i have heard many lively debates with friends over the years about the role and the value that the Traffic Commissioners bring to the Bus and Coach Industry. Mind you I have also heard blistering attacks and noisy negativity by some who more often than not have been hauled before the beak and been reprimanded for various offences. The key issue has really been around the time parameters that define early and late services. I recall when the announcement was made that going forward if a bus was deemed to be one minute early then that was it. And if a bus was more than 5 minutes late then it was late.
For me who ran bus services in both urban and rural areas the reality was simple. So long as you got good professional management systems in play and well motivated and properly managed staff. Then nine times out of ten, you will get it right, however more importantly, if your systems are in place, when challenged then you had the means at your disposal to offer valid reasons and defencive arguments as to why services failed to operate in line with the guidelines.
When I started my career as a young Bus Manager, the local West Midlands Traffic Commissioner was a former Major General of the British army. He was obsessed with bus depots having robust bus maintenance systems, to be fair whatever you were summoned for as long as you turned up with graphs and charts showing your preventative maintenance was in order then he as as happy as Larry. He was a classic old school sort of TC, a resounding booming voice, so long as you called him Sir, and were well presented then you were usually OK.
Back in the day when bus drivers had lost their license for what ever reason then if a Manaager turned up and offered to ensure that the errant driver would not only be given a job, but be carefully monitored to ensure that they behaved then usually all would be good. I went to represent one of my drivers who had recently served a custodial sentence for none payment of child maintenance. This happened quite a lot back in the day, one day All would be fine then the next day you would get a phone call saying sorry can’t come to work as I have been banged up for a month. In theory a PSV bus badge meant that the person holding it had to be of good repute, this required a trip before the Major General, and going into the dock to put the case for the driver.
Of course it also helped to have the preventative maintenance schedule close to hand just in case it got mentioned which of course it did. On one occasion I went to represent a chap who had been ex military and following his leaving the army he was encouraged to go into a new line of work called bank robbing. This he did until he got caught and then served two years of a five year sentence. This chaps father worked for me and he was a lovely man who I held in the highest regard. So when he asked me if I would help I replied of course, so on the due day we drove from Hereford to Broad street where the Commissioner was based to present our case. I had on my best whistle and flute as did the chap applying for clemency to get his license. He made sure that ha had his medals clealy on display. I expected a hard time given the severity of the offence, but just the opposite happened. The Major General was very sympathetic and understanding. His final comment to him was make sure you take full advantage of this new opportunity and I hooped that you make a better bus driver than you were a bank robber!
Well those days are well and truly gone, today’s TC’s are modern and tech savvy, they understand the industry and in my experience are fair and reasonable. Without them we would be a poorer Industry they regulate the safety for the public, and they punish those who deserve to be punished. All in all a force for good.