How to apply for an Operator Licence

How to apply for a operator licence? I often get asked how do I apply for an operator licence and questions relating to the 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 also many pitfalls and if you don’t get it right, could only delay the granting of the licence or worse the application could be rejected. So here is my guide on how to apply for an operators licence the right way and to help speed up the process.

Step 1. Online or snail mail

Decide whether you are going to use the online application system or use the traditional downloadable paper version via the post. Either way you will need to complete the GV79 form. In the summer of 2016, the office of the Traffic Commissioner launched its online application service for applying for an operator licence, which I have to say is very good. You complete the GV79 form, pay the fees and you can even upload all the requisite documentation, all from the comfort of your computer. Which ever option you decide to use, be methodical!

Step 2. Get it together, be prepared

Ensure you have all the requisite information, documentation and forms you need before you start the application.

  • Download the correct forms – If you are going down the paper route, make sure you download the latest GV79 version from .gov website. You’ll also need the guidance notes and requisite annexes, A. Advertisement, B. Current financial levels, C. Scale of fees, D. Maintenance contract and in some cases E. supplementary environmental information. All can be found here.
  • 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 licence, you will need to employ the services of either a full time or external transport manager to demonstrate professional competence. You will need the TM1 form and guidance notes (included on the online version) and the 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 at least have access to professional advice and or consider employing the services of a professional consultant. As for as compliance is concerned, restricted licence holders are subject to exactly the same legislation as standard holders.
  • Vehicles – How many vehicles and trailer 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 for more than one month you will need to provide the vehicle(s) details
  • 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 subject 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. See annex D. Maintenance contract
  • 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. See Annex A. 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, familiar yourself with annex B. and guidance note 13
  • 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 go here.

Step 3. Complete the application

For the online application you’ll need to register which is very quick and easy. You’ll also need to register with Verify which is a way to prove who you are online. You still have an option to print and sign. Make sure you have all the requisite documents. Check the check list below. There’s also a check list on the GV79 form and on the online version.

Check list

  • I have completed all applicable questions on this form
  • I have checked that the declaration is signed and dated by an authorised person
  • I have provided the whole page of the newspaper for each advertisement I have placed. The date and the full title of the newspaper are shown on the page holding my advertisement. (See guidance note 10 and Annex A)
  • I have provided original financial evidence in accordance with Section 13 and Guidance Note 13. I understand that photocopies are not acceptable
  • I have enclosed a cheque or provided payment details to cover the application fee and I understand that this fee will not be returned to me even if my application is withdrawn or refused.

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

  • I have enclosed original Certificate(s) of Professional Competence in Road Haulage Operations or evidence of qualification(s) giving exemption, for all Transport Managers listed on my application
  • I have enclosed completed and signed TM1 forms for all Transport Managers listed on my application. You may need to supply the following information depending on your answers to questions 12b), 13b) and 15a)

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

  • I answered Question 12b) by stating that an external contractor would carry out the safety inspections for this licence and I have enclosed a copy of the maintenance contract with that contractor. (See Annex D)
  • I answered ‘Yes’ to part of Question 13b) and I have enclosed the relevant documentary evidence of the relevant insolvency history
  • I answered ‘Yes’ to Question 15a) and I 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 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 Verify service as well.

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

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 6. Send

For the online system, once you have scanned all the requisite documents, just click to send. For the paper version, collate all your documents and importantly, make sure you send your operator licence application via ‘signed for’ post!

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

Top tips

  • Make sure 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’ve got enough 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 bought 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 (standard licences)
  • Make sure your transport manager’s original CPC is provided with your application
  • 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
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

In conclusion

Make sure you have all the required information and you have the correct information ready for your application of your operating licence. 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.

If you require any advice or you would like help with your operator licence application, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Here to share the knowledge!