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Cabotage Regulations UK

The information in this section explains cabotage regulations and restrictions for United Kingdom. Use it to review when and where UK road hauliers can carry out cabotage.

Other topics explain how to pay the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) levy (e.g. cash or credit card) and how to register an account so you can prepay HGV levy fees.

What is Cabotage in the United Kingdom?

The original cabotage rule applied to shipping (e.g. the movement of goods or passengers from one port to another) along coastal routes.

UK cabotage legislation also applies to other methods of transportation, such as for goods vehicle operators.

Nowadays, it involves the movement of goods (as road freight, using aviation, or by rail) between two locations in the same country.

So, a simple definition of cabotage laws for trucking is the haulage of goods, either for hire or for reward, being transported in one member state by a vehicle that is registered in a different member state (e.g. in the EU).

You would need to be a UK haulier with a Community Authorisation. Even so, there are restrictions on how many cabotage jobs you can carry out in another European Union member state.

According to cabotage legislation, the transportation of goods must follow a specified journey. The cargo must be hauled from the United Kingdom or from another EU member state.

Note: You will get a Community Authorisation as part of being a goods vehicle operator through the application process for a standard international licence.

Cabotage Restrictions for UK Hauliers

There are some limitations on when and where UK hauliers can carry out cabotage jobs. The current law allows you to carry out a maximum of two (2) cabotage runs in a seven (7) day period within a host member state.

The GOV.UK website explains more about haulage jobs in the EU and the European Union (EU) member states that allow cabotage, including:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

Hauliers from the EU countries listed may also conduct cabotage jobs inside the United Kingdom. But, the same conditions and regulations would apply. There may be extra VAT rules to comply with when bringing goods into the United Kingdom.

Important: Drivers with valid ECMT international road haulage permits will be able to carry out one (1) extra cross-trade job (maximum 3 haulage jobs) before returning to the United Kingdom.

Carrying Out Cabotage Jobs in Ireland

As long as you complete both jobs within a seven (7) day period of dropping off the goods brought into Ireland, you can carry out two (2) cabotage jobs in Ireland if you have (both):

  • Registered as a goods vehicle operator in Northern Ireland.
  • Travelled from Northern Ireland.

Note: cabotage regulations can result in the permanent loss of your right to carry out this kind of work.

Paying the Heavy Goods Vehicle Levy

HGVs need to be registered in the UK and weigh less than 12,000 kilogrammes to avoid having to pay the HGV road user levy. If not, the charge needs paying before you can enter the United Kingdom.

Note: Since the 1st of April 2014, you must pay the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) levy before you can drive an HGV that weighs 12,000kg or more.

You will be able to use the service without signing up for an account. But, registration allows you to pay the HGV levy faster, and:

  • Buy a levy for a period over one (1) month.
  • Change your start dates for the levy (up to one day beforehand).
  • Get a refund.
  • Let someone else manage your account.
  • Register and manage your vehicles.
  • View your payment history.

Note: Providing you have the front licence plate number of the vehicle you want to check you will also be able to confirm whether you already paid a levy on it.

You can pay the HGV levy using:

  • A credit or debit card (or fuel card)
  • A bank transfer
  • Cash (where applicable)
  • PayPal
  • Prepayment made through your account

Cabotage Rules and Restrictions in the United Kingdom