The new changes include updates to certain temporary relaxations that were put in place when the pandemic was at its peak, in particular concerning vehicle maintenance inspection intervals and local bus service registration.
Maintenance Inspection Intervals – back to normal from 1st September 2020
The Guidance had previously allowed for an extension to PMI safety inspection intervals by either 50% or to a maximum of 17 weeks (whichever was less) where necessary due to restrictions imposed by Covid-19, subject always to the overarching principle that vehicles must, at all times, be safe and roadworthy, and that operators should ensure that all necessary defect rectification records are maintained.
In all cases, from 1st September 2020, PMI inspection intervals must return to those stated on the operator’s licence. For any operator that has taken advantage of this relaxation and extended its inspection interval, the extended frequency may be used until the first inspection after 1st September 2020. Thereafter, normal maintenance intervals should resume. The Guidance provides a worked example of how this transition may work practically.
Operators should assume that inspection intervals will be particularly carefully scrutinised by the DVSA in the coming months, so should ensure that PMIs are forward-planned and booked well in advance.
Bus Registrations – Temporary Service Variations
A number of amended measures have remained in place in relation to bus service registrations – including in relation to temporary variations to local bus services.
Throughout the peak of the pandemic, operators were encouraged to lodge variation applications in cases where it was necessary to reduce or stop services temporarily, with the intention being that such services would revert back to the original timetable at the expiry of the period given in the application.
The amended Guidance confirms that operators now wishing to increase services incrementally – but without reverting back to the original timetable at this stage – may apply for a further temporary variation, provided that the intention is to revert to the original registered timetable by 4th January 2021. Subject to this same intention, the Traffic Commissioners have also confirmed that fees for these applications will be waived.
The provisions in place to ease the administrative burden on OTC staff by allowing operators to use specific email addresses to make variations, cancellations or applications to local bus services remain in place.
The guidance had previously allowed a notice period of 24 hours for local authorities to consider any proposed temporary service variations and decide whether to request a further period of consultation within which to consider the impact of those variations. From 3rd August 2020 in England (and 29th June 2020 in Scotland), this notice period has now been increased to 72 hours. Where the local authority fails to provide any notice seeking a longer consultation period within this timeframe, any proposed variations will be deemed as accepted.
Applications to register new services or permanently vary services will remain subject to the usual statutory notice periods.
Operators will need to take care to ensure that the necessary steps are followed as the demand for services increases.