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Do I need an Operator’s Licence?

For operators of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), you need an Operator’s Licence to operate vehicles above 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW) that are used to carry goods on public roads for trade or business purposes. Basically anything bigger than a transit van type vehicle. An Operator’s Licence (or O licence) is the legal authority needed to operate goods vehicles in Great Britain. This licence is issued by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner – the independent regulator for the commercial road transport industry

So, by definition, the Operator Licence must be held by the user of the vehicle. This could be an individual or a company. (i.e. the operator of the vehicle).

Even if you use a hire vehicle for just one day, you will need an Operator’s Licence and you could be liable to prosecution if you haven’t got one, and your vehicle impounded.

N.B. If you are hiring a vehicle for non – commercial operations i.e. Moving house you do not need an Operators Licence.


There are three types of goods vehicle operator’s licences available:


Standard International Licence: for national and international operations


Standard National Licence for national operations only


Restricted Licence for the carriage of your own goods in connection with your business.

The DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) has the role of maintaining the national register on behalf of the government, which combines the required information from the various authorities who control the operator licensing system in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

Does it apply to your situation?



Is my vehicle under the 3.5-tonne GVW? If the answer is yes, then you don’t need to worry about an O Licence


Am I transporting goods for hire or reward? If the answer is yes then you will need an O Licence


Does the vehicle fall into an exemption? If it does then the answer is no.

O Licence exemptions

These are the classes of vehicles where a licence is not required. You will find a list of 29 here, if you are unsure then you must seek advice – there are many scenarios where you might be unsure. As an example, if you are transporting a horse to a show for a friend are you exempt?? The answer may not be clear cut.

We do have a flowchart that can assist you to know if you need to get an operators licence (Please look here) but, understanding if you need an operator’s licence can be complicated, especially if you have multiple operating centres that span the 8 traffic areas in Great Britain. Our advice is to seek advice, we can supply an external transport manager to help you through this process and many others.

We’ve helped many clients so if you need some advice then please just pick up the phone UK +44 (0) 203 846 1734 or drop us a quick question here.