operator licence

How to apply for an Operator Licence

(2018 revised post). I often get asked “how do I apply for an operator licence” and questions relating to the application process. This is mainly because it can seem like a daunting prospect as there are many detailed aspects to the process, which will need thoughtful consideration. There are many pitfalls and if you don’t get it right first time, could delay the granting of the licence or worse, the application could be rejected. It’s also worth noting (nearly) all applications must now be carried out online, with very few exceptions. As information prior to application is now almost nonexistent, here is my helpful guide on how to apply for an operator licence and (to hopefully) speed up the process for you.

Step 1. Get it together, be prepared

Ensure you have all the requisite information/documentation required before you start the application. For an overview of the vehicle operator licensing system and to ensure you are applying for the correct licence, you can view/download a copy of the GV74 guide here. This is dated 2011 and makes references to ‘vosa’. Don’t be put off as the information is still relevant.

Specifically you will need:

  • Forms/Information
    • Main application (old GV79 form)
    • Advertisement (old GV81 form)
    • Transport Manager (old TM1 form)
    • Current financial levels – See below but ensure you view the online guidance as this is where most applications can fail
    • Scale of fees – so you know how much to pay
    • Signed maintenance contract
    • Supplementary environmental information.
  • Guidance notes – All guidance (old GV79G, old TM1G) is now online see Step 2
  • Contact information – This the main person dealing with the application. They must available to be contacted during the weeks after the application has been submitted
  • Contact address – This is the address used for correspondence. It can not be a PO Box or third party address and must be an address in Great Britain
  • Establishment address – This is the address in which the business keeps its core business documents, specifically relating to the operator licence. This can be the same as the contact address
  • Company information – What is your trade and are you a Limited Company, Sole Trader, LLP, partnership, sole trader etc. You will need to provide company information as it appears on the Companies House website. You will also need to provide names and date of births of all Company Directors
  • Type of licence – Do you require a Standard, Standard International or a Restricted Licence. Click here for more information on types of licence
  • Transport Manager – If you are applying for a standard or standard international operator licence, you will need to employ the services of either a full time or external transport manager to demonstrate professional competence. The old TM1 form is now part of the online process. You will need the TM1 form and guidance notes (included on the online version) and the your TM’s original CPC certificate. Restricted licence holders do not need to employ the services of a transport manager. However, I can not stress the importance of ensuring you do at least have access to professional advice and or consider employing the services of a professional consultant. It is worth noting that where compliance is concerned, restricted licence holders are subject to exactly the same legislation as standard licence holders. If you in need of a transport manager, do get in touch as we can help you find one.
  • Vehicles – How many vehicles and trailers are you going to use? If you’re planning to expand the business in the not to distant future, it may be worth adding in a margin. You’ll also need the details of your vehicles if you know them. If you’re hiring/leasing for more than one month you will still need to provide the vehicle(s) details, if you have them
  • Safety inspections – You’ll need to state the maximum number of weeks between safety inspections, and details of who will be carrying out the inspections. There are a number of factors to consider here. What will the annual mileage be, what kind of work will the vehicles be subjected to. If you’re unsure get advice. You’ll need to get a signed contract between you and your supplier if you are out sourcing your maintenance
  • Operating centre details – This is where your vehicles and trailers will normally be kept. You must ensure that you have enough off-street parking spaces at your operating centre(s) for all of your vehicles and trailers. You will need to state whether the premises is owned by you, leased or rented. If rented or leased you’ll need to get a letter of permission from the landlord
  • Advertisement – You will need to advertise your intentions via a local paper. Make sure you use the correct format and wording. This will be at your expense, usually around £300 to £450
  • Financial evidence – You need to show the traffic commissioner that you have sufficient financial resources to maintain your vehicles and run your business. Make sure you provide original evidence of financial documentation. Note the rates change every January! This is very detailed by nature so familiar yourself with the guidance to ensure you get this right first time
  • Previous licences – Gather information relating to anyone named on the application (including partners, directors and transport managers) who:
    • Currently or have previously held a goods or public service vehicle operator’s licence in any traffic area
    • Has had a licence refused, revoked, suspended or curtailed in the EU
    • Have attended a Public Inquiry before a traffic commissioner
    • Have been disqualified from holding or obtaining an operators licence by any traffic commissioner
    • Within the last twelve months, have you, your company or organisation or your partners or directors purchased the assets or shareholding of any company that, to your knowledge, currently holds or has previously held an operator’s licence in any traffic area
  • Convictions – Get information and background details on anyone named or has any connection with the application who has been convicted of any relevant offence. So that’s partners, directors, transport managers, any company named on the application, parent company if you are a limited company or any employees or agents
  • Payment information – You can pay by card online or by cheque/postal order and card via the paper version. You’ll need the signature of who the person paying. For current rates you will need to either request them from the central licensing office or start the online application.

Step 2. Apply for your operator licence

It is now only possible to apply for your operator licence online. However, under certain circumstances, it is possible to apply using the old paper version. That is, if you don’t own a computer and or you are unable to use a computer. If you do want to apply using the paper version make sure you do use the most up to date versions of the GV79, GV81 and TM1 form. The only way to do this is to call the central licensing office (DVSA) on 0300 123 9000 and request the requisite documentation.

To apply online go to the .gov.uk website here and follow the instructions. It’s actually very intuitive and easy to use. It’s in pretty much the same format as the old GV79 form with all the same criteria, just online. You can pay the fees and upload all the requisite documentation, all from the comfort of your computer. Signatures are still required, the difference being it will be an ‘e’ signature. You will need to register with GOV.UK Verify first to be able to complete this part of the application.

Step 3. Complete the operator licence application

For the online application you’ll need to register with the Government Gateway. You’ll also need to register with gov.uk Verify which is a way to prove who you are online for online signatures. Make sure you have all the requisite documents beforehand, see Step 1. Once you have completed the form, there will be an online check list and for paper applications will be included on the GV79.

Check list

  • You have completed all applicable questions on the form
  • You have checked that the declaration is signed and dated by an authorised person
  • You have provided the whole page of the newspaper for each advertisement placed. The date and the full title of the newspaper are shown on the page holding my advertisement
  • You have provided original financial evidence. You understand that photocopies are not acceptable
  • You have enclosed a cheque or provided payment details to cover the application fee and you understand that this fee will not be returned, even if the application is withdrawn or refused.

All applicants for either a Standard National or International operator licence must supply the following information.

  • Original Certificate(s) of Professional Competence in Road Haulage Operations or evidence of qualification(s) giving exemption, for all Transport Managers listed on the application
  • Completed and signed the online TM1 form for all Transport Managers listed on my application. You may need to supply the following information depending on your answers some of the questions.

Depending on your answers to these questions further information may be required for some applicants.

  • You answered stating that an external contractor would carry out the safety inspections for the licence and you have enclosed a copy of the maintenance contract with that contractor
  • You answered ‘Yes’ to part regarding insolvency and have enclosed the relevant documentary evidence of the relevant insolvency history
  • You answered ‘Yes’ regarding convictions and have enclosed full details of the background circumstances of all convictions declared.

Step 4. Undertakings and Declaration

You will need to read and digest the operator licence undertakings. Once understood you can sign the declaration. This must be either the owner, partner or director. As mentioned for the online system, you’ll need to prove who you are via the gov.uk Verify service as well.

I have provided these below so you have a prior understanding of an operators’ responsibilities.

Operator Licence Undertakings

I understand that by signing the application I am accepting the undertakings below; that they will be recorded on the licence; that failure to comply with the conditions or undertakings recorded on the licence may result in the licence being revoked, suspended or curtailed; and that failure to comply with these conditions is also a criminal offence.

  • The laws relating to the driving and operation of vehicles used under this licence are observed
  • The rules on drivers’ hours and tachographs are observed, proper records are kept and that these are made available on request
  • Vehicles and trailers are not overloaded
  • Vehicles operate within speed limits
  • Vehicles and trailers, including hired vehicles and trailers, are kept in a fit and serviceable condition
  • Drivers report promptly any defects or symptoms of defects that could prevent the safe operation of vehicles and/or trailers, and that any defects are recorded in writing
  • Records are kept (for 15 months) of all driver reports which record defects, all safety inspections, routine maintenance and repairs to vehicles, and that these are made available on request
  • In respect of each operating centre specified, that the number of vehicles and the number of trailers kept there will not exceed the maximum numbers authorised at each operating centre (which will be noted on the licence)
  • An unauthorised operating centre is not used in any traffic area
    Furthermore, I will notify the traffic commissioner of any convictions against myself, or the company, business partner(s), the company directors, nominated transport manager(s) named in this application, or employees or agents of the applicant for this licence and, if the licence is issued, convictions against the licence holder or employees or agents of the licence holder
  • I will ensure that the traffic commissioner is notified within 28 days of any other changes, for example a change to the proposed maintenance arrangements; a change in the financial status of the licence holder (e.g. if placed in liquidation or receivership), or a change to Limited Company status or partnership, that might affect the licence, if issued.

Step 5. Get it checked

I can not stress the importance of getting a second set of eyes to check over your application for an operator licence. The devil is in the detail and you simply can’t afford to leave anything out. This could be a colleague who understands transport or if it’s just you, you could use the services of a professional consultant.

Step 7. Interim or not

It is possible to apply for an interim licence. This means you can operate in the interim while your application is in process. However, it is worth noting that your application will need to essentially be ‘pre approved’ for the interim to be granted. So, if there are any complications or question marks regarding the main application, it is unlikely an interim licence will be granted.

Step 6. Apply (send)

For the online system, once you have completed the above steps, just click to send. For the paper version, collate all your documents and importantly do make sure you send your operator licence application via ‘signed for’ post or special delivery.

Remember, if you do not send all the information needed it will lead to a delay in the granting of the licence, or the application could even be refused.

Top tips

  • Make sure your financial evidence is in the name of the applicant or licence holder
  • Provide original documents with your application
  • If you’ve only just opened your account, get an opening statement from the bank showing the required level of money for your licence
  • Make sure you have enough surplus finances to support the number of vehicles you have applied for
Operating Centre and Maintenance
  • If you don’t own the site, get written permission from the person who does
  • Make sure your advert is published in a newspaper that can be purchased in the area where your operating centre is located
  • Check the advert wording is correct before sending it off to the newspaper
  • Make sure your advert is placed in the newspaper within the required timescale
  • If maintenance isn’t in house, then complete a formal contract signed by you and the contractor
Transport Manager
  • Make sure your transport manager’s original CPC is provided with your operator licence application. It will be returned
  • Complete the TM1 form with your transport manager
  • If your transport manager will be specified on more than one licence, set out how they will meet all their responsibilities in a separate letter. This will need to include:
    • Days and intended time spent visiting each operating centre
    • How they will travel
    • Addresses and distance to travel
    • Duties to be carried out
    • Detail any other work including how much time is spent on said work
    • If there is a TM assistant carrying out day to day duties. How the duties are distributed. If the assistant is qualified, make sure you sent the original version of their TM CPC certificate. This will be returned.
Previous history
  • Tell the Traffic Commissioner about any operator licences you’ve previously held or been involved in
  • Make sure you disclose any adverse financial history of other businesses you’ve owned (not just transport)
  • Tell the Traffic Commissioner about any convictions and penalties for you or the business

Main reasons for delays and rejections

  • Forms not being completed in full (including TM1 from for standard applications)
  • Incorrect information on forms
  • Incomplete documentation
  • Financial standing not being met
  • Maintenance contracts not being submitted
  • Not submitting further information relating the TMs other work
  • Not declaring any insolvency or conviction history. They will check!

In conclusion

In conclusion, make sure you have all the required information and you have the correct information ready for your application of your operating licence prior to your application. Make sure you have the correct types of documentation, be methodical and get it checked!

For further reading and information, I have complied the definitive list of .gov and DVSA downloadable guides and forms.

Need a Transport Manager or an External Transport Manager?

Here at TMconsultant we hold a database of transport managers covering the whole of the UK. So if you’re in need of a transport manager, simply complete the employers application form. We also provide all the requisite policy manuals, forms, and tools to get a new operator up and running which you can find in our shop. Alternatively just get in touch! Here to share the knowledge!



The complete list of links to DVSA publications guides & forms

The complete list of links to DVSA publications guides & forms

I often get asked about which forms to use and what operator compliance publications the operator and driver should be utilising. So I’ve put together a rather helpful, regularly updated complete list of links to DVSA publications, guides, forms and tools for you. A one stop definitive place to find those all important DVSA publications, guides & forms, operator compliance legislation & other very helpful information.

Last update 24/07/18

Goods Vehicles Operators Guides

The Guide to maintaining roadworthiness 2018

Guide to Goods Vehicle Operators Licensing 2011 (GV74)

Guide to graduated fixed penalties and financial deposits 2013

GV262-03 Drivers’ Hours and Tachograph’s guide 2015

Updates to Drivers’ Hours rules 4th March 2016

Working time regulations for mobile workers 2013

Staying legal heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers 2011

Load securing: vehicle operator guidance 2017

HGV overloading: the basics 2013

The safe Operators Guide 2009

Categorisation of Defects 2015

MOT testing guide (6th edition) 2004

VOSA Safe Operators Guide

Working time regulations for mobile workers:

The role of the traffic commissioners

A guide to representations, objections and complaints

Senior Traffic Commissioner’s statutory guidance and statutory directions – How traffic commissioners approach the exercise of their statutory functions

Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS)

International Road Haulage

Running a fleet of vans

Towing small trailers guides


Recovery operations guide

Horsebox and trailer owners

Driver CPC overview

Driving licence categories

Driving licence codes

Guide to graduated fixed penalties and financial deposits

Guide to vehicle immobilisation:

Digital drivers cards (DQC)

Enforcement sanctions policy

Lorry types and weights:

HGV inspection manual (2013 consolidated version)

HGV brake test

Braking connections when using a trailer:

Automatic slack adjusters – maintenance guide

Dangerous and hazardous goods vehicles inspection

Seat belt installations

Maintenance software and computer storage of maintenance records

Individual Vehicle Approval manuals (IVA)

Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) for lorries help to get a pass

Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) for vans help to get a pass

Categorisation of defects

HGV operator licensing forms

All operator licensing applications and changes are carried out now online. See refer to my guide on ‘how to apply for an operators licence’.

Other helpful Links

Stoneridge Tachograph Simulator – great tool for practicing the use of a digital tachograph

Find your nearest Authorised Testing Facility (ATF) or DVSA test station:

Check MOT test history

HGV driver daily walkaround check poster

Moving on – Official advice and information for lorry, bus, coach and van operators and drivers


I hope you found the complete list of links to DVSA publications guides & forms, operator compliance legislation & other helpful info useful. If you did then please share by clicking the social icons below.

Or if you have any questions please do just get in touch. Here to share the knowledge!


Apply & manage your vehicle operator licence online!

So the office of the Traffic Commissioner and the DVSA have finally caught up with the 21 century and it is now possible to apply & manage your vehicle operator licence online!

For the first time, online applications for vehicle operator licences can now use the shiny new online system, replacing the Operator Self Service System.

Mr Kevin Rooney, Traffic Commissioner for the west of England and for the north east of England stated that “We wanted to change the system, because we recognise that the old system isn’t very user friendly, we want to encourage operators to do things digitally and to transact digitally both with government and with us”.

Main addition

The main addition to the new system is a service allowing new operators to apply for a licence online. Existing licences can still manage their licence by adding more vehicles, applying to increase vehicle limits and to add a transport manager, so no change there. Existing users of Operator Self Service System can log in to the new service using the same username and password. For more information, and to access the new service, visit the .gov website. To apply go here.

If you need any friendly advice applying for your Operators Licence please do get in touch. We’re here to share the knowledge!

external transport manager

The External Transport Manager and what you need to know

The External Transport Manager and what you need to know.

As an operator of a small to mid sized business, one of your primary jobs is to ensure you are fully compliant 100% of the time. This task is, by its very nature quite complex. For Standard Licence holders you must employ a professionally competent person. You don’t need to employ a full time transport manager, that’s where the External Transport Manager (ETM) comes in (if you are a Restricted Licence holder then you should employ the services of an External Transport Manager consultant). In this post, I will explain everything you need to know about employing the services of an ETM.

What is an External Transport Manager and what requirements must they meet?

An external transport manager is a competent professional who generally works for small to mid sized operators to ensure that its vehicles are roadworthy and drivers comply with traffic and drivers’ hours rules. They are also responsible to the wider public, through the traffic commissioner, for ensuring that an operator is compliant. That is to say that if the operator is not doing what the external transport manager is asking of them, then they have a duty of care to inform the traffic commissioner.

Let’s have look at what the Senior Traffic Commissioner has to say. (Statutory document no. 3: transport managers)

A designated transport manager must meet the requirements of Article 4 i.e; be of good reputebe professionally competent and, in the case of an external transport manager, is not prohibited from acting as a transport manager by a traffic commissioner, and is not designated to act in that capacity for more than 4 operators or be responsible for more than 50 vehicles or such smaller number as the traffic commissioner considers appropriate.

How do I know if my Transport Manager is of good repute?

The great news for Standard Licence holders is an external transport manager will have to complete a TM1 form, should they wish to be employed. If there any issues, then they will picked up by the Traffic Commissioners office. However, as Restricted Licence holders don’t need a CPC holder in place (via the TM1 form) and you would like to employ the services of a consultant, then you will need to contact the Central Licensing Office to find out this information.

It’s worth noting that if you are restricted licence holder and you would like to employ an external transport manager consultant, then they should as a minimum, hold the CPC in road haulage qualification.

What are the External Transport Managers’ duties?

I have written a comprehensive post on top line transport manager tasks/job on daily/weekly/quarterly and annual basis, which you can view here.

However, below is a list the duties the Transport Manager should be carrying out according to the Traffic Commissioner.

Drivers administration

    • Manage, audit and review compliance systems to ensure that they are effective
    • Review any shortcomings such as prohibitions and/or annual test failures
    • Ensure that relevant changes are notified in accordance with operator licence requirements
    • Keep up to date on relevant changes in standards and legislation
    • Ensure that drivers hold the appropriate licence for the vehicle they are driving (including non-GB vocational drivers from EU member states who are required to register their driving licences with DVLA within 12 months of being resident)
    • Ensure that regular checks are carried out on the drivers’ licences
    • Ensure regular eyesight checks are carried out
    • Ensure that vocational drivers hold a valid driver CPC qualification (DQC)
    • Ensure that all drivers hours records are kept for a period of no less than 12 months and are made available upon request
  • Ensure that all working time records are kept for a period of no less than 24 months and are made available upon request

Drivers management

    • Ensure compliance with the driving hours rules (EU or Domestic Hours rules) are in place
    • Ensure that drivers are recording their duty, driving time and rest breaks on the appropriate equipment or in drivers hours books and their records are being handed back for inspection as required
    • Download and store data from the vehicle digital tachograph unit (VU) (at least every 90 days) and from the drivers’ tachograph smart cards (at least every 28 days). I always advise VU data and driver data is downloaded and sent for analysis at the same time 
    • Ensure that drivers’ hours records are retained and are available to be produced during the relevant period
    • Ensure that records are retained for the purposes of the Working Time Directive (WTD) and that they are available to be produced during the relevant period
    • Ensure that drivers are adequately trained and competent to operate all relevant vehicles and equipment;
  • Contribute to relevant training and subsequent disciplinary processes as required.

Drivers Operations

    • Ensure that drivers are completing and returning their driver defect reporting sheets and that defects are recorded correctly
  • Ensure that all drivers and mobile workers take adequate breaks and periods of daily and weekly rest (as per the relevant regulations which apply).

Vehicle Administration

    • Ensure that vehicle maintenance records are retained for a period of no less than 15 months and are made available upon request
    • Ensure that vehicles are specified as required and that operator licence discs are current and displayed correctly
    • Ensure that vehicle payloads notifications are correct, height indicators are fitted and correct, and tachograph calibrations are up to date and displayed
    • Ensure that there are up to date certificates of insurance indemnifying company cars, commercial vehicles and plant
  • Ensure a suitable maintenance planner is completed and displayed appropriately, setting preventative maintenance inspection dates at least 6 months in advance and to include the Annual Test and other testing or calibration dates.

Vehicle Management

    • Ensure that vehicles and trailers are kept in a fit and roadworthy condition;
    • Ensure that reported defects are either recorded in writing or in a format which is readily accessible and repaired promptly
    • Ensure that vehicles and trailers that are not roadworthy are taken out of service
    • Ensure that vehicles and towed equipment are made available for safety inspections, service, repair and statutory testing
    • Ensure that safety inspections and other statutory testing are carried out within the notified O-licence maintenance intervals (ISO weeks)
  • Liaise with maintenance contractors, manufacturers, hire companies and dealers, as might be appropriate and to make certain vehicles and trailers are serviced in accordance with manufacturer recommendations.

What else should you be looking for?

    • Knowledge and skills – More than just the formal qualification, what experience and skill do they posess
    • Impact – Where the individual CPC holder is recognised as a key person within the organisation so that they can influence decisions relevant to compliance and authority to deal with external contractors. Their position should reflect the professional and personal responsibility vested in the individual
  • Decision making – where the individual CPC holder is sufficiently close to drivers to be able to influence their behaviours and senior enough to influence the deployment of resources and to inform the decisions of the owner/directors/partners
  • Improvements – Your ETM should also be able to help with:
    • Driver/company relations
    • Fuel efficiency
    • Develop your Driver training matrix
    • Transport related H&S policies
    • Ways to maximise on spend efficiency on all transport related areas.

It’s worth noting at this point that operators will also need to have someone in place for running day to day duties on behalf of the External Transport Manager. Otherwise you’re looking at employing a full time transport manager.

How much does an external transport manager cost?

The standard rates start at around £350 for one vehicle plus £100 is usually added for additional vehicles. This can be more depending on your OCRS (operator compliance risk score). If your OCRS is amber or red then there is more work/risk so the price goes up. Have a look at my rates here.

Where can I find an ETM?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to this. An internet search is a good start and there are various consultancies who can find ETMs on your behalf. I am currently building a database of available external transport manager, so if you are looking for an ETM then please do get in touch as I may be able to help.

Update April 2018!
Our database is a real success and we now have over 60 transport managers on the books. So if you are in need of either an external transport manager or full time transport manager just fill in the blanks on the form and we’ll get straight back to you. You can find the form here.

How does employment work?

ETMs are freelance, self employed or run their own business and therefore, will bill you monthly for their services. Your ETM will have in a place a contract which you will both need to sign. Your ETM will visit you monthly and you will need to be in regular contact. As mentioned, you will also need to have someone in place to manage day to day duties.

It’s worth noting that Richard Turfitt (TC) recently pointed to a ruling made by the Upper Tribunal in 2015, which stated that a transport manager cannot be a volunteer as they often cannot establish a genuine link to the operator. Also, if you find an ETM who offers their services in name only then I would kindly decline. This is not only frowned upon by the TC but will put your operator licence in jeopardy.

In Summary

  • Do they have the CPC in Road haulage qualification? – If you’re operating abroad, do they have the International CPC qualification?
  • They have their good repute? – Have they ever been in trouble with the Traffic Commissioner?
  • What are their work ethics, what else can they bring to the mix?
  • Do they come with pre-compiled robust policies and procedures which can be implemented immediately?
  • Do they have any experience with FORS?
  • How often will they come to visit you? – No point in having an External Transport Manager in name only!
  • Cost. Don’t just opt for the cheapest solution – you get what you pay for!

Are you looking for an external transport manager?

If so we can help! Here at TMconsultant, our external transport manager (ETM) finder service connects transport managers with employer operators. Every day we collect details of external transport managers all over the country who are looking for work.

Where can I get more information?

If you have any questions regarding External Transport Managers, please do get in touch. Here to share the knowledge!