Regulation EC1071/2009 and effect on light trailers

The Department for Transport has recently published its response to its short consultation on the implementation of Regulation EC1071/2009. The Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) has published guidance on the regulation and all Standard National and International licence holders have been sent Transport Manager questionnaires requiring operators and transport managers to sign new undertakings.

EC Regulation 1071/2009 replaces Directive 96/26/EC with effect from 4 December 2011. That directive sets out the minimum rules for every Member State to include in its own operating licensing system. The general structure of operator licensing remains, albeit with some changes.

Regulation 1071/2009 requires all motor vehicles or combinations of vehicles engaged in road haulage operations for transport undertakings to be governed by the regulation. However a Member State may apply a relaxation to exclude motor vehicles or combinations whose permissible laden mass does not exceed 3.5t. Therefore, a vehicle combination exceeding that threshold cannot sit outside the scope of the regulation.

In the UK, there is currently an exemption for the calculation of combinations because of the "small trailer" exemption which, in effect, ignores trailer weights under 1020kg (unladen weight). The DfT has made it plain that this exemption is not consistent with its obligations and accordingly, paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 of the Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 will be abolished for hire or reward operations from 4 December 2011. The forthcoming UK regulation will no doubt address this.

The net effect of this is that some operators who currently carry out transportation of third party goods will now find themselves within the scope of O-licensing. This will mean that some will, for the first time, be required to have a professional competence requirement and be able to satisfy the other requirements.

In terms of roadside enforcement, the police and VOSA will need to understand the distinction between hire or reward and own account operations so as not to prosecute businesses in error. Operators will in turn need to understand the rules so as not to be prosecuted in ignorance of the law or admit guilt for not holding an O-licence when one is not necessary.

VOSA have informed us that the withdrawal of the exemption does not affect light trailers towed behind a dual purpose vehicle with an unladen weight less than 2040 kg.