The chief executive of the DVSA has told an influential group of MPs that traffic commissioners should be “abolished” and operator cases pursued through the courts instead.

Giving evidence to the transport select committee, which is currently investigating the work of the enforcement agency, outgoing chief Gareth Llewellyn described the TCs as “anachronistic” and said a significant amount of money could be saved by doing away with them.

He said: “In the operator world there’s a group called the traffic commissioners. Now I am firmly of the view that we don’t need the traffic commissioners any more.

“They are anachronistic.

“They were probably OK in the 1930s, but the reality is we have a really good track record of enforcement through the courts and tribunal service and I think we should be doing that for operators as well and that will save us millions and millions of pounds.

“Not necessarily in terms of people, but in terms of simplifying systems and removing unnecessary estate.”

The comments were met with robust responses from industry trade groups, with the RHA describing them as “unfounded and unfair”.

Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, said: “We have always had constructive relationships with the senior TC and his team – both at national and regional level.

“The same goes for many of our members.

“These relationships have never been more important as the industry has struggled through the effects of the pandemic which have hit hard.

“Regrettably, we have not enjoyed the same relationship with the DVSA during this incredibly difficult time.”

Burnett added: “I am confident that we will have a more open working relationship with the new DVSA head, Loveday Ryder. Her background and experience in driving cultural change could not come at a better time.”

Logistics UK was similarly critical of Llewellyn’s comments: “To say the traffic commissioner service is anachronistic and the haulage industry does not need its support totally ignores the huge benefits in safety and compliance which the service provides to the sector,” said David Wells, Logistics UK chief executive.

“During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the traffic commissioners supported industry to keep goods and services flowing to keep the country running, unlike the DVSA, which closed down all its services and only reacted to the urgent needs of operators when pushed by industry.

“The traffic commissioners kept their doors open to assist the work of our members throughout 2020 – a modern and forward-thinking approach, and not one rooted in the 20th century, as Mr Llewellyn claimed.”

A spokesman for the Office of the TC (OTC) said it did not intend to comment on Llewellyn’s views, but that “the requirements around our regulatory and tribunal role can be hard to understand”.

The OTC spokesman added: “We have always tried to work closely with the DVSA, which is responsible for supporting us.

“There are a number of outstanding challenges, particularly around licensing application times, so we look forward to working with the new chief executive, who brings valuable experience of working at the Ministry of Justice.”

The OTC spokesman added: “In the meantime, we point to our record of regulation and modernisation and most recently to the support offered to the industries, which we all relied on during lockdown.

“We are grateful for the positive feedback from trade representatives.”