Picture above: Su Winch, Managing Director, Novadata
Transport specialist Novadata has warned company directors whose business requires a Transport Operator Licence not to neglect the undertakings that they sign when applying for an O Licence. “For the vast majority of Operator Licence holders in the UK, transport is not their core business,” says Novadata Managing Director, Su Winch. “However, it is a company director who signs the O Licence application. In doing so, they make themselves legally liable to uphold transport law on behalf of their organisation. Unfortunately, all too often, once it has been obtained, the O Licence is either left to a transport manager to govern, or is simply not thought about at all. But that legal responsibility stays with the director.”
This ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude to the O Licence is a recipe for disaster, warns Novadata. The company believes that the O Licence should be an item on each board meeting agenda, and the organisation’s compliance with undertakings should be reviewed regularly at senior level.
“Companies appoint Finance Directors and accountants to manage their finances, but they don’t then forget to ask about the state of the balance sheet. Neither do they hire an HR manager then never assess team performances. The same should be true of the O Licence and compliance with its undertakings. For one thing, the director whose signature is on the O Licence will be held legally responsible for any breaches in transport law or failure to maintain compliance; even if they have delegated the transport function. Just as importantly, the loss of an O Licence can easily lead to the collapse of the entire business. To take your eye off such an important business element could be construed as commercial suicide.
“The wise O Licence holder will require a report from the transport manager at each board meeting, and there should be action points attached to ensure that the organisation maintains a healthy Operator Compliance Risk Score. This is not just our opinion, but is the stated preference of the Traffic Commissioners, who now expect company directors to be actively involved in managing their O Licence.”
Novadata is a lead provider of Operator Licence Awareness training for a wide range of industries and recommends that directors attend a course every few years to ensure that they know the steps that must be taken to fulfil O Licence undertakings. “An O Licence can be lost through the simplest of failures such as failing to report basic changes to the Traffic Commissioners,” explains Su Winch. “If a director resigns or retires, or you move industrial unit within the same estate, notifying the Traffic Commissioner should be part of your management process. Failing to do so is a breach of your undertakings.
“Robust record keeping is just as important as maintaining your vehicle roadworthiness and using your tachographs correctly. If you face an inspection by the authorities, you must be able to demonstrate compliance with O Licence undertakings. Those record keeping processes should be reviewed from time to time at board level. Don’t wait until a problem arises to ensure that your O Licence is adequately protected.
“Even if you delegate day to day management to a qualified transport manager, a director whose name is on the O Licence should know how to maintain a healthy compliance score,” adds Su Winch. “And you should also ensure that your qualified transport manager attends a Transport Management CPC Refresher course every few years to ensure that he or she is up to date with the current transport legal framework and industry best practice. Ultimately, your business may depend on it.”
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