THE LAST MILE- Goods service licences should have to be renewed

5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 26, 2020

The Transport Services Licensing Act 1989 introduced the qualitative style of transport licensing we have today; previously we had a quantitative system. Under the quantitative system, if you wanted to operate a goods service you had to apply to the licensing authority and prove to them that the service was needed. You were required to advertise your intention to provide the service in the newspapers, and anybody could object. Objectors often included existing licence holders who saw new operators as competitors. The railways were frequent objectors. Under the qualitative system a person no longer has to prove the service is needed and there is no provision for others to object to another operator starting up. Instead, the person who will be in control of the new service has to pass what is called a certificate of knowledge of law and practice test and be assessed by the NZ Transport Agency as being a fit and proper person to control a transport service.

Grandparent rights were granted to those who already held a licence when the qualitative system came into effect. Once granted, a TSL continues in force unless it is surrendered, or deemed to be surrendered, by the holder, or the licence is suspended or revoked by the NZTA. As long as you don‘t draw attention to yourself you can generally continue to operate without the need to regularly prove your business is run along qualitative lines, the aim of the licensing system. The increase in reports of licence holders coming to the attention of the NZTA suggests that perhaps the current approach needs a rethink. I have no doubt that a number of the licence holders who have been subject to closer scutiny by the NZTA would, up until the NZTA paid them a call, claim they were operating within the spirit of qualitative licensing. So what should happen?

TSLs should be granted for a specific time frame, say five years, after which you have to reapply for its renewal. The NZTA would evaluate your application, and, if they were satisfied you still met the standards, reissue the licence for a further period. If you didn‘t meet the standards, your licence would not be renewed and you could no longer operate. The renewal process does not need to be onerous: 12 months out from the expiry date the NZTA would send you a reminder and invite you to complete a self-audit; this could be online. The audit would ask you to evaluate your current systems and processes against a number of standards and expectations of how a quality transport organisation should operate. The standards would be jointly agreed between the NZTA and industry, perhaps based upon the draft New Zealand Road Transport Industry Code of Good Practice that was prepared in May 2003 but which died soon after.

When they got your application the NZTA would have several options, including accepting your self-audit and renewing your licence for a further period, having an external agent verify that what you have said in your application is correct, or conducting an audit themselves. We regularly claim that we are a professional industry, so isn‘t it about time we actually started to put some evidence behind these claims? Having to renew our licence is one way to do this. Doctors and lawyers have to renew their practising certificate, plumbers, gasfitters, and drainlayers have to renew their licence every five years, and electricians every two, so why should we be any different? Road Transport Forum CEO Nick Leggett recently wrote that the industry must earn its social licence; one way in which we could do this is prove to all New Zealand that we operate in a professional way that is regularly reconfirmed by the regulator.