The Lorry Lawyer: DWF keeping you moving forward

OCRS changes

On 30 April 2012, vehicle operators may suddenly find that their Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) has changed (for better or worse) without them having done anything to warrant that change.

As you may be aware, OCRS is a mechanism used at the roadside by VOSA; it is intelligence for VOSA investigations and it is information that your local Traffic Commissioner may monitor. Given that the OCRS, and the banding given to an operator based on that score, dictates VOSA’s inspection priorities (a green banded operator being put under the least likely to be subject to an inspection and red banded being put under the highest scrutiny), operators should be aware of the changes, which, for some, may result in them put under increased review.

DWF’s transport team look at what changes are coming on 30 April 2012 and how this might affect you:

OCRS calculated over a period of three years

An operator’s OCRS will now take account of any events in the three years prior to the calculation (rather than two). Therefore, when the changes come into force on 30 April, VOSA will look back to May 2009 when calculating the scores. In addition, scores will now be calculated weekly, rather than monthly. While it will take longer for point-attracting events to drop off the OCRS system, the plus side of this change is that any clear events (which reduce the score) will also be taken into account for a longer period of time.

Weighting factor according to the age of the event

In order to counterbalance the impact of the 3 year calculation, a weighting factor will be applied to events, whereby the number of points allocated to a particular contravening event will decrease over time. Consequently, a contravention that occurred two years previously will no longer attract the same number of points as those that happened just last week. Point-attracting events that occurred between two and three years ago will be given a 25% ‘discount’, rising to 50% for those events between two and three years old.

No predictive scoring and the new grey band

The changes see the removal of predictive scoring for operators who do not have sufficient operating history to qualify for an OCRS. From 30 April, operators without three years’ operating history will automatically be given a newly-formed grey band. Following the introduction of the grey banding, the order of VOSA’s prioritisation for inspections will be as follows:

Traffic enforcement checks:

  • Red (Score of over 30)
  • Grey (No score)
  • Amber (Score of between 5 and 30)
  • Green (Score of less than 5)

Road Worthiness checks:Red (Score of over 25)

  • Amber (Score of between 10 and 25)
  • Grey (No score)
  • Green (Score of less than 10)

Definitive banding with no ‘league table’

Under the current system, operators could move between bands without having an ‘event’ if the scores of other operators changed. The scores of other operators could influence the banding because of the percentile banding system, whereby only a certain percentage of operators could fall within a particular band. Due to the perceived unfairness of a system that could put an operator into the red band in circumstances that are entirely out of its control, the bandings will now be fixed at a set number of points, wholly independent of any other operator’s score. This allows you to be in control of your own destiny, so to speak.

‘Straight to red’ offences

Perhaps the most worrying change for operators is the introduction of the ‘straight to red’ penalty for operators (not drivers) who find themselves convicted of an offence by VOSA. Upon conviction, the operator would be given an instant red banding for a period of one full calendar year. After which time, the operator’s banding would revert to what it was prior to the conviction. What is more, even where there is no conviction but where an operator finds itself the subject of a prohibition notice or fixed penalty notice in respect of one of a designated list of offences, the operator will go straight to red for a period of six months. We would refer you to the FTA’s Guidance Note for more detailed information.

While the FTA has, on the whole, welcomed the changes, there remains some reservation over the potential severity of the impact of the ‘straight to red’ system. The FTA has called for amendments to the new system that would allow an operator to be returned to the banding it was at before the prosecution if the operator can demonstrate that the incident was isolated and that it does not reflect a more general culture of non-compliance. It will be interesting to see how this develops in practice.

Changes to the number of points allocated to each defect or offence

Offences will be categorised in order of seriousness, with the different categories of offences attracting different numbers of points. Again, we would urge operators to review the FTA’s Guidance Note for more detail on these enforcement points and proposed levels.

The effect of the changes may be very much a matter of ‘swings and roundabouts’, meaning that while some of the changes may have a negative impact on an operator’s scoring, the positive impact of other changes might well balance that out. However, the true impact of the changes will be one to be discovered by each individual operator. But, in our experience, predictive scoring was often causing good operators difficulties. So, it is our view that, on the while, operators running a compliant fleet have nothing to fear and everything to gain from a more level playing field.

For more information, please contact DWF’s Senior Transport Solicitor, Vikki Woodfine on 0161 603 5060 or Joanne Witheford on 0161 838 0108.

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