In a face-to-face meeting held earlier today, the Environment Minister Alex Attwood MLA reassured the Freight Transport Association that he was confident Operator Licensing would be introduced into Northern Ireland by April.

    Following industry pressure, the scope for the new ‘O-licensing’ regime was passed in January 2010, but since then the leading trade body has been frustrated by a lack of progress.

    Tom Wilson, FTA’s Head of Policy for Northern Ireland, met with Mr Attwood at Stormont. He said:

    “In all our meetings with Mr Attwood – and, indeed, with previous Assembly ministers – we have put the need for an O-licensing regime for all truck operators right at the top of our agenda. We believe that through this we can significantly improve the safety standards of HGVs on Northern Ireland’s roads.

    “The economic argument for O-licensing is also strong. If commercial vehicle owners were legally bound to make regular, preventative maintenance checks and drivers were properly trained to detect vehicle faults then this would reduce congestion resulting from vehicle breakdowns, improve air quality and reduce those indirect costs associated with unreliable deliveries and vehicle downtime.”

    Licensing of transport operators has had a positive impact on road safety in Great Britain, where it has existed for over forty years requiring commercial vehicle operators to hold an ‘O-licence’ to carry goods connected with any trade or business on a vehicle over 3.5 tonnes, whether for ‘own account trade’ or ‘hire and reward’. However, this new legislation will mean that every goods vehicle operator in Northern Ireland, including ‘own account’, will now be legally required to hold an O-licence.

    Wilson concluded:

    “The Minister absolutely gets the importance of O-licensing to Northern Ireland, and we are encouraged by the confidence he has that it will be introduced by the April deadline.”