House of Lords - Explanatory Note
House of Lords
Session 1998-99
Publications on the internet
Other Bills before Parliament
Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Road Traffic (Enforcement Powers) Bill [H.L.]


These notes refer to the Road Traffic (Enforcement Powers) Bill [H.L.] as introduced in the House of Lords on 8th June 1999 [HL Bill 66]

Road Traffic (Enforcement Powers) Bill [H.L.]



1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Road Traffic (Enforcement Powers) Bill [H.L.] as introduced in the House of Lords on 8th June 1999. They have been provided by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions with the consent of Lord Attlee, the peer in charge of the Bill, in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     These notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. Where a clause or part of a clause requires no explanation, none is given.


3.     The Bill has two main purposes. First, it enables the Vehicle Inspectorate and the police to prohibit drivers of vehicles registered in the UK who have exceeded their permitted driving time from continuing their journey until they have had the necessary break or rest period.

4.     The other purpose of the Bill is to give the Vehicle Inspectorate powers to impound illegally operated heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) at roadside checks. To facilitate the exercise of the impounding powers, the Bill would allow for the abolition of the so-called "margin concession" by which a vehicle can be operated for up to a month before being specified on an operator's licence. It would also increase the maximum level of fine for the offence of using a vehicle to carry goods on a public road without an operator's licence.


5.     The first limb of the Bill concerns the enforcement of drivers' hours. Council Regulations (EEC) Nos 3820/85 & 3821/85, which are directly applicable in all Member States, prescribe maximum limits on driving time and minimum limits for breaks and rest periods for drivers of most heavy goods vehicles and about half the buses and coaches operating in the UK. Domestic drivers' hours rules govern the drivers of certain categories of vehicle which are exempted from the EU rules. The domestic rules are contained in Part VI of the Transport Act 1968.

6.     At present, the Vehicle Inspectorate and the police have no formal power to prohibit the drivers of vehicles registered in the UK who have exceeded their permitted driving time from continuing their journey. Such a power only exists in relation to foreign-registered vehicles. For vehicles registered in the UK, the only available remedy is prosecution - which does not necessarily prevent the driver from continuing his journey. On safety grounds it is important that the driver does not continue until he or she has had adequate rest. For other infringements too, prohibition would sometimes be a more effective action than prosecution.

7.     The power to prohibit drivers of foreign-registered vehicles is contained in the Road Traffic (Foreign Vehicles) Act 1972 and was introduced for a variety of offences because of the difficulty of bringing prosecutions against drivers resident abroad. The ability to impose prohibitions on drivers of vehicles registered in the UK would remove any ground for complaining of discriminatory treatment between British and foreign vehicles.

8.     The second limb of the Bill relates to the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 which provides for a system of operator licensing for users of commercial goods vehicles that weigh over 3.5 tonnes. This is intended to ensure the safe and proper use of goods vehicles and the protection of the environment around operating centres (the place where an operator normally keeps the vehicles). Licences are granted and, where appropriate, disciplinary action taken against licence holders by traffic commissioners, who are individuals appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. The Vehicle Inspectorate, an Executive Agency of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, has responsibility for ensuring compliance with the laws on operator licensing.


Enforcement of Requirements Relating to Drivers' Hours

9.     Clauses 1 to 3 of the Bill operate by way of textual amendment of Part VI of the Transport Act 1968.

Clause 1: Power to prohibit driving of vehicle

10.     This clause inserts a new section 99A into Part VI of the Transport Act 1968. The section has effect only with respect to vehicles registered in the United Kingdom. An equivalent power in relation to vehicles registered elsewhere already exists in section 1 of the Road Traffic (Foreign Vehicles) Act 1972. Subsection (1) of the new section 99A sets out the circumstances in which an authorised person (as defined in subsection (5) of the section) may prohibit the driving of a vehicle on a road. The term "applicable Community rules" is defined in section 103(1) of the Transport Act 1968. Subsection (2) enables the authorised person to direct the driver to remove the vehicle to a specified place. The cases in which this power would be needed include those where the vehicle would cause an obstruction. Subsection (3) requires the authorised person to give notice in writing of the prohibition to the driver of the vehicle.

Clause 2: Duration and removal of prohibition

11.     This clause inserts a new section 99B into the Transport Act 1968. It sets out the duration of the prohibition, how it may be removed and by whom.

Clause 3: Failure to comply with prohibition

12.     This clause inserts a new section 99C into the Transport Act 1968. It provides that a driver or operator who fails to comply with a prohibition (or with a direction under the new section 99A(2)) commits a summary offence punishable by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (currently £5,000).

Licensing of Operators of Goods Vehicles

Clause 4: Increase of fine for breach of obligation to hold operator's licence

13.     Section 2 of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 would be amended to increase the maximum fine for the offence of operating without a licence from level 4 on the standard scale (currently £2,500) to level 5 on the scale (currently £5,000).

Clause 5 and the Schedule: Detention of vehicle used without operator's licence

14.     This clause introduces the Schedule to the Bill. The Schedule sets out a new Schedule 1A to be inserted in the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995.

15.     The new Schedule 1A to the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations providing for the detention of goods vehicles used without an operator's licence. (Section 58(1) of the Act defines "regulations" as meaning regulations made by the Secretary of State under the Act.)

16.     Under paragraph 2, regulations may enable a vehicle examiner or a person acting under his direction (defined as "authorised persons" in paragraph 1(1) of the Schedule) to detain a vehicle which is being, or has been, operated without a licence. The power to detain does not mean that an authorised person may stop a vehicle which is on a road; only a constable in uniform may do this.

17.     Regulations may provide that, before a vehicle is removed and taken into custody by virtue of paragraph 6, it may be immobilised. Paragraphs 4 and 5 enable regulations to be made in relation to immobilisation devices and notices. By virtue of paragraph 6(3), a driver might be permitted to deliver his goods to a suitable destination before the vehicle is taken into custody.

18.     Regulations made by virtue of paragraphs 8 to 12 may provide for the return or disposal of a vehicle which has been detained.

19.     Regulations made by virtue of paragraph 9(3) would enable the owner of a goods vehicle to apply to a traffic commissioner for its return. Some of the grounds on which he may apply are listed in paragraph 9(4). If the traffic commissioner determines that none of the grounds has been made out, the vehicle may be sold or destroyed. (By virtue of paragraph 12, a vehicle may also be sold or destroyed if no application is made to the traffic commissioner.) An appeal may be made from the traffic commissioner's determination to the Transport Tribunal (see paragraph 10). Regulations made by virtue of paragraph 18 may provide that, if a person makes a false or misleading statement so as to secure the return of his own vehicle on the ground given in paragraph 9(4)(b) (vehicle not used in contravention of section 2 of Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995), he commits an offence.

20.     Regulations may make separate provision for the custody of the contents of the goods vehicle and their return, sale or disposal (see paragraph 13). Disputes which arise in relation to the contents of vehicles or the treatment of any proceeds of sale may be referred to the magistrates' court (see paragraph 16). Regulations may provide that, in an appropriate case, the court may order payment of a sum of money by the Secretary of State.

21.     Regulations made under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 by virtue of the new Schedule 1A will be subject to negative resolution procedure (see section 57(11) of that Act).

Clause 6: Addition of specified vehicles to operator's licence

22.     This clause would substitute a new section 5(6) of the Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 to abolish the "margin concession". The current provision enables newly acquired vehicles within the maximum number authorised under an operator's licence to be used for up to a month without notification to a traffic commissioner and without a disc being displayed. This means that a vehicle may be operating legally even though an operator's licence disc is not displayed on the windscreen. The detention scheme will only be workable if it is clear to Vehicle Inspectorate examiners at the roadside that a vehicle is being operated without a valid operator's licence.


23.     The Bill is not expected to have any significant effect on public sector finances.


24.     The Bill is not expected to have any manpower implications. The detention scheme would form part of the Vehicle Inspectorate's national enforcement programme. The role of the traffic commissioners in the appeal process would be absorbed in their normal workload.


25.     There would be no additional costs for operators who comply with the existing law. The Bill may benefit operators by reducing unfair competition from illegal operators.


26.     Except for clause 7, and so much of any other provision as confers power to make regulations, the provisions of the Bill come into force on a day or days to be appointed by the Secretary of State.

House of Commons home page Houses of Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared: 10 June 1999