Operator licensing

To operate goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross plated weight commercially i.e. as part of a trade or business you must hold an operator’s licence issued by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner. You need this whether a) you are carrying your own goods (a Restricted licence) or b) you are transporting them for someone else ( a Standard National or Standard International licence.). 

To operate passenger vehicles commercially your business will need an operator’s licence to operate a vehicle that can carry 9 or more passengers and to operate a smaller vehicle carrying passengers and charging separate fares for the journey. Again, there are main two categories of licence: Standard (National or International) or Restricted. The latter only covers small operations for one or two vehicles, neither carrying more than 8 passengers, unless you are not using them as a part of a passenger business i.e. it is not the main occupation in which case 16 passengers can be carried. (There is also a Special Restricted licence category allowing taxis and private hire vehicles to be used for local bus services.)

Transport managers: you will need a qualified transport manager who holds a Certificate of Professional Competence to obtain and keep any Standard licence.

To obtain a licence you undertake to abide by certain obligations. If you fail to comply your licence may be revoked, suspended or curtailed (reduced). These relate to all aspects of operations e.g. maintaining fit and serviceable vehicles, observing the drivers’ hours and working time rules, driver first-use vehicle checks, excess weight, observing speed limits, operating centres, notification of events to the Traffic Commisioner such as fixed penalties, convictions and changes in directors.

Financial standing: your business must be able to demonstrate it has ready access to financial resources on application and throughout the lifetime of the licence. The amount required depends on the type of licence and the number of vehicles the licence authorises. The current amounts as at January 2018 are as follows:

The operator’s licence is therefore critical to a business whose work relies wholly or in part on the ability to transport goods or passengers. It must be maintained through good management, effective systems and training of all relevant staff. It is essential that operators keep abreast of developments. We can provide auditing services to identify the robustness of systems and any shortcomings there may be with advice as to how they can be addressed.

A failure to manage the licence correctly can be expensive leading to the potential risk of losing the right to use goods or passenger vehicles in the business.


Standard Licence        

Restricted Licence

First vehicle

£7,850

£3,100

Additional vehicle          £4,350£1,700


The operator’s licence is therefore critical to a business whose work relies wholly or in part on the ability to transport goods or passengers. It must be maintained through good management, effective systems and training of all relevant staff. It is essential that operators keep abreast of developments. We can provide auditing services to identify the robustness of systems and any shortcomings there may be with advice as to how they can be addressed.

A failure to manage the licence correctly can be expensive leading to the potential risk of losing the right to use goods or passenger vehicles in the business.

For advice and representation in relation to all road transport-related matters please contact Tim Ridyard and Tim Norris in our specialist team.


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