There are 3 different types of Operator’s Licence for goods vehicles and 2 for passenger vehicles. The Licence you need depends on where you transport goods to and from, and who you do it for.
Standard National Licence
This licence permits you to carry:
- your own goods in Northern Ireland and GB
- other people’s goods in the UK
You can also take loaded trailers to or from ports within the UK as part of an international journey, as long as your vehicles don’t leave the country.
Standard International Licence
This licence means you can carry your own goods, and other people’s goods, both in the UK and on international journeys.
When you get a standard international licence, you can also request the issue of Community Licenses. These allow:
- trips between all EU member countries
- transit traffic through EU member countries
- cabotage (journeys entirely within another EU member country)
This licence allows you to carry your own goods, but not other people’s goods.
Your licence will continue to be valid as long as you operate within the terms of your licence and pay your continuation fee every 5 years. You’ll be contacted every 5 years to make sure that your licence shows the correct information.
How to apply for a licence
You can follow the information below or make things easier and get our Operators Licence & Transport Management Division do it for you!
Apply for your goods vehicle operator’s licence at least 3 months before you want to start operating, to allow time for your application to be processed.
You will also need to:
- advertise your application for a licence
- advertise your proposed operating centre(s)
- designate a transport manager if you’re applying for a standard licence
- provide information about your financial situation
- draw up a maintenance contract with a garage or agent to do safety inspections and repair vehicles if you don’t do this yourself
You’ll have to pay a fee to apply for a licence.
If you need a licence urgently, you can apply for an interim licence until you get your full licence. The traffic commissioner will only consider issuing an interim licence on receipt of a complete application for an operator’s licence.
What does the Transport Regulation (In Northern Ireland) and Traffic Commissioners do?
There are 8 traffic areas in Great Britain with a Traffic Commissioner responsible for each area. In Northern Ireland there is the Transport Regulation Unit and in the Republic of Ireland the Road Transport Operator Licensing Unit from the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport. You’ll need to hold a goods vehicle operator’s licence for each traffic area where you have an operating centre.
Traffic commissioners are responsible in their area for:
- licensing operators of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs)
- granting vocational licenses
- taking action against drivers of HGVs
When necessary, they also hold In-chambers Hearings and Public Inquiries to consider:
- the environmental suitability of HGV operating centers
- applications for new licenses
- disciplinary action against operators who have broken the conditions of their licenses
Your operating centre is where your vehicles are normally kept when not in use. When you apply for an operator’s licence, you’ll be asked to give the address of your proposed centre(s) and information about the numbers of trailers and vehicles you will keep there.
You’ll need to show that your operating centre:
- is large enough
- has safe access
- is in an environmentally acceptable location
If you don’t own the operating centre, you must show that you’re allowed to use it.
Advertising your application for a goods vehicle operator’s licence
You must advertise your application for a licence in a local newspaper and supply details of your proposed operating centre. This advertisement must appear at least once in the period from 21 days before to 21 days after you make your application, to give people the chance to object.
Your application may be refused if you don’t advertise the centre properly.
Objecting to an application for a goods vehicle operator licence
Local councils, planning authorities, police, trade associations, trade unions and other bodies may object to your application for a licence.
Objections may be made on the grounds of:
- your fitness to operate
- your financial arrangements
- your professional competence
- the environmental impact of the operating centre
- the general suitability of the centre
Your operating centre will need to meet certain conditions and not interfere with any local amenities. Certain things will be taken into account, like:
- its effect on the surrounding environment
- planning permissions or applications relating to the centre or the land near it
- the number, type and size of vehicles using the centre
- where and how vehicles will park
- how often and for what purpose the centre will be used
Maintaining your vehicles
You must keep your vehicles safe and in good condition at all times. You’ll have to keep records of all safety inspections and maintenance that you or your maintenance contractor do for a minimum of 15 months.
Carrying out your own inspections and maintenance
If you carry out your own safety inspections and maintenance, you must keep records that include:
- vehicle details
- a list of all items to be inspected
- when and by whom the inspection is carried out
- the result of the inspection
- details of any work carried out
- a declaration that any defects have been properly fixed
You must make sure your drivers carry out a ‘walkaround check’ before driving a vehicle for the first time each day.
Using a maintenance provider
If you don’t do this work yourself, you must provide the traffic commissioner with a copy of a contract with a maintenance provider. You’re still responsible for the condition of your vehicles and trailers, even if they are maintained for you by someone else.
The process of applying, obtaining and keeping an Operator’s Licence can be a time consuming and frustrating. We understand that you still have a business to run so let us take the hassle out of it. Our Operators Licence & Transport Management Division has been specifically designed for the job.