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Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010

Background and Policy Objectives

3.Under the Transport Act (Northern Ireland) 1967, the Department is responsible for the licensing of operators, their drivers and vehicles that carry other people’s goods by road for reward.  It also determines the roadworthiness of vehicles and checks the repute of drivers and, together with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, is responsible for freight regulation enforcement.

4.The need for change to the licensing system in Northern Ireland has been raised by the freight industry, public representatives and consumer organisations, who are dissatisfied with the way in which freight services are delivered under existing policy and legislation.

5.There is considerable concern with regard to the absence in Northern Ireland of “own account” licensing.  Own account operators (those operators who carry their own goods in the course of their business or trade), who make up around three quarters of the industry, are not required to be licensed.  In Great Britain, all operators must be licensed.

6.Northern Ireland has much weaker freight licensing enforcement powers.  This issue, combined with the fact that only one sector of the industry is regulated, has given industry representatives and enforcement teams both in Northern Ireland and Great Britain cause for concern.

7.Goods vehicles make a significant contribution to the number of people killed or seriously injured in Northern Ireland.  There is evidence of illegal operators undercutting the legitimate freight industry, thus threatening the viability of many within the industry and contributing to the poor road safety record.

8.There is presently no sanction within road freight legislation against operators who do not pay attention to the environmental standards of the operating centre.  Operating centres have the potential to affect a considerable number of households in Northern Ireland.  Present licensing arrangements fall short of offering any effective environmental safeguards.

9.The aim of the Act is to address these concerns and weaknesses and to have, in one dedicated statute, the primary powers to deal with all matters relating to the regulation of road freight operators in Northern Ireland.  It will bring the system largely (but not wholly) into line with the system currently in place in Great Britain.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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