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Becoming a Goods Vehicle Operator UK

Information in this section overviews the licensing system for being a goods vehicle operator and how to comply with the regulations in the United Kingdom.

Find out when you need a goods vehicle operator's licence, how to apply to the DVSA, and the current fees. Extra topics explain the regulations for operating centres and for vehicle maintenance.

Goods Vehicle Operators

Different Types of Operator’s Licence

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) administers three different types of operator licences for goods vehicles.

So, which licence do you need? It will depend on where you are going to transport goods to and from and who you will be doing it for.

Standard National Operators Licence

Being in possession of the standard national licence means you can conduct only certain types of national operations, such as:

  • Carrying your own goods on your ‘own account’ in Great Britain and abroad.
  • Carrying goods for other people (for hire or reward) within Great Britain only.

This type of operator’s licence allows you to haul loaded trailers to or from ports within Great Britain, even if they are part of an international journey. But, the vehicles must not actually leave Great Britain.

Standard International Licence

Being in possession of the standard international licence means you can carry your own goods, and goods for other people (for hire or reward), in Great Britain and on international journeys.

Goods vehicle operators issued with standard international licences will also receive Community Licences in five year periods. These allow for the haulage of other types of hire or reward operations, such as:

  • Trips made between all the European Union (EU) member countries.
  • Transit traffic made through EU member countries.
  • A limited number of journeys made entirely within another EU member country (under the rules of cabotage).

Restricted Licence

Having a restricted licence means you can carry your own goods on your own account within Great Britain and the EU. But, restricted licences do not allow for the carrying of other people’s goods.

The licence would stay valid providing you pay the continuation fee every five (5) years and do not breach the terms of the licence. The DVSA would contact you every five years to check the licence is displaying all the correct information.

You can contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) if you need answers to questions about goods vehicle licences.

Vehicle Operator Licensing Enquiries
Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 0300 123 9000

The Ellipse
Padley Road

DVSA International Road Haulage Permits Office
Telephone: 0330 678 1117
Mail: [email protected]
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane

Note: The DVSA International Road Haulage Permits Office handles applications and enquiries on transportation outside the EU.

Apply for a Vehicle Operator Licence Online

The DVSA handles the administration of the goods vehicle operator licensing scheme in Great Britain on behalf of the traffic commissioners.

Setting up a vehicle operator licensing account means you can apply for a vehicle operator licence online. Even so, you also need to:

  • Advertise your application for a vehicle operator licence and the proposed operating centre(s).
  • Designate a transport manager (if applying for a standard national licence).
  • Provide certain information about your financial situation.
  • Draw up a maintenance contract with a garage or an agent to perform safety inspections and repair your vehicles (unless you do it yourself).

Note: You can request a form from the DVSA to apply by post if you live in England, Wales, or Scotland.

DVSA Customer Service Centre
Telephone: 0300 123 9000
Monday to Friday: 7:30am to 6pm
Information on call charges.

The section below lists the current fees for goods vehicle licences. As a rule, you would get a decision on the application:

  • Within seven (7) weeks (if you applied online).
  • Within nine (9) weeks (if you applied by postal methods).

Applying for an Interim Licence

You should use the same application process to apply for an interim licence. But, the traffic commissioner would need to see a complete application for a full operator’s licence before considering whether to issue an interim licence.

The Role of Traffic Commissioners

The eight traffic commissioners for Great Britain are responsible for managing their own particular area. You would need to hold a goods vehicle operator’s licence for each of the traffic areas where you have an operating centre.

Some of the responsibilities of traffic commissioners in their own specific area, will include:

  • Being the licensing operators of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs).
  • Granting vocational licences.
  • Taking enforcement action against drivers of Heavy Goods Vehicles.

In some cases, and if it becomes necessary, they will also hold public inquiries with the aim of considering:

  • Applications for new goods vehicle operator licences.
  • Administering disciplinary action to operators who breach the conditions of their licence.
  • How HGV operating centres are impacting the environment.

Important: The rules for being a goods vehicle operator and the licensing fees differ in Northern Ireland.

Fees for Goods Vehicle Operator’s Licence

There are several different fees for goods vehicle licences, depending on what action you have requested. The standard charges are:

  • A one-off fee which is payable at the time of the application.
  • A fee for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to issue the licence.
  • A fee for the issuance of an interim licence (where applicable).

There is also a continuation fee (paid every five years) to keep a goods vehicle operator licence active.

Application for a goods vehicle operator’s licence £257
Issuance of goods vehicle operator licence £401
Continuation of a licence after five (5) years £401
Issuance of an interim licence £68
Making a major change to a licence £257

Different Ways to Pay Licence Fees

There are several ways you can pay the different costs for good vehicle licensing, such as by paying:

  • Online (at the same time as applying for a vehicle operator licence).
  • By telephone (call the DVSA Helpline number to pay for interim, issuing, and continuation fees).
  • By postal methods (make cheques payable to ‘DVSA’ and send them to the licensing office address).

Central Licensing Office>
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane

Operating Centres Rules and Regulations

A designated operating centre should be the place where you keep your vehicles when they are not in use. It should have enough off street parking space for all your vehicles and any trailer units.

You must give details on the address of the proposed operating centre(s) when applying for an operator’s licence. You will also need to give information on the numbers of vehicles and trailers that you will keep at each location.

As a general rule, you must be able to show the traffic commissioner that the place you designate as your operating centre:

  • Is big enough to cater for your vehicles and trailers.
  • Has safe access for entry and exit.
  • Is located in an environmentally acceptable area.

Note: You may need to provide evidence of entitlement for use if you are not the owner of the operating centre.

Advertising Your Licence Application

You will need to advertise your application for a goods vehicle operator’s licence in a local newspaper. You must also supply the address and details about your proposed operating centre(s).

The actual advertisement must be large so that people can read the details. It must appear at least once during the period from 21 days before and 21 days after making the application. Doing so gives people in the neighbourhood an opportunity to object.

Note: The traffic commissioner may refuse to accept an application if you fail to advertise your operating centre(s) in the proper manner.

Objections to Licence Applications

There are ways of objecting to an application for a goods vehicle operator licence. In fact, the police, local councils, planning authorities, trade unions, trade associations, and other bodies can choose to object to an application for a licence.

Some of the typical grounds why people may make an objection to your application, include:

  • Your fitness to hold a licence and for the operation of transport and driving businesses.
  • Your financial standing (e.g. do you have enough money to run the business).
  • Your professional competence (e.g. will you and your staff obey all the rules).
  • The general suitability of the operating centre and its environmental impact.

The operating centre(s) also has to meet certain conditions and it must not interfere with any of the local amenities. Thus, the traffic commissioner will consider:

  • How the centre may affect the surrounding environment.
  • The number, size, and the type of vehicles that will use the proposed location (including where and how the vehicles will park).
  • How often, and for what purpose, the operating centre will be used.
  • What planning permissions or applications there are in relation to the centre or to land close by.

Keeping Vehicles in a Serviceable Condition

Becoming a goods vehicle operator means you need to keep your vehicles safe and in a fit and serviceable condition at all times.

You must also keep records of all safety inspections and vehicle maintenance for a period of fifteen (15) months. This regulation applies to any work carried out by yourself or by a maintenance contractor.

If You Do Your Own Inspections and Maintenance

You can choose to carry out your own vehicle safety inspections and maintenance. But, you will need to keep records that include:

  • Details about all the vehicles.
  • A list of all items that need inspecting.
  • When they were inspected, who inspected them, and what the result was.
  • Details of any work carried out.
  • A declaration stating that any defects found have since been properly fixed.
If You Use a Maintenance Provider

There is no requirement for you to do the vehicle maintenance work yourself. But, if not, you will need to provide a copy of a contract with a maintenance provider to the traffic commissioner.

Even so, using someone else to maintain your vehicles means you are still responsible for the condition of all your vehicles and any trailer units that you may have.

The DVSA produce a guide titled ‘keeping commercial vehicles safe to drive‘ (roadworthy). It explains the responsibilities and systems involved in keeping commercial vehicles in a roadworthy condition.

Note: You can read further guidance on running a vehicle recovery business and for anyone owning and running horseboxes and trailers.

Driver Walkaround Checks

Goods vehicle operators must make sure all their drivers conduct daily checks and inspections (e.g. the walkaround check) before they drive a vehicle for the first time each day.

Employing or Giving Work to Drivers

Most goods vehicle operators will employ drivers, or give work to them. But, you must check that they have already become a qualified lorry or bus driver (e.g. they have the correct licence and qualifications for driving goods vehicles).

All professional lorry drivers must hold a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC). As an employer, you must also check whether your drivers need to use a tachograph to record the journeys they make in your vehicles.

Drivers keep their Driver CPC valid by doing 35 hours of periodic training every five years. Anyone who is employing people to drive can check how many hours of training their drivers have done in the previous 5 years. But, they would need to provide you with a temporary password to access their records.

Note: Another section explains the rules on Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) periodic training for lorry, bus, and coach drivers. You can also check your Driver CPC periodic training hours on the GOV.UK website.

Lorry, Bus, and Minibus Licence Validity

As a rule, a licence to drive lorries, buses, or minibuses will be valid until the driver reaches the age of 45. After they turn 45, they would need to renew their licence every five (5) years until they reach 65 years old.

Important: Driving licences issued after the 19th of January 2013 stay valid for five (5) years until the holder reaches 65. Drivers would need to renew their licence every year after reaching 65.

Vehicle Licence and Age Requirements

You may find it necessary to check if your employees are old enough to drive certain types of vehicles and whether their driving licence covers them to do so. As an employee, you can also check which vehicles you can drive based on your age and licence categories.

Checking Driving Licence Information

It is free to check someone’s driving licence information online and the service is available 24 hours a day. Besides checking which vehicles they can drive you can also check whether they have any penalty points (endorsements) or driving disqualifications.

Note: There will be call charges to check licences by phone and it will cost around £5 to carry out a check by post.

Tachographs and Drivers’ Hours

Some of the drivers you give work to will need to record the journeys they make on a tachograph vehicle unit (VU).

Using tachographs is the legal way to check and confirm drivers are following the rules on drivers’ hours.

How to Check Large Volumes of Licences

Companies that need to check multiple driving licences can apply to use the Access Driver Data (ADD) service by emailing [[email protected]] and entering into a contract with the DVLA.

The company would also need to clear through certain accreditation checks and pay:

  • Up to £15,000 for the costs of setting up the service (depending on location)
  • An annual payment of £7,000
  • A 90 pence enquiry fee for each driver record
Employing Foreign Drivers

It is not uncommon for operators to employ or give work to foreign drivers. If this is the case, you should check that they understand the rules for driving in the United Kingdom.

Note: Highways England produce guides on road safety information for foreign heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers (available in six different languages).

Making Changes to an Operator’s Licence

There are certain types of changes that you can make to your goods vehicle operator’s licence online. So for example, after registering you can manage your vehicle operator licence to:

  • Add more goods vehicles to a licence.
  • Increase the vehicle limit on a licence.
  • Add or remove a transport manager.
  • Change the licence type.
  • Surrender (give up) your licence.

You would need to apply by postal methods to transfer a vehicle operating centre to another operator’s licence. Use form GV72 to make a ‘schedule 4 transfer’ and send it to the address written on the form.

You can order a replacement operator’s licence by writing to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner.

Office of the Traffic Commissioner
Central Licensing Office
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane

Breaking the Terms of Your Licence

The DVSA carry out roadside vehicle checks for commercial drivers on a regular basis. They also conduct checks on operating centres and submit the results to the independent traffic commissioners.

DVSA officers can give out roadside prohibitions or immobilise the vehicle if they find:

The traffic commissioner can take away, suspend, or restrict your goods vehicle operator’s licence if you:

  • Break any of the terms or conditions stated for your licence.
  • Fail to meet health and safety conditions.
  • Get convicted for certain types of offences.
  • Are bankrupted (or a company licence holder goes into liquidation, administration, or receivership).
  • Use a location not listed as an operating centre on the operator’s licence.
  • Receive a prohibition notice issued by the DVSA following an inspection.

Note: In some cases, traffic commissioner public inquiries are used to consider whether any enforcement action against your operator’s licence is necessary.

Exemptions from Operator Licensing

Certain types of vehicles do not require you to have a goods vehicle operator’s licence, such as:

  • Those first used before 1977 that have an unladen weight not exceeding 1,525 kilograms where the maximum gross plated weight exceeds 3,500kg (and is less than 3,556.21kg).
  • Motor vehicles and their trailers using public roads for less than 9.654km (six miles) a week, while moving between private premises owned by the same person.
  • Those being used under a trade licence (i.e. with trade plates).
  • Those constructed or adapted for carrying passengers and their effects (any trailer) and being used for that purpose.
  • Those used by, or under the control of, Her Majesty’s United Kingdom forces (and visiting forces).

Categories of Exempt Vehicles

There are some types of vehicles that do not need an operator’s licence, such as:

  • Electric or steam powered vehicles
  • Emergency service vehicles (including those used by electricity, gas, telephone, and water companies)
  • Hearses
  • Military vehicles
  • Recovery vehicles (if used exclusively for the purpose of making recoveries)
  • Snow ploughs and gritters
  • Tractors and agricultural vehicles used in certain circumstances.

Note: The traffic commissioners for Great Britain produce further guidance notes about the goods vehicle operator licensing system.

Categories of Non-exempt Vehicles

Certain types of vehicles are never exempt from operator licensing in the United Kingdom, including:

  • Catering vehicles
  • Mobile exhibition vehicles
  • Mobile medical screening vehicles
  • Mobile shops
  • Vehicles containing fixed equipment and carrying goods that are not strictly for use in connection with that equipment (or towing a trailer that is carrying goods).

Being a Goods Vehicle Operator in the United Kingdom