The senior traffic commissioner is consulting on plans to amend statutory guidance closing a loophole that enables hauliers to ‘draw down’ HGVs not specified on an operator licence.

The move was prompted by a recent decision in the upper tribunal concerning a company swapping vehicles on and off its licence.

The tribunal found that Connor Construction “was routinely and as a business practice, using more vehicles in the operation of its business than it was seemingly authorised to do under the licence, but was using the VOL system to swap vehicles on and off the licence”.

The upper tribunal ruled that this ran counter to core principles of the legislation, such as the requirement for finance and for maintenance and for a sufficient operating centre.

As a result, STC Richard Turfitt has amended statutory guidance to reflect the tribunal’s concerns: “The number of vehicles applied for should include the number required for use as well as any extra to cover an increase in business or emergencies such as breakdowns,” said the draft amendment.

“The upper tribunal has confirmed that the repeated switching of vehicles, with the intention of using them for only short periods of time, is not an appropriate way for an operator to conduct its business.

“If a vehicle has only been removed from the licence temporarily and it remains an integral part of the business, it does not cease to be used and therefore must be specified.

“The question therefore arises as to how an operator might demonstrate that the removal of vehicles is more than temporary,” it added.

“The Senior Traffic Commissioner has adopted the dictionary definition of temporary, meaning to last only for a limited time.”

The consultation is also asking for feedback on changes to the way in which transport manager applications are assessed; the taking of evidence from outside the UK and ensuring financial calculations are conducted consistently to ensure fairness to all O-licence applicants.

The public consultation runs until 16 January.