An operator’s licence is needed for carrying goods associated with a trade or business you operate for hire or reward and when using a vehicle with a gross mass of over 3.5 tonnes. You also need an operator’s licence for pulling a trailer when the gross plated weight of the vehicle and trailer combined exceeds 3.5 tonnes.
There are three types of operator licence:
Restricted Operator’s Licence – this applies to those who carry their own goods or materials for their trade or business, and covers all transport operations within the UK (see our page on restricted licences for further information)
Standard National Operator’s Licence – applies to those who carry their own goods or materials for their trade or business and/ or carries goods for hire or reward. Covers all transport operations in the UK but someone who works in the company must hold a Transport Manager CPC application
International Operator’s Licence -Same as the Standard National Licence but covers transport operations across Europe
The Traffic Commissioner for the Traffic Area where your operating centre is based will issue the operator’s licence. It is illegal to use vehicles without an operator’s licence where one is required and in doing so you could be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £5000 or have your vehicle impounded. It can also have a detrimental effect on obtaining an operator’s licence in the future because you might be considered unfit to hold one.
There are many situations where operators commit this offence without realising it. For example when transferring from sole trader to limited company status, or when using a vehicle for one day on a one-off hire. It is also considered a serious offence to use, forge, alter or lend an operator’s licence with intent to deceive. This offence carries an unlimited fine and a maximum of two years in prison.
The Traffic Commissioner will judge your application against legal guidelines when deciding whether to issue the licence. If you breach regulations, for example if they do not think a vehicle is safe or being used properly or your fitness is questioned a Public Inquiry will be arranged by the Traffic Commissioner to consider regulatory action such as suspending, revoking or curtailing your licence.
Some vehicles are exempt from an operator’s licence, including:
- Vehicles being used under a trade licence/ with trade plates
- Motor vehicles with trailers moving between private premises owned by the same person and using public roads for less than 6 miles a week
- Vehicles adapted for carrying passengers and their goods (any trailer) and being used for that purpose
- Vehicles that are uncompleted and being tested or trialled
- Dual purpose vehicles and their trailers
To apply to make changes to an existing operator’s licence, for example if there is an increase or decrease in the number of vehicles authorised, or if an operating centre needs changing or removing, a GV80/GV81 form needs to be completed and sent to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner at Leeds.
For more information about obtaining an operator’s licence contact our specialist transport team on 0800 046 3066