Operator Deemed Unfit to Hold Operator Licence by Traffic Commissioner

Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain published the decision for Thomas John Howarth on 13th January 2021. This decision shows that Operator Licence applicants should not take chances while their application is being processed, as any issues with compliance will be spotted and can result in their application being refused.


Howard International Transport Ltd held a Standard International Goods Vehicle Operator’s licence from 9th July 2015 until it was revoked on 25th February 2020. The company is now dissolved.

On 12th May 2020, former director of Howard International Transport Ltd, Thomas John Howarth, had applied for a Standard National Goods Vehicle Operator’s licence for 2 vehicles and 2 trailers (with Thomas John Howarth as its TM). On 1st December a request was made to amend the application to a Restricted Goods Vehicle Operator’s licence for 1 vehicle.

The reason for the Restricted Licence application was to allow Mr Howarth to conduct his farming business. The Licence would enable him to move stock and straw bales as a part of his business.

Issues During the Application Process

The application however failed to mention a previous sole trader licence held by Mr Howarth, nor the revocation of the company licence held by Howard International Transport ltd. Having said that the company licence was confirmed to having been held in the past.

While the application was being processed the DVSA carried out ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) checks on the 2 vehicles referred to on the licence application. The checks revealed 26 vehicle sightings in late July 2020 across several days. Photos showed the trailers about to be loaded during these trips in July. It was also established that neither of the vehicles were taxed for road-use at the time.

A further ANPR check to encompass the 6-week period from 15 September to 30th October 2020 revealed more unlawful vehicle use.

Public Inquiry & Decision

At the hearing, the solicitor for Mr Howarth contended on the applicant’s behalf that there had been “occasional” unlawful use of the vehicles but argued this use related to “time-sensitive” produce for animals and other essential business. He also argued there was no intention to gain a competitive advantage & the mistakes made were “honest mistakes”.

The TC was not directly concerned with the finances or systems of the applicant. However, the fitness to hold an Operator’s Licence was an issue. After carefully weighing up the positive and negative factors to consider, the TC ultimately found there had been clear breaches of the requirements following the revocation of the company licence in February 2020, which led the TC to find on the balance of probabilities the requirement to fitness was not met. The application was therefore refused.

Click here to view the decision