transport operators must remain compliant at all times. There is no middle ground.

“Therefore such businesses should be aware of all their undertakings or risk costly penalties and public inquiries which can not only affect a business financially but can ruin a hard-won reputation.

“It is therefore important to regularly review legal responsibilities and make sure all staff within a business know their roles.

“If found to be in breach, a business should seek legal advice quickly as it may sometimes be possible to avoid an inquiry by working closely with the Traffic Commissioners early in proceedings.”