Senior traffic commissioner (TC) Beverley Bell (right) has questioned whether a one-size-fits-all O-licence fee is still appropriate given the diversity in the type, scale and size of transport operations across today’s road transport industry.

In the TCs’ annual reports for 2015/16, Bell noted that nearly three-quarters of goods and PSV O-licences were held by companies operating between one and five vehicles, and queried whether the current flat-rate licence fees for all operators were set at the right level.

She said the majority of the HGV and PSVs on the road – nearly one third – were operated by those with more than 50 vehicles.

Bell, who is to step down next year, said: “When we see that the combined pre-tax profit of the 25 largest third-party logistics operators is £975m, we wonder if the current licence fees are still set at the right level.

"A goods operator’s licence costs £658, with a continuation fee of £401 then payable every five years.Consequently the operator licensing scheme income in 2014/15 was £12.4m. It is therefore no surprise to TCs and our staff that we are limited in the efficiency targets that we can deliver.”

RHA director of policy Jack Semple told that O-licence fee reform is an area that merits further consideration.

“It’s inappropriate for a company with one truck to pay the same as a bigger operation,” he said. “We will be having a conversation with the DfT.”

Bell called on the transport secretary to give serious consideration to reforming both the fees operators must pay and removing some of the legislative barriers preventing new applications and O-licence variations from being granted sooner.

She said the TCs want to offer the industry a more efficient service to enable it to keep pace with changing economic requirements, but they needed to be properly funded to achieve this.

Semple said the RHA supported Bell’s suggestion that the average waiting time for an O-licence decision to be made should be brought down to three weeks.

“We would welcome as a matter of urgency the radical simplification of the environmental objections [process]. It would be good for both the haulage industry and the economy,” he added.