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HeavyTorque Issue Two: FTA



This month sees the launch online of the Government’s self-service system for operator licence administration.

This new Web-based programme will begin first in Northern Ireland, followed a few weeks later by the rest of Great Britain. It will change the way operators manage their licence.

The Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are working together to replace the old system – Operator Self Service – with the easy-to-use service.

Throughout December the Freight Transport Association (FTA) held workshops to give its members an opportunity to test the latest system, and influence its development. A small number of operators and trade associations were selected to take part in initial trials. It was stressed improvements would be possible once the project had launched, with two more releases planned for 2016.

It eliminates the need for any documents to be sent by post. The OTC estimates this will speed up applications by a week. Electronic signing is also a possibility, through the Government’s ‘Verify’ ID assurance process, currently under development.

The new system will allow operators to:

  • Submit new applications online
  • Upload documents, including bank statements, online
  • Receive help and support with submitting an online application – almost 90% are currently delayed because they are incomplete
  • Wait less time for complete application decisions

A number of changes have also been made to the requirements of an operator licensing application – to make implementation of the new system more straightforward.

Permission to park – removal of the requirement to provide a letter of permission from a landowner to use their premises as an operating centre. This will be replaced by a self-declaration, because the OTC observed that such a letter could be easily forged.

Maintenance contract – the requirement to submit a copy of the maintenance contract will be replaced by a declaration of who is the maintenance provider.

Original documents – it will no longer be necessary to submit original copies of documents, such as the CPC: scanned copies will be accepted.

Tacho analysis – applicants will be asked to name their tachograph analysis provider (self-analysis is acceptable)

The OTC says that, where a self-declaration is made, operators will be subject to an unspecified level of audit – which may require original documents to be produced.

Most FTA members welcomed the new system, and thought the changes would reduce the burden on applicants. Below are a number of frequently asked questions:

What can and can’t be done with the new system?
Operators can do a new application, variation, add a transport manager, specify vehicle or interim. It’s not yet possible to do a continuation, Schedule IV or notification of convictions.

I have delegated authority from my Directors, will I still be able to use it with OLCS?
In the current paper-based system, individuals can be granted delegated authority to act on behalf of directors for all licensing transactions, with the exception of making an application. This is normally conferred by a letter from the Director to OTC which is kept on file. Anyone with delegated authority will still be able to carry out the same transactions on behalf of a Director, including where ‘Verify’ is used. But for new applications, only a Director’s signature or declaration under ‘Verify’ is acceptable.

Will OLCS show how my application is progressing?
No, but because of ‘back end’ developments, it will provide that information more clearly to OTC staff. Currently applications are sent to the Traffic Commissioner by email and cannot be viewed by all OTC staff.

Will I still be able to lodge audited accounts?
Yes.  As now, these will be kept on file for 18 months and do not have to be submitted for any other applications for the same legal entity.

What vehicle information do I need to enter – can the system draw vehicle data from DVLA records?
Operators will only have to enter the Vehicle Registration Mark and the vehicle’s plated weight. It will no longer be necessary to insert body type, whether articulated, and most commonly pulled trailer OTC systems are not currently linked to DVLA, but this could be developed in future so only the VRM would need to be entered.  OTC also hopes to create interfaces with fleet management software. 

Will I still be able to make a paper application?
Yes.  However, according to the Government’s Digital by Default policy, OTC aims to phase out paper applications in five years. Assisted Digital Service will support non-digital users towards the phasing-out.

What do I need to use ‘Verify’ for?
At launch, there will always be the option of ‘print, sign and post’. For a fully digital process, applications and transport manager declarations will require the use of ‘Verify’.

How many applications will be subject to audit for original documents?
The OTC will not indicate the level of audit. It will be sufficiently high to be a deterrent, but sufficiently low to deliver efficiencies to the user.

When will applications be audited?
Audits will not hinder the progress of an application and a licence may be granted before any audit has been undertaken. 

Can I change common data for licences within the same legal entity in one go?
Some data is held at the company level e.g. directors.  Changing this data on any licence or at the company level will change it across all licences in that legal entity.  

How will performance times improve?
The OTC anticipates that removal of administrative processes alone will improve service times by one week.  The applications and decisions document will be produced weekly, instead of two-weekly – which may decrease decision time by around one week in some cases.  It is hoped the system may facilitate other efficiencies and time reductions.