Call us for free on 0800 1777 522
Transport Law Services

Public Inquiries

These are the specialist legal hearings, similar to a tribunal, where the Traffic Commissioner decides whether to take disciplinary action against a goods or passenger vehicle operators licence (including termination or suspension) or to refuse your application for a new licence.

The national annual statistics show that about 70% of public inquiries result in a licence being terminated or suspended. Our role as your solicitor is to make sure that you get through the process with your business intact which about 90% of our clients achieve.

More about Public Inquiries here.

DVSA / VOSA / Police Prosecutions

Because of the highly regulated environment you do business in, commercial vehicle operators constantly run the risk of prosecution for transport regulatory offences.

Penalties can range up to an unlimited fine and even prison depending of the type and severity of the offence. Your transport solicitor will advise on whether charges should be contested, attempt to get charges dropped when appropriate and defend you in court.

More about Prosecutions here.

Operator Licence Applications

You need to be licensed to operate goods or passenger vehicles. Licences can be difficult to obtain due to the various criteria that must be met and the strict approach to licensing by the Traffic Commissioner.

A licence is valuable commodity and advice will help you to select the right kind for your business and to make sure that you can demonstrate all the requirements needed for a successful application. 

More about Operator Licensing here.

Driver Conduct Hearings

Goods and Passenger vehicle drivers whose fitness is called into question face having their licences revoked or suspended at a hearing with the Traffic Commissioner.

A licence is valuable commodity and advice will help you to select the right kind for your business and to make sure that you can demonstrate all the requirements needed for a successful application. 

More about Driver Conduct Hearings here.

Transport Law Advice

Running a business which involved commercial transport means that you're in one of the most heavily regulated commercial sectors in the UK. 

There are numerous aspects of your operation that you many need specialist legal advice on.

More about getting Transport Law Advice here.

We offer a free telephone consultation. Call now on 0800 1777 522 


Call us for free on 0800 1777 522


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We advise and represent transport businesses throughout the whole of the UK in all parts of England, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland

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Latest Blogs

We recently represented two companies who were both called to the same public inquiry. Although separate entities, the companies were closely connected because of having the same set of directors. One...
We were approached by a small business owner to represent them at the a public inquiry which had been called to consider their application for a new passenger vehicle operator’s licence.The person app...
The current system of regulating goods vehicle operations throughout Northern Ireland came into effect in 2012. The system for licensing goods vehicles and taking disciplinary action against licence h...




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Latest Transport Law

Transport Law
We recently represented two companies who were both called to the same public inquiry. Although separate entities, the companies were closely connected because of having the same set of directors. One of the companies (the Operator) had years previously been issued with a restricted goods vehicle operator’s licence. The other company had recently applied for the same kind of licence (the Applicant).

Over the previous year, the directors had decided to progressively move most of the Operator’s business interests to its sister company the Applicant. Without understanding the potential consequences, and before being granted its operator’s licence, the Applicant began using the Operator’s heavy goods vehicle. The Operator company had not informed the Traffic Commissioner (TC) of its change in business arrangements and of the apparent change of entity (though the companies were actually wholly owned subsidiaries of another company – see below).

The Public Inquiry was convened because of changes at this business group and a fundamental misunderstanding of the operator’s licence regime, and that there had been what appeared to be a change of entity involving the companies.

The TC needed to be satisfied as to whether the companies were not unfit to hold an operator’s licence due to relevant activities and convictions, and about the events relating to a change in the circumstances of the licence holder. The Operator risked revocation of its licence. The Applicant was at risk of not having its licence granted.

In advance of the inquiry, and to start building their case, we obtained as much information as we could about the businesses and provided each company comprehensive legal advice. We examined the companies’ compliance systems and made recommendations about immediate and longer-term changes that needed to be implemented. On our recommendations, the companies invested time and resources into their maintenance and other systems

As a result of our preliminary work and advice, the companies were fully prepared for the public inquiry hearing. In particular, to answer questions and provide evidence about the apparent change of entity.

At the hearing we demonstrated that the companies were running professional and competent businesses. With specific reference to the issue of the apparent change of entity, the TC accepted that Section 3(4) of the Goods vehicle (licencing of operators) Act 1995 was relevant and that this was not a typical “change of entity” case – because of the companies being subsidiaries. We were able to persuade the TC that the issues that lead to the inquiry arose out of ignorance rather than an attempt to mislead or gain financial advantage

The TC granted the new licence to the Applicant with the Operator company voluntarily surrendering its licence. The directors were delighted with the outcome of the public inquiry hearing and that they managed to avoid the damaging consequences they feared.
Transport Law

We were approached by a small business owner to represent them at the a public inquiry which had been called to consider their application for a new passenger vehicle operator’s licence.

The person applying for the licence had a long background of work in the transport industry as a driver but had never before operated his own transport business. One of the key issues was that the nominated transport manager was also nominated some other licences and the Traffic Commissioner was concerned whether this meant that the transport manager would be able to properly carry out their duties on so many licences at once. 

Transport Law
The current system of regulating goods vehicle operations throughout Northern Ireland came into effect in 2012. The system for licensing goods vehicles and taking disciplinary action against licence holders is now largely in line with the system for the rest of the United Kingdom, though with some differences. There are about 5,980 goods vehicle operator licences issued in Northern Ireland.

The legislation is the same and the appeal process against decisions made at public inquiries is now one system covering the whole of the UK.

One key difference is that in Northern Ireland there are no Traffic Commissioners. The person in Northern Ireland who discharges similar functions to the Traffic Commissioners in Great Britain is the head of the Transport Regulation Unit (TRU), part of the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment. The current head of the TRU is Donna Knowles who has been in this position since 2014.

It is the Head of the TRU who ultimately decides who is fit to hold a goods vehicle operators licence in Northern Ireland. The Head of the TRU holds public inquiries to determine whether an operators licence should be granted and also to decide whether disciplinary action is needed against operator licence holders whose fitness has been brought into question.

There are roughly about 50 goods vehicle public inquiries in Northern Ireland each year. The public inquiry hearings are usually held at Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street in Belfast.

The public inquiry hearing itself is a formal legal hearing. It looks and feels a little like a court hearing but the rules of procedure are less rigid and formal. The public inquiry hearing will involve oral and documentary evidence and at the end of the process the Head of the TRU will make a decision.

Currently, the public inquiry process in Northern Ireland relates only to goods vehicle licence holders, it does not involve passenger vehicle licences.

Outcomes of Goods Vehicle Public Inquiries in Belfast

The Heard of the TRU has wide ranging powers over operator licence holders. Where a public inquiry is convened to decide whether or not to grant a new licence, the licence could be granted or refused.

Where the public inquiry is to consider disciplinary action against an operator licence holder, the Head of the TRU has the power to revoke (ie terminate) an operators licence; to suspend it or reduce the number of vehicle operated under the licence. They have the power to add conditions to an operators licence and to disqualify people from being involved in holding an operators licence in future.

What to do if you've been called to a public inquiry in Eastbourne, London or the South East

First of all, recognise that any public inquiry called for any reason is a very serious thing. Secondly recognise that getting legal advice and having an experienced transport law solicitor on your side is at least half of the problem sorted.

A good transport law specialist solicitor will be able to get stuck into your case and do all sorts of important things to get you ready to face the public inquiry and come away with a good outcome.

We strongly recommend that you speak to us urgently if you've had a call to public inquiry. Nearly all of our clients (well over 90%) have a successful outcome at their public inquiries.

We handle public inquiries in Belfast as well all over the UK. We know how to prepare and present a successful case. We've been doing it for years and have helped hundreds of operators through what is always a very difficult and uncertain time.

Your chance of a successful outcome at your public inquiry increases dramatically if you have experienced and skilled legal representation. So choosing a good transport solicitor is of vital importance.

Contact Us About Your Public Inquiry

Please get in touch with us without charge or obligation. Ask to speak to Simon Newman about your public inquiry.

Simon will then give you an idea about how we can help you. He will be very glad to talk through your situation and review your papers free of charge to help you to make an informed decision about what to do.

You can call us any time on 0800 1777 522 or alternatively you can email on Simon.Newman@NALegal.co.uk