Goods Vehicle Operator Licensing

The main purpose of goods vehicle operator licensing is to ensure the safe and proper use of goods vehicles and to protect the environment around operating centres. Aviva is committed to this purpose and to ensuring that policyholders are fully appraised of these legal obligations, laid out in law by the Traffic Commissioners office.

An ‘O’ licence must be held by the operator of goods vehicles, used to carry goods or burden in connection with a trade or business on the public highway. Small goods vehicles, not exceeding a gross plated weight of 3,500Kg generally do not require a licence, although such vehicles towing a trailer may be required to hold a licence, depending on the weight of the combination and the intended use of the vehicle.

The licence must be held by the person, (whether that be an individual or a company), who uses the vehicle and is in full possession of it – borrowing a licence from another business is not permitted.

There are eight traffic areas within Great Britain and an operator will need a separate licence for every area in which they wish to operate.

There are three types of licence;

  1. A restricted licence allows for the carriage of own goods within the UK and abroad.
  2. A standard licence allows for the carriage of goods for hire and reward in the UK and own goods abroad.
  3. An international licence allows the carriage of goods for hire and reward and own goods within the UK and abroad.

Each licence should include provision for the number of vehicles intended for use straight away, as well as extra capacity to include additional vehicles for potential increases in business or emergencies such as breakdowns; this extra capacity is known as the ‘margin’. When initially applying for a licence, or for a major variation to an existing licence, it is likely that some applicants will need a temporary, or ‘interim’ licence, whilst the full application is being considered; an applicant is advised to allow 7-9 weeks in making an application before a licence is required to be operating.

It is an offence to operate a goods vehicle without a valid licence if one is required and the vehicle must not be used for its intended purpose until the minimum of an interim licence is granted.

There are a number of exemptions from ‘O’ licensing and whilst each case would need to be defined on its own merits, here are some typical examples;

  • I have a fleet policy, which includes a 7.5te horsebox, although this vehicle is only used by my family for recreation – does it need a licence? No, as the vehicle is being used privately and not in connection with the trade or business.
  • My motor trade policy for a commercial vehicle workshop includes a 44te tractor unit, used only to take 3rd party trailers for MOT test – does it need a licence? Provided that the journey is directly to/from your premises to an official test station and provided that the only load carried is a load required for the purposes of the examination, then an ‘O’ licence is not required.
  • I hire out 7.5te tippers to customers – do I need a licence? No, as you are not classed as the user of the vehicle. However, unless exempt, the hirer will need to hold a valid licence.
  • I operate a goods vehicle driver training school – do I need a licence? No, as goods are not being carried.
  • I use a 38te tractor unit to shunt trailers around my premises – do I need to include this vehicle on my existing ‘O’ licence? Providing that the vehicle is not used on the public highway, then there is no need to include this vehicle on the licence.

If you’re unsure as to whether you are compliant with the law, independent legal advice should be sought.

Further reading and information can be found here: