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Do I Need an Operator’s Licence? (Goods Vehicles)


This is a simple question which is not always simple to answer. The Operator Licensing system is complex and there are many exemptions that may or may not apply to you. The reality is that you should always get specialist advice or you could find yourself applying for a licence that you do not need, or worse – facing a conviction for operating without a licence!


The Basics:

You need an Operator’s Licence if:


  • you use a goods vehicle of over 3.5 tonnes gross plated weight (or where there is no plated weight and the vehicle has an unladen weight of no more than 1,525kg),
  • to transport goods or any other load,
  • for hire or reward, or in connection with a trade or business.

Vehicle and trailer combinations will usually need a licence if the combined gross plated weights of the trailer and vehicle exceed the above weights. Some vehicles above these weights are, even so, exempt from the Operator Licence Regime (See below).


So Does It Apply To Me?

The key questions you need to ask are:


1) Is the vehicle and/or trailer over 3.5 tonnes gross plated weight? – If not then you won’t need an Operator’s licence.


2) Am I using it to transport goods for hire or reward, or in connection with a trade or business? – If you are not then you won’t need an Operator’s licence. (For example if I use my horsebox to transport my own horses to and from where I ride them for pleasure then no Operator’s licence required. If I charge people to move their horses about or I run a pony trekking business then I will require an Operator’s Licence.)


3) Does my vehicle fall within one of the exemptions of the Operator Licencing scheme? If it does then you won’t need an Operator’s licence.


Is My Vehicle Exempt from Needing an Operators’ Licence?

If your vehicle is exempt then you do not need an Operators’ Licence. Schedule 3 of The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995 lists 29 different types of exempt vehicle.


You need to be very sure that you do fall within one of these exemptions or you open yourself to being prosecuted for operating without a licence. If you are not sure seek advice from a Road Transport Lawyer.


If you are relying on an exemption, then it is vital that the exemption covers your vehicle entirely. If, for example, you wish to operate under the exemption that your truck is a recovery vehicle then this is all it can do. You cannot recover the vehicle, fix it and then use your truck to return the mended vehicle to its owner as part of the service. By doing so, your truck is no longer a recovery vehicle and you are transporting goods for hire or reward or in connection with a trade or business. In that scenario you would be operating without a licence and are liable to be prosecuted.


If you are in doubt as to whether you should have an Operator’s Licence then contact us. Our specialist transport lawyers at Smith Bowyer Clarke can advise you on whether you need a licence and can guide you through the process of applying for one.

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