Do I need an Operator Licence if I run a van?

Do I need an Operator Licence if I run a van?

The big question van owners are asking is, do I need an Operator Licence if I run a van? In this blog post, we will dive into the intricacies of this topic and provide you with clarity. We will explore the factors that determine whether or not you need an Operator Licence to run a van, taking into account both domestic and international operations. Join us as we navigate through the recent regulatory changes and shed light on the implications for van owners. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of the Operator Licence requirements and how they may affect your van operation.

The Big Question: Do I Need an Operator Licence if I Run a Van?

Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes, if you operate abroad and no, if you only operate in the UK. The rules changed at the end of May 23 regarding operating vans in the EU. Meaning that if your operations include driving vans or cars towing trailers to transport goods for hire or reward between 2.5t and 3.5t in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, from 21 May 2022, you will now need a Standard International goods vehicle operator licence.

Historically, you only needed an Operator Licence (O’ Licence) if you operated goods vehicles or public service vehicles over a GVW of 3.5t. This has changed, vans between 2.5t and 3.5t now need an Operator Licence, or you will be operating unlawfully and could face prosecution.

What are the new rules for vans?

The changes are contained within the Trade & Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU and will apply to you if you’re based in England, Scotland or Wales and use:

  • Vans or other light goods vehicles (sometimes called light commercial vehicles or LGV for short)
  • Vans towing trailers
  • Cars towing trailers

You need to either:

  • Apply for a standard international goods vehicle operator licence for the first time
  • Add the vehicles to your standard international goods vehicle operator licence (if you already have one)
  • Apply to upgrade your standard national goods vehicle operator licence (if you have one) to a standard international goods vehicle operator licence
  • Apply to upgrade your restricted goods vehicle operator licence (if you have one) to a standard international goods vehicle operator licence

Do the new rules apply to me?

The new rules will apply to you if you use:

  • Vans with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) over 2,500kg (2.5 tonnes) and up to and including 3,500kg (3.5 tonnes)
  • Vans towing a trailer with a gross train weight (GTW) over 2.5 tonnes and up to and including 3.5 tonnes
  • Cars towing a trailer with a GTW over 2.5 tonnes and up to and including 3.5 tonnes

You will not need a goods vehicle operator licence if any of these apply:

  • You only use your vehicles in the UK
  • You are transporting goods not for ‘hire or reward’

Am I carrying goods for “hire and reward”?

Hire and reward means that you are carrying goods for, or on behalf of, someone else. This generally applies if you are paid to move other people’s goods. If however, you are only moving your own goods for your own purposes, this would usually not be classed as hire and reward.

Do I need Tachographs for Vehicles over 2.5 Tonnes?

Currently no, you will not need a tachograph for vehicles over 2.5t up to 3.5t. However, from 1 July 2026, tachographs will have to be installed in vehicles over 2.5 tonnes operating in the EU.

How do I apply for an operator licence?

You have two options:

Option 1 – Employ the services of a consultant

If you’re a little unsure and the whole process looks a little daunting, you can enlist the help of a consultant to assist with your application. Here at TMconsultant, we help new operators gain their Operator Licence every week. If you would like to know more about how we can help you, click here or please do just get in touch. We’re a friendly bunch and are happy to chat and provide free advice.

Option 2 – Apply directly to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (Licensing)

You can DIY by going here. I have written a blog about how to apply for an operator’s licence, you can read that here.

Do I need a Transport Manager?

Yes, you do. To get a standard international goods vehicle operator licence when operating vans over a MAM over 2.5t in the EU, you will now need a Transport Manager (or external transport manager). This is someone who is responsible for:

  • Planning routes and scheduling delivery times
  • Managing your team of drivers and administration staff
  • Making sure drivers follow company and industry regulations
  • Arranging vehicle maintenance, MOTs and tax payments
  • Organising vehicle replacements.

You must either:

  • Apply to get an existing member of staff (including yourself) temporarily recognised as a transport manager
  • Employ someone with a Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification
  • Hire an external qualified transport manager.

What are my transport manager options?

You have three options:

Option 1 – Use an existing member of staff temporarily recognised as a transport manager through Grandfather rights

If you decide to get an existing member of staff temporarily recognised as a transport manager, they must have at least 10 years of experience managing fleets of vehicles before 20 August 2020.

  1. The member of staff needs to apply to be temporarily recognised as a transport manager (this is sometimes called having ‘acquired rights’). If their application is successful, they’ll be treated as having the Transport Manager CPC qualification until 21 May 2025\
  2. When you apply for your goods vehicle operator licence, you need to apply to add them as the transport manager for your licence
  3. The member of staff needs to pass the CPC qualification by 21 May 2025 to continue being a transport manager after that date
  4. When they’ve fully qualified, they’ll need to keep up a high-quality professional knowledge of transport industry rules and policies.

Option 2 – Get a member of staff qualified

This person will need to take a Transport Manager CPC qualification. This is called the International Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) in Road Haulage. You will need to take the international For more information, you can read a blog I wrote about how to become a transport manager here.

Option 3 – Hire an External Transport Manager (ETM)

You can hire-in an External Transport Manager. An External Transport Manager, (ETM for short), is essentially a freelance consultant Transport Manager. They’re not someone on your payroll, but they are contracted to work with you to act as your transport manager. Ensure you find an ETM with an International TM CPC qualification and of good repute. If you would like to take this option we can help find an ETM near you!

What will the ETM do?

The external transport manager is there not only to ensure you are compliant but can help reduce your fuel bill, review your current H&S policy status and develop driver training.

Your ETM will manage:

  • Operator Licensing changes and authority communication
  • Working Time Directive Compliance
  • Drivers Hours Compliance
  • Tachograph Analysis
  • Vehicle Periodic Maintenance Inspection Schedule
  • Vehicle Defect Reporting Systems
  • Driving Licence Checks
  • Daily Walk round Inspections
  • Toolbox talks/Driver CPC Training Delivery
  • Driver Reprimands/Disciplinary Hearings.

Your ETM will also:

  • Carry out an initial audit to identify any shortfalls
  • Full systems implementation – Ensure you are equipped with the requisite policies and processes
  • Carry out weekly catch-ups. This is normally remotely
  • Carry out Monthly on-site visits
  • Provide ongoing advice.

For more information about what ETMs do and how much it costs to hire an external transport manager go here.

How much does an ETM cost?

Prices start from £450.00. Check out our ETM prices here

How can I find an External Transport Manager?

Here at TMconsultant we operate an ETM finder service. All you need to do is provide us with some basic information and we’ll find an ETM near you! Either, complete this form or get in touch, we’re here to share the knowledge!

Compliance Auditor Job Opportunities

Compliance Auditor Job Opportunities

Here at TMconsultant we can offer like-minded professionals with freelance compliance auditor job opportunities to help us assist our clients throughout the UK. If you are a qualified or experienced compliance auditor and you are either looking for compliance auditing work we can help.

How does it work?

Once you have completed the application, we will add you to the compliance auditor database. Should a client in your area get in touch, we will simply make the introduction. We don't get involved with payments between you and the client.

How much will I earn?

We charge £700 per audit and take a 25% commission.

Can I get compliance auditing work for the DVSA earned recognition scheme?

Yes, but you must be a DVSA earned recognition scheme authorised audit provider. You can learn about how to become a DVSA earned recognition scheme authorised audit provider here.

Have you thought about teaching Driver CPC?

TMconsultant also offers opportunities for compliance auditors to teach Driver CPC. By becoming one of our consortium members you can teach Periodic Driver CPC training, with all the benefits of being a fully registered training centre with JAUPT, operating under the umbrella of TMconsultant. For more information go here. Alternatively please do get in touch. Here to share the knowledge!


DVSA earned recognition

The DVSA have launched their pilot DVSA earned recognition scheme. This can only be a great opportunity for operators and help with road safety!

Forward post from DVSA

DVSA earned recognition: save time and money

We know roadside checks cost you time and money. That’s why we want to make sure we don’t target compliant operators unnecessarily.

DVSA earned recognition for vehicle operators is a new way to prove you meet driver and vehicle standards.

You regularly share performance information with DVSA. In return, your vehicles are less likely to be stopped for inspections.

It’s a voluntary scheme that’s designed to work for operators of all sizes.

Join the pilot

We’re looking for operators with a track record of compliance to join the pilot.

If you join now, we’ll give you more help to get through the process. This level of support won’t be available later, so take advantage of it now.

We’ve published a new guide about how to join the pilot of DVSA earned recognition for vehicle operators. It tells you everything you need to know to get started.

When you successfully complete the pilot

You’ll get automatic entry to the DVSA earned recognition scheme. This will give you the full benefits, such as being:

  • an exemplary operator, and being able to prove this when you bid for contracts
  • recognised as a DVSA-approved operator on a list on GOV.UK
  • less likely to have your vehicles stopped at the roadside for inspections, saving you time and money
  • less likely to have DVSA enforcement staff visit your premises
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 is the main person dealing with the application. They must be 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 birth 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 in the online version) and 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 use the most up-to-date versions of the GV79, GV81 and TM1 forms. 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 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 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 checklist and 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 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!

Apply & manage your vehicle operator licence online!

So the office of the Traffic Commissioner and the DVSA has 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 northeast 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 adding a transport manager, so no change there. Existing users of the 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 would like more information about Managing your Operator Licence, or our Operator Licencing, services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Here to share the knowledge!

Since the launch of the Manage Your Operator Licence, I have written a new updated post. You can view that post here.