The Traffic Commissioners (TCs) are not “an anachronism” but are instead “modern and responsive regulators,” Senior TC (STC) Richard Turfitt (pictured) told delegates at the CPT UK Bus and Coach Conference on 13 January.
Mr Turfitt was responding to comments made by former DVSA Chief Executive Gareth Llewellyn on 25 November 2020. In an extraordinary outburst, Mr Llewellyn told the Transport Committee that the TCs’ function should be abolished and that their responsibilities should be handled “through the courts and tribunals service.”
Senior TC Richard Turfitt outlines help given during pandemic
Mr Llewellyn’s words generated heavy criticism from some quarters. Mr Turfitt’s response was lower key than some others. Adopting a more constructive approach than Mr Llewellyn, he used his keynote Conference address to outline the steps that TCs have taken to assist operators over the last 10 months.
Mr Turfitt notes that TCs remain “committed to addressing the difficulties caused by the impact of the pandemic for as long as it remains a challenge. Our intention is to not just help operators to weather the current crisis, but to help them return to full operation once it has subsided.”
The TCs’ aim throughout the pandemic has been to recognise the “extraordinary” conditions and support operators through them, Mr Turfitt continues. He points to the advice document that was issued quickly as the pandemic broke and which has been regularly updated as evidence of that.
Indeed, a further version was released the day after the Conference. It includes the activation of an emergency procedure in England to permit temporary variations to bus services to be made rapidly.
Remote audits advocated as a means to test compliance
It is not all one-way traffic though, Mr Turfitt says. He advocates the use of remote audits to enable operators to check their ongoing compliance. That mechanism is “a valuable tool.” But useful as they are, remote audits are not a perfect replacement for in-person checks.
“We accept that a remote audit may not offer the same opportunities as face-to-face engagement, and that remote audits may require more effort on the part of the operator, and probably the auditor. So we published a framework for audits to be conducted remotely,” says the STC.
Remote training has also proved its value. TCs are now looking at whether it can be taken forward to improve the access to such courses.
On recovering from a temporary cessation of face-to-face tribunal hearings during the original ‘lockdown’ period in 2020, Mr Turfitt says that TCs are making “real progress” in getting things back on track. “Part of that has been by adapting to online hearings,” he adds.