You need a goods vehicle operator’s licence if your business uses goods vehicles above a certain weight.
You need a licence to carry goods in a lorry, van or other vehicle with either:
• a gross plated weight (the maximum weight that the vehicle can have at any one time) of over 3,500 kilograms (kg)
• an unladen weight of more than 1,525 kg (where there is no plated weight)
There are 3 different types of licence - what you need depends on the work you do.
You must also make sure that any drivers you use or employ have the correct licence and training. All vehicles that you use should be correctly taxed and kept safe and in good condition at all times.
Carrying goods for hire or reward
If you’re carrying other people’s goods for hire or reward (eg working as a courier or freight transport business) and the vehicle and trailer combination exceeds the weight limits above for a single vehicle, then you’ll need a standard licence.
Types of licence
There are 3 different types of operator’s licence for goods vehicles. The licence you need depends on where you transport goods to and from, and who you do it for.
Standard licence (national only)
This licence means you can carry your own and other people’s goods in Great Britain. You can also take loaded trailers to or from ports within Great Britain as part of an international journey, as long as your vehicles don’t leave the country.
Standard licence (national and international)
This licence means you can carry your own goods, and other people’s goods, both in Great Britain and on international journeys.
When you get a standard international licence, you can also request the issue of Community Licences. 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 pay your continuation fee every 5 years and operate within the terms of your licence. You’ll be contacted every 5 years to make sure that your licence shows the correct information.
Apply for a licence
The goods vehicle operator licensing scheme is administered by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) on behalf of the traffic commissioners.
How to apply for a licence
Apply for your goods vehicle operator’s licence at least 9 weeks 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