A Q&A With Outgoing Senior Traffic Commissioner Beverley Bell

Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell, gave her final public speaking address at this year’s Microlise Transport Conference, before handing over the mantle to Richard Turfitt at the start of this month.

During the session entitled Heroes, Villains and Experts, Bell outlined how Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain has a strategic objective to deliver an improved service for the UK transport and logistics industry.

At the conference, delegates bombarded Bell with questions via the smartphone interactive delegate polling technology. You can watch the full presentation below and see Beverley’s responses to all of the questions beneath that.

Does the Office of the Traffic Commissioner plan to bring vans into the scope of operator licensing?

The Traffic Commissioners do not have the power to implement legislation and so this decision is a matter for the Department for Transport to determine.

How many brake tests should be undertaken in the view of TCs?

The TCs remind operators that the DVSA Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness sets out the requirements for brake testing and they must be undertaken at every safety inspection or during the week of that inspection. Best practice dictates that trailers should be tested in a laden condition.

Will Brexit lead to legislation change?

This is a matter for the Department for Transport but in the meantime, operators are reminded that the current EU legislation is still in force and so operators must continue to comply with the current law.

How can the industry improve the safety of vulnerable road users? Cyclists?

This is far too wide an area to answer in brief but it is to be noted that there are a number of initiatives for even better vehicle safety being incorporated into vehicle design by the manufacturers and that many operators are adapting their systems and procedures to ensure that the risk to all road users is minimised. In addition, it must be remembered that all road users must play their part in road safety and should ensure that their own behaviours recognise the risk of commercial vehicle operation.

What is your one piece of advice to operators as you stand down?

My answer incorporates the principle of “Buy one, get one free!” First and foremost, “get the basics right and get them right first time. The basics are effective driver daily walk round checks, regular safety inspections and drivers’ hours and tachograph compliance. If operators get those right first time they won’t go far wrong. Secondly, everyone in the business has their part to play in ensuring road safety and if anyone has concerns that this is not being done properly they must tell the right people – and tell them quickly.

Are you retiring totally or staying in the background?

I shall continue to do a small amount of work as a deputy traffic commissioner but will also be doing some work to promote the transport, logistics and supply chain profession as a career of choice for everyone. I may also carry out some consultancy work.

What one thing would you have liked to achieve which you felt unable to action?

I would have liked the legislation to have been simplified and modernised to take account of the rigours and demands of 21st century operation, but that is a matter for Government and not for me.

Will I work on behalf of the Commercial Vehicle workshops to get a licensing scheme for them?

The Department for Transport has always made it clear that it does not intend to bring in a compulsory licensing scheme for commercial vehicle repairers and I have made my views about that clear for many years. However, I have been pleased to support the IRTEC accreditation scheme for many years and I will continue to do so as any industry initiative that promotes greater road safety is to be applauded. In addition, operators are reminded that IRTE also runs a workshop accreditation scheme which also promotes high standards.

What is a Traffic Commissioner in my opinion?

Brilliant question! Difficult question! It is so many things but in answering I remind myself that when I was first appointed I called myself “The Demon Headmistress” to raise the profile of the TC in the North West which had previously suffered from under regulation. At the time there was a children’s TV programme called “The Demon Headmaster”. I used that analogy because being a TC is a bit like being a head of a school:

  1. praising and promoting the best pupils or operators (the transport, logistics and supply chain profession is fantastic but it does not always get the recognition it deserves)
  2. having a quiet word with those who are not fulfilling their potential and writing “could try harder” on their reports,
  3. putting those pupils back on the road to doing their best when they fall by the wayside because “life got in the way” (putting operators back on the road to compliance when they have lost their way due to a number of factors)
  4. and finally not hesitating to take strong action against those who simply don’t want to get it right or who don’t care about the consequences of getting it wrong (pupils being expelled or operators having their licences revoked, or pupils being given detention or operators having their licences suspended or curtailed) so that the culture of the school or the commercial vehicle industry remains right and so that everyone knows very clearly what happens when things go wrong.

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