As specialist Transport Lawyers we are often asked whether a driver actually needs a lawyer to represent them at a Driver Conduct Hearing. Having represented a very large number of professional drivers over the years our advice is always the same – legal representation is essential.
What does a Driver Conduct Hearing involve?
Firstly, let us look at what a Driver Conduct Hearing actually involves.
As a professional driver your vocational drivers’ licence, whether it be HGV or PSV, is regulated by the Traffic Commissioner. The Traffic Commissioner has the power to suspend that licence, revoke that licence or even disqualify you from applying for a licence again in future. Likewise, if you have already lost your licence some other way, the Traffic Commissioner has the power to delay the period of time before you are able to get your licence back or even refuse it all together.
It is important to know however, that the Traffic Commissioner does not have power to suspend or revoke your ordinary car licence.
How can a transport lawyer help?
If you are a professional driver you probably rely on your category D or category C entitlement for your livelihood. A long suspension or a revocation can therefore have a terrible impact on your personal, professional and financial circumstances.
An experienced transport lawyer will meet with you and discuss the events that have led to you being called before the Traffic Commissioner. They will explore the surrounding circumstances of the allegations and look for mitigating features. They will advise you what evidence would help your case and what actions you can take to improve your chances of a good outcome.
At the hearing itself they will address the Traffic Commissioner on the relevant sentencing guidelines and will put your case on your behalf. This is particularly valuable if you find it difficult to speak in public or under pressure.
Common reasons to be called to a driver conduct hearing
There are many reasons drivers can be called to a driver conduct hearing. Common ones include:
· Drivers’ hours and tachograph offences
· Driving with an expired CPC card
· Being involved in a drink driving incident
· Using a mobile phone whilst driving
· Being convicted of other relevant criminal offences (particularly the case for PSV drivers)
· Seeking to recover your licence following a period of disqualification by the Magistrates’ Courts
Joint driver conduct hearings and Public Inquiries
It is not uncommon for a Driver Conduct Hearing to be held at the same time as a Public Inquiry into a driver’s employer and operator.
For example: a transport company is investigated by DVSA after a number of its drivers are found to have driven without a tachograph card in. This is known as “creating a false record”. It is likely that the Traffic Commissioner will want to hold a hearing to hear from both the company and the drivers at the same time. This can be very challenging for a driver, particularly if the company is legally represented themselves or seeking to apportion blame onto its drivers. In these circumstances being unrepresented can put a driver in a very vulnerable position.
Does it look bad to have a transport lawyer?
Some drivers ask us whether the Traffic Commissioner would take a dim view of a driver deciding to be legally represented, and whether it might count against them.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In the letter you will have received from the Traffic Commissioner it will typically advise you that you should identify suitable professional or legal help as these are serious matters. In most cases the role of a Transport Lawyer at a Driver Conduct Hearing is to help present your case as best in the best possible light. They will assist the Traffic Commissioner by presenting exactly the information that they want to know and setting out the relevant mitigating features and guidelines. It is therefore usually of great assistance to the Traffic Commissioner if a driver is legally represented.
It also means that, if the matter is complex and involves for example questions over tachograph analysis, then the Traffic Commissioner can be assured that the solicitor representing the driver will have had the opportunity to explain the issues fully to the driver beforehand. All of this leads to a smoother hearing and almost always a better outcome for the driver.
In some cases a Traffic Commissioner will actually recommend to an unrepresented driver at a conduct hearing that they go off and get legal representation before returning for the rest of their hearing. We have represented a number of drivers in this situation.
Get in touch
At Rotheras we leave no stone unturned to get the best possible outcome for all professional drivers called to driver conduct hearings. Whilst legal aid is unfortunately never available for these proceedings we will always work with you to agree a cost-effective solution. In some cases we can agree a fixed fee for a hearing in advance.
You can find more information about driver conduct hearings here. For an initial consultation please contact complete the enquiry box on this page.
DVSA interviews under caution
We also specialise in representing drivers and operators interviewed under caution by the DVSA. This again is an area in which legal representation is crucial. An interview under caution can result in not just regulatory intervention but also a prosecution before the criminal Courts. You can find out more about interviews under caution and how we can help here