Traffic commissioner public inquiries held via conferencing software could become a regular feature if the coronavirus lockdown continues for much longer, according to a road transport lawyer.

Jonathan Backhouse, director at Backhouse Jones solicitors, said many of its hearings had been adjourned following a decision by the TCs to postpone them in the wake of the pandemic.

He said it was now likely there would be a backlog in cases by the end of the year and if the current situation remained the same then commissioners would have to start using technology more widely for “straightforward” compliance issues.

Earlier this week the Office for the TC confirmed that all face-to-face hearings had been postponed in order to maintain the safety of staff, operators, the TCs and to ensure fairness was not compromised.

Conferencing software has previously been trialled but an OTC spokesman said it was unlikely to offer a solution for the majority of hearings.

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However, Backhouse said: “I know commissioners are starting to look at, and have held, one video hearing for a licence application.

“My guess is if this goes on for too much longer we will see far more video hearings to deal with the backlog.”

He said the decision to postpone hearings showed that there was no mechanism in place to hear public inquiries safely and he added: “That being said, traffic commissioners are exploring mechanisms of getting the ball rolling again, moving forward in a way that’s constructive.

“Applications, for example, that are straightforward but the traffic commissioner wants to look at the operator in detail, as well as simple public inquiries: they can be addressed with video conferencing.

“Traffic commissioners are trying to find ways of making this manageable and both deliver their obligations, but also keep people safe.”