Senior Traffic Commissioner Beverley Bell has lambasted Vosa for “not targeting the serially and seriously non-compliant”, and taking the easy route by going after “nice, but incompetent, small operators”.

The allegations were made before the Transport Select Committee as part of its on-going inquiry into the work of Vosa back in April, but the full transcript of her evidence was only made public last week ahead of the publication of the Committee’s final report later this month.

Bell alleged that the number of unsatisfactory maintenance investigations conducted by the agency had fallen dramatically, from approximately 15,000 in 2005/06 to 4,500 in 2010/11 – as had the number of vehicle weigh-ins (from 26,000 in 05/06 to 2,600 in 10/11).

“All commissioners have grave concerns that Vosa is not targeting the serially and seriously non-compliant,” she said. “In its stats for the last year, 2011 to 2012, there were about 6,000 convictions that it says were referred to us. That is not the case. A quick call round my offices… revealed in the region of 650.

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“Where are the drivers’ hours referrals? Where are the serious investigations? In the view of all commissioners this is not happening any more. We don’t get those serious cases brought to our attention,” she added.

“It is easy for Vosa to target the soft underbelly of the nice, but incompetent, small operators. It is much more difficult to target the tough hard core of highly non-compliant operators who show a total disregard for road safety,” she insisted.

Transport Select Committee chair Louise Ellman described Bell’s comments as “extremely serious” before posing Bell’s allegations to Vosa chief executive Alistair Peoples during a later evidence gathering session.

Peoples said that the TCs had never raised such issues with him and that the use of OCRS as a targeting regime had been “very successful”.


“Vosa has focused its enforcement activity where it will make the most difference to road safety [and] is gearing up to enforce the HGV Road User Levy Act,” he added.

In response to the publication of the transcript Peoples said: “Vosa fully supports the independence of the Traffic Commissioners which is laid out in the framework document published last year. Vosa's enforcement activities are agreed with DfT after consideration of stakeholder objectives.

“Vosa's front-line staff do an excellent job in delivering a wide range of advice, education, testing and enforcement work that contributes to keeping our roads safe."

RHA policy director Jack Semple told that for the apparent mismatch between Vosa and the TCs to be expressed before MPs “suggests there are issues there that need to be addressed”.

  • Read the full transcript of Bell's evidence here.