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Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiries

One of the main purposes of a traffic commissioner public inquiry is gathering evidence. They use formal inquiries to assist their decision on whether to take punitive action against operators and drivers.

This section explains what the traffic commissioner does and the role of the DVSA. Check what happens if you get called to attend a public inquiry and what penalties they can administer.

What is the Role of Traffic Commissioner?

Traffic commissioners, along with their deputies, are responsible for:

  • Licensing the operators of HGVs and PSVs (e.g. buses, coaches).
  • Registering local bus services.
  • Granting vocational licences and, where necessary, taking action against HGV and PSV drivers.
  • The environmental suitability of operating centres designated as parking locations for commercial vehicles.

Traffic commissioner responsibilities also include calling, and presiding over, formal public inquiries in a court of law.

As a rule, the primary aim of calling traffic commissioner public inquiries is to gain further evidence to help them decide whether to:

  • Grant (or refuse) vehicle operator licences to companies that run heavy good vehicles or public service vehicles (particularly if someone submits an objection about it).
  • Bring about enforcement action against the operators or the drivers of lorries, buses, or minibuses if they break the terms of their licence.

Objecting to an Operator’s Licence

Public bodies (and individual citizens) can view vehicle operator licence applications. But, in most cases it will be a public body that makes an objection about the granting of a licence.

Objections made by Public Bodies

Besides the police, other public bodies that can object to a licence application, can include:

  • A local council authority (or planning authorities).
  • Certain types of trade associations and trade unions.

There are several different and valid grounds for objecting. But, some of the most common objections made to traffic commissioners will be about the:

  • Operator’s financial status or professional competence (or that of its transport manager).
  • Reputation of the operator or their fitness to hold a licence.
  • Arrangements made for vehicle maintenance and drivers’ hours by the operator.
  • Environmental standards and the general conditions relating to the vehicle operating centre.

Important: The time limit for submitting a written objection to the traffic commissioner is within 21 days of a licence application being made available to the public. The operator of a vehicle or bus service can also request a traffic commissioner public inquiry. But, there is no legal obligation for them to hold one.

The GOV.UK website provides several ways to see the most current applications and the latest decisions made by traffic commissioners:

Objections made by Representation (individuals)

It is not uncommon for a vehicle operator to add an operating centre to a licence. They might also want to make some changes to an existing operating centre.

In this case, the owners and the residents of land in the nearby vicinity can make a representation (object to it).

But, any representations made must be about environmental issues (e.g. noise or pollution). What’s more, the issues must be affecting either the owner’s or the resident’s ‘use or enjoyment’ of the land.

Note: You can also read a guide about making representations, objections, and complaints with details on how to oppose HGV licence applications or the use of an operating centre.

Being Called to Attend a Public Inquiry

There are several reasons why the operators or drivers of commercial vehicles may need to go to a public inquiry, such as if:

  • Someone objected to your application for a licence or your request to change to a licence.
  • There are environmental concerns about having a goods vehicle operating centre attached to your licence.
  • You failed to keep to the conditions of your licence (e.g. you used more vehicles than the licence permitted).
  • There is some question about your conduct (e.g. you got caught using a mobile phone while driving).
  • The local traffic commissioner would send you a letter about the need to attend a public inquiry. The letter would also contain further information on the details behind the objection.

Minimum notice to attend will be:

  • 14 days if it is about a new or an existing passenger operator’s licence.
  • 21 days if it is about a new or an existing goods operator licence.
  • 28 days if the traffic commissioner public inquiry is about a transport manager.

As a general rule, you would not be able to request a different date for the hearing. You would need to have a genuine reason and some proof of why you are unable to attend (e.g. you pre booked a holiday for the hearing date).

What Happens at a Public Inquiry?

You can choose to represent yourself in court or you can ask someone else to represent you (e.g. a lawyer). It can also be a transport consultant (providing the traffic commissioner agrees to it).

Even though the evidence would not be given under oath, any witnesses called to testify would have to tell the truth.

Not telling the truth at a public inquiry means you could lose your licence or be subject to criminal charges.

General Proceedings at the Hearing

You should report your name to the inquiry clerk once you arrive at the hearing. Following that, the local traffic commissioner would:

  • Make a decision on whether oppositions should be heard.
  • Listen to the application outline and then ask questions about it.
  • Listen to the objectors (or a DVSA traffic examiner) while they outline their cases and then ask questions.
  • Ask the applicants and objectors to present their cases in detail (any of the parties can ask questions).
  • Question the applicants on how the specific conditions added to the licence is likely to affect their transport and driving businesses.
  • Ask the applicants and the objectors to sum up each of their cases.

Often, the traffic commissioner would announce their decision at the end of the hearing. If not, they may send it in writing at a later date (usually within 28 days).

Traffic Commissioner Decision and Penalties

There are several possible outcomes after attending the hearing. In most cases, the traffic commissioner would decide to (either):

  • Refuse to grant a licence or vary (change) an existing one.
  • Attach certain conditions to a licence.
  • Grant the licence, but allow fewer vehicles than the number the applicant applied for.
  • Impose financial penalties on the operators of a registered bus service.
  • Terminate (or suspend) an existing licence.
  • Disqualify either an individual or a company from holding a licence.
  • Disqualify the transport manager(s)

Appealing to the Upper Tribunal

You must use form UT12 to make an appeal to the Upper Tribunal against a Traffic Commissioner decision. Send it to the tribunal address (written on form UT12) within one (1) month of the date when the traffic commissioner made the written decision.

Note: Another section explains how to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) in detail.


The Office of the Traffic Commissioner produce a guide to public inquiries to help operators and members of the public understand regulatory hearings held by Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain.

You will find further information on important topics, such as:

  • How people might be called to attend an inquiry.
  • How to find out if an inquiry is going to be held.
  • How traffic commissioner public inquiries work on the day.

Traffic Commissioner Guide to Public Inquiries in United Kingdom