The next step: Incorporating the purchase transaction within the legislative and regulatory context

In all countries, the development and running of networks of urban services, whether it is for the distribution of water or energy, the treatment of waste, sanitation, or passenger and goods presentation, are governed by the legislative and regulatory texts under the jurisdiction of the state (laws, decrees, etc.) and/or local authorities (decrees, etc.) to which can be added the charters and agreements of the professional, public or private sectors.

However, this legislative and regulatory arsenal is not exempt, to varying degrees, from issues of over- and under-regulation, diminishing relevance over the course of the amendments made, age and lack of synergy, lack of anticipation in the face of developments and projects entailing new rules.

While it is true that, in the past, the texts governing a field of activity could fall entirely under the remit of a single entity (e.g. a ministry), today, the development and running of a network of urban services brings together multiple institutional and professional stakeholders.

Road networks and passenger transport systems inundate the cities and are the vectors of urban mobility. Whatever the modes used (walking, individual and collective motorised travel), their development is tending towards increased supply, safety and quality, but also increased complexity. This development is in line with the obligation placed on the multiple stakeholders to update the texts and extend their scope, to incorporate environmental issues, in particular.

Consequently, the organisation and management of mobility, initially under the guidance of a single institutional stakeholder, now involves other stakeholders in roles and jobs, and a legislative and regulatory framework that is changing all the time.

How to complete and update the legislative and regulatory arsenal in force

Any project, that significantly modifies the organisation of the network, the methods used to run the routes, the relationships between stakeholders (institutional and professional), the volume and quality of the offer and, of course, safety, will necessarily require additions and updates to be made to the legislative and regulatory arsenal. 

The project to renew a fleet of older vehicles, which in many cases has not been designed for urban transport, with new-generation buses involves special support measures and the updating of regulatory texts (including new texts). The points developed below illustrate this need.

Vehicle approval

What does the approval of a vehicle entail?

The approval of a vehicle is the act by which the administrative authority (state) certifies that the vehicle complies with the technical and safety requirements defined by law. The purchase of new-generation buses to replace a fleet of old used vehicles, that was not initially designed for passenger transport, should automatically generate a complete overhaul of the regulatory framework.

First step: The approval reflects the criteria retained by law for the required vehicle quality:

Approval will reflect the obligations imposed on the carriers to thereafter only purchase vehicles that meet the criteria set by law, including those criteria that concern the safety of passengers, bus crews and other road users. The same will apply to the standards pertaining to the protection of the environment (engine specifications, drive train, etc., referring to the European standard in particular). 

> Are the vehicles I use approved? NO/IN PROGRESS/YES

On what basis should the texts relating to the approval process be reworked and/or updated? By referring to the technical specifications of the new vehicle; its validation by the state departments certifying its compliance with state policies and guidelines for improving road safety, sustainable development and the running of the city. That’s why the drafting of new texts to replace all or part of the previous regulations must form part of an iterative process, involving the ministries concerned, under the guidance of the ministry responsible transport and traffic. 

Second step: Operating licence:
The vehicle acceptance and issuing of the registration certificate, which allows it to be used on the public highways, comes after the approval, that is linked to the vehicle type and specifications. The authorisation to operate the vehicle on an urban transport route (suburban or regional) is part of the procedure for granting an operating licence performed by the entity recognised as the transport authority.

Operating authorisation

The operating authorisation, or operating licence, is issued by the public authority in charge of organising and developing passenger transport services for an agglomeration, a city, regional services or national routes. 

               > Generally, the operating licence:

Is assigned to a legally constituted professional transport body[1] (cooperative, company, sole trader) applying to operate a public transport service for people on a specified route; the operator cannot use this licence to produce a service on another route, without the prior validation of this transfer by the public authority;

Requires that any documents be presented to the public authority that will confirm the quality, expertise and probity of the operator;

Requires the operator to sign the route operating specifications for which the licence is granted; this signature constitutes acceptance of the checks as to the compliance with these specifications and the penalties incurred in the event of non-compliance;

Requires the operator to comply with the laws and regulations in force with regard to passenger transport;

Is granted for a limited time and can be renewed at the end of its validity period (as long as the operator complies with the obligations associated with the licence granted for the past period).

[1] Hereinafter referred to as “the operator”

Do the vehicles I use have an operating licence? NO/IN PROGRESS/YES

How is it that the regulatory texts pertaining to operating licences have to be amended [2] because of the purchase of new generation vehicles?

[2] In comparison to previous acquisitions of used vehicles

It is necessary to:

Specify, if necessary, that the recipient of the operating licence is the operator (and not the vehicle), that this attribution is free (excluding the administrative costs) and that, at the end of its validity or when the operator ceases to operate, the licence must be returned to the public authority without any entitlement to claim financial compensation[3];

Take into account the cost of buying a new vehicle by: 

Extending the first period of validity of the licence so that it is at least equal to the depreciation period of the loan contracted by the operator (without however departing from the basic period in the event of a non-compliance with the operating specifications and other texts);

Integrating any accompanying measures that may be taken by the state to facilitate investment in fleet renewal (cf. tax breaks in favour of the operator, for example).

[3] Linking the licence to the vehicle leads to the valuation of the licence and its resale. 

Operating specifications

What is the specification document?

The operating specifications for a public passenger transport service is a state law divided into two parts: the general clauses with a national scope on the one hand, and the special clauses related to the level of service (urban and suburban, regional[4], national) on the other hand.

The general clauses apply to all the operators (same terms).

The special clauses define the characteristics of a route (itinerary, terminus, stops, etc.) and the terms of its operation (type of vehicle, daily amplitude of the service, frequencies, etc.).

The operating specifications take the form of a contract signed between the public authority responsible for organising and developing passenger transport and the operator selected to run it.

The general and special clauses of the specifications will have to be adapted accordingly, including some new provisions regarding the maximum daily driving time for the driver.

[4] Or Provincial depending on the administrative organisation of the country

Benefits of introducing new generation vehicles:

The introduction of new generation vehicles is helping to advance the organisation of operations, working conditions, and the safety of staff and passengers, like the public transport services. It is in this respect that support measures, including financial support, agreed by the public authorities, may be assigned to it: lower import duties, deferred VAT payments, state bonus, state guarantee for loans made, etc.

For example: By renewing the fleet of a saturated route (too many small vehicles, no options for increasing supply, unsatisfied demand) with modern vehicles with higher capacities:

Supply volumes can be increased, including by reducing the number of vehicles on the route thereby “de-saturating operations;

The service times can be extended to include the time slots where the demand could not be satisfied;

Operations can be organised into two services covering the entire time of service rather than just one. As a result, there is a reduction of driving time per service, and better working and safety conditions, as well as the creation of jobs.

A need to update skills 

The gradual renewal with a range of new generation vehicles must lead to professional advancement, including for those working in operations. 

> A joint overhaul of the fare system by outsourcing the sale of tickets can transform the role of the conductor into that of a ticket controller.

Staff will therefore have to acquire the skills required by new professions. But the need to upgrade skills also affects current professions.

> For drivers, who make up a large proportion of the workforce, holding a driving licence is not enough to transport passengers in the best conditions of comfort and safety. What’s more, for those who have received the initial training, the daily driving routine tends to lead to a divergence from learned driving techniques.

The approval of new vehicles is, for the public authorities, the opportunity to improve the skills of the staff in place (ongoing training) and create new provisions for those seeking to access the passenger transport professions (initial training). The required qualifications and the recognition of the skills acquired, evidenced by issuing a special “passenger transport” driving licence, can only enhance the status of those concerned and improve the image of the profession.

The conception and implementation of such support measures over the long-term involves various institutional stakeholders (including the state departments responsible for transport, road safety, vocational training, etc.); it is up to them to develop the texts accordingly and to initiate the corresponding training programmes in consultation with the profession.

Maintenance and vehicle safety inspections 

The vehicle safety and maintenance operations for new vehicles are scheduled in the maintenance log; the manufacturer does the servicing during the warranty period. Predictive maintenance that minimises the risk of breakdowns and other technical failures on the public roads must replace the “rudimentary” corrective maintenance practices. These new practices must ensure maximum availability and safety for day-to-day operations.  

Purely for reasons of “safety”, the regulatory texts include the obligation for the operator to comply with the provisions of the maintenance log. This log, which is duly completed after each service performed on the vehicle, may be requested by the police in the event of an accident and must be checked at each vehicle safety inspection. The consequences of not complying with scheduled maintenance are to be specified by a system of sanctions defined by the texts.

More stringent periodic vehicle safety inspections are also recommended. While it must incorporate new standards and obligations relating in particular to safety systems and polluting emissions, it must also apply to the bodywork and internal facilities so that damage, lack of cleanliness and hygiene, premature ageing, etc., should be checked for significant maintenance shortfalls. 

Additions would have to be made to the texts in this regard.