Operator licensing

O licensing changes

Take a look at our briefing note on changes to the operator licensing system that came in on 4 December 2011.
Download our O licence briefing note (members only)

Also read our guide to the small trailer concession change for O licensing, for those who operate small drawbar combinations for hire and reward (members only).

The Senior Traffic Commissioner drafted revised guidance and directions on operator licensing.
Find out more

Transport Manager Grandfather Rights (used as proof of professional competence by people who have not passed Certificate of Professional Competence exams) changed on 4 December 2011. The name changed to Transport Manager Acquired Rights (AR) so it is clear that the renewed rights are issued in compliance with Article 9 of the new EU regulation on operator licensing (EC Regulation 1071/2009).

When completing this form (see an example here) make sure that you include all work undertaken since 4 December 1999 that has any transport connection, whether or not you were named on an operator’s licence at the time, or whether the work was undertaken for an operator licence holder or not.

What is an operator's licence?

An operator's licence (or O licence) is the legal authority needed to operate goods vehicles in Great Britain.

What is it for?

The O licence system ensures that minimum safety and environmental standards are in place to protect other road users and the public.

Do I need an O licence?

View our O licence decision treeYou need an O licence to operate vehicles above 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight (gvw) that are used to carry goods (ie anything not permanently attached to the vehicle) on public roads for trade or business purposes. This includes short-term rental vehicles hired for as little as one day.

The O licence must be held by the person – whether an individual or a company – who ‘uses’ the vehicle and this may or may not be the owner of the vehicle. The user of the vehicle can be:

  • the driver, if they own it or if they are leasing, buying on hire purchase terms, hiring or borrowing the vehicle (eg a typical owner-driver operation)
  • the person whose servant or agent the driver is – ie whoever employs or controls the driver

This covers both 'own account' and 'hire or reward' operations. Still unsure? Take a look at our O licence decision tree.

Additionally, under O licence legislation all holders of standard National Operator Licences must be professionally competent, or employ someone who is professionally competent. The most popular method of demonstrating this is to hold a National Certificate of Professional Competence.

What types of O licence are there?

There are different categories of licence according to the use to which vehicles are put.

Restricted licence

This allows the carriage of goods, but only on own account, within Great Britain and abroad.

Standard licence

This allows the carriage of goods for hire or reward in Great Britain (and also permits own account movements in GB and abroad).

Standard international licence

This allows the carriage of goods for hire or reward (and on own account) within Great Britain and abroad.

Northern Ireland

Read our briefing note - Goods Vehicle Operator Licensing, Northern Ireland – transitional measures (member only pdf).

Click here for further information on operator licensing in Northern Ireland.  

How can I find out more information?

We provide a fully comprehensive Operator Licence Compliance Information Service (OLCIS) to ensure you’re fully compliant with O licence regulations. Contact our Member Service Centre on 08717 11 22 22* for more information.

You can also use the downloadable documents and links below for more information on O licensing.

* Calls may be recorded for training purposes

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