Operator Licensing

EU Directive 74/561 requires operators using goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight for the commercial carriage of goods and PCV over 9 seats (including the driver) to be in possession of an Operator's Licence (‘O’ Licence). 

Licence TypeThere are currently three types of licence available in the UK
Restricted - own account work (delivery of the Company’s own goods) in the UK and Europe
Standard National - for hire and reward work in the UK
Standard International - for hire and reward in the UK & Europe

Scope of operator’s licence

The Operator’s licence is issued in the name of the Operator of the vehicle. For the purposes of the licence, you are the Operator if:

•  You are an owner-driver
•  You pay someone to drive the vehicle for you
•  You hire or borrow the vehicle, but drive it yourself or pay someone to drive it for you
N.B. The person who pays the drivers wages must hold the operator’s licence.


Vehicles Covered

Goods vehicles, or vehicle / trailer combinations, with a gross weight / gross train weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes (1525 kg unladen weight if unplated), or any trailer exceeding 1020 kg unladen weight which are used for the carriage of goods in connection with business, or any passenger carrying vehicle with 9 or more passenger seats whether for hire and reward or own account, require the Operator to obtain the relevant operator’s licence.

Traffic Area Offices / Issuing The Licence

The country is divided into 8 Traffic Areas, each of which has a Traffic Commissioner (TC) who is responsible for the issuing of operator’s licences and the enforcement of regulations regarding the operating of goods vehicles.  Licences are only issued after a nine week application process (assuming all application information is complete) during which the operator must satisfy the TC that he meets a number of criteria.

Criteria For Issuing An Operator’s Licence

In order to obtain an ‘O’ Licence the Operator must be able to show the TC that he / she satisfies a number of criteria which include:

Fitness of the applicant, directors and any named transport manager. This requires the declaration of any transport related offences in the previous five years
Financial Standing Sufficient financial reserves to support the operation proven with three months financial records
Good Repute of the applicant, directors and any named transport manager in relation to unspent convictions under the rehabilitation of offenders act
Operating Centre The applicant must have an operating centre that is suitable for parking the number of vehicles (and Trailers) to be included in the application. An operating centre is defined as the location where the vehicles will normally be kept – this could be the operator’s or client’s premises where sufficient off road parking exists. The TC can refuse to grant an ‘O’ licence on road safety, parking or environmental grounds.
Legal Undertakings The applicant is also required to sign a declaration that he will observe the regulations regarding driver’s hours of work and records, overloading, maintenance and adequate finance, and inform the TC of any changes or convictions affecting the licence criteria.
In addition, to obtain a Standard National or International Licence the transport company must employ at least one individual with a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC National or International). (Click here to go to CPC Training).

Time Scales

The whole application process can appear to be long winded. However it is designed to ensure that potential Transport Operators are fully aware of their obligations and to allow for full checks to be carried out prior to the granting of the licence.

The prospective applicant for a standard national / international ‘O’ licence needs to consider the time scale for the whole process. The requirement for a CPC holder is absolute – no application will be considered without one.

The CPC exams are held four times a year with the results taking approximately 2 months to be published. With national pass rates for delegates achieving a full certificate at the first attempt being below 50%, it could take the applicant 5 months to obtain a CPC certificate. If the timing is wrong – and the candidate looks into the exam process after the closing date for one exam, this adds three months to the process. Add to that the nine week application process and it could take 10 months to get a vehicle on the road!

RLR Services can help speed up this process by providing temporary transport managers to clients who book for the CPC with us.

This will allow the client to submit an application form for the ‘O’ licence at the earliest opportunity and, potentially, be up and running in under nine weeks (where an application for an interim licence is successful).

In addition the client will have expert advice ‘on tap’ during the start up process based on over forty years experience within the transport industry covering the major transport sectors.

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