The FTA has accused the government of “dragging its feet” over O-licence reform, two years after a review into the traffic commissioners’ (TCs) work was published.
James Firth, the FTA’s head of licensing policy and compliance information, said it was disappointed that a review of the legislation governing the O-licensing regime was not announced in the Queen’s speech last week.
The DfT had identified a review of road transport licensing legislation as an area that needed taking forward in its response to the Triennial Review of the TCs in 2015.
Firth said: “The TCs are telling us that a lack of reform of this legislation is the key barrier to improving licence processing times.
“The system has failed to keep pace with the dynamic nature of the logistics industry and is now stifling progress and growth. Our members have customers waiting but their business is paralysed until the licence is granted.”
The FTA claimed its members often wait up to nine weeks before a decision on their O-licence application is made. One reason behind the delay is the requirement for operators to place an advert in a newspaper circulating in the vicinity to the operating centre within 21 days of the application being made.
Former senior TC Beverley Bell also identified the newspaper advert requirement as an area she hoped to see abolished.
Firth said the government has also failed to act upon the suggestion of a single O-licence covering all UK traffic areas.
“A national operator that has eight O-licences [one for each traffic area] has to go through seven more applications than they should,” he added.
He suggested that the O-licence disc could also be abolished as the system becomes digitalised.
“We saw the abolition of the vehicle excise duty disc a few years ago. A lot of people are asking whether the O-licence system should go that way,” Firth added.
A spokesman for the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) said the TCs face three key challenges: fee reform; recruitment; and legislative reform.
He said: “TCs recognise that meaningful improvements to the regulatory approach can only be achieved through legislative change, which requires continued engagement with the DfT to support those reforms going forward.
“While this work continues, TCs have made significant progress in reviewing their own working practices and procedures - in conjunction with senior managers in the OTC - to further improve the service to operators and the industry, particularly around processing applications.”
He said that since April, the OTC has been working towards making a decision on an O-licence application in around seven weeks.