Goods vehicle operator licensing

If you drive a goods vehicle which is more than 3.5 tonnes in weight and it is used to carry goods as part of a trade or business, you are required by law to have a Goods Vehicle Operator's Licence.

Prepare to drive in the EU after Brexit

The UK Government has published information on the requirements for UK commercial drivers in Europe after the UK leaves the EU. Find out more about what commercial drivers may need to do to drive in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) when the United Kingdom leaves the EU:

Types of operator licence

There are three types of operator licence:

  • Restricted Licence – for those who carry their own goods or materials in connection with their trade or business - this licence covers all transport operations in the UK
  • Standard (National) Licence – for those who carry their own goods or materials in connection with their trade or business and/or carry goods for hire or reward - this licence covers all transport operations in the UK - someone in, or employed by, the company must hold a Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification
  • Standard (International) Licence – same as above except this licence covers transport operations throughout Europe

Cost of a licence

If you apply for a Restricted or Standard licence, you must pay a one-off £254.00 application fee. If your licence application is successful, you will then have to pay a licensing fee of £449.00 which covers a period of five years.

Goods Vehicle Operator Licensing fees Cost (£)
Application fee for a licence GV(NI)79 or for a (publishable) variation (GV(NI)81) 254
Application fee for a Restricted Licence for own-account operators 254
Fee payable for the issue of a licence 449
Fee payable for the continuation of an existing licence 449
Fee payable for the issue of an interim licence or direction 68

If you had an existing Standard (Hire or Reward) licence before 1 July 2012, you will need to apply for a new licence under the Goods Vehicles Act before the current one expires. You must pay the application fee of £254.00 when applying for your licence as well as the £449.00 grant fee. All fees are non-refundable.

Apply for a licence

To get a Restricted licence you will have to satisfy standards of fitness and finances. For a Standard licence you must show good repute, financial standing, establishment and professional competence. You must also advertise your operating centres, meet environmental standards and agree to a number of undertakings and conditions.

Change to financial standing from 1 January 2019

The law requires the Department for Infrastructure to be satisfied that goods vehicle operators have sufficient financial resources to run their businesses and maintain their vehicles properly.

On 1 January 2019 revised financial standing levels for standard national and international operator licences come into force.  The rates are calculated annually based on the rate of exchange against the Euro (as at 1 October each year) as required under Regulation EC 1071/2009.

The levels have increased in 2019 because of a change in the rate of exchange for the Euro. The following sterling rates apply to new licence applications and applications to vary existing licences.

Standard Operator’s Licence 

For: Previous rates Rates from 1 January 2019
First vehicle £7,950 £8,000
Each additional vehicle £4,400 £4,450

Restricted Operator’s Licence 

The rates of finance needed to support a restricted licence are not set by EC Regulations. From 1 January 2019 there is no change to the finance which must be available to support restricted licence applications and licences.

For: Rate
First vehicle £3,100
Each additional vehicle £1,700

Once you have identified the type of licence you need you can use the new Vehicle Operator Licensing (VOL) system to:

  • complete your application online
  • receive help and support with completing your application (almost 90 per cent are currently incomplete when submitted, resulting in delays)
  • wait less time for complete application decisions
  • upload documents online, including bank statements

VOL Online Application

Before you start

You need:

  • a debit or credit card to pay any fees
  • your username and password if you’ve used the service before

How the Department for Infrastructure will use your personal data for the administration of goods vehicle operator licensing - Privacy Notice

You can register for the VOL service if you’ve not used it before.

Once your application has been processed you will be sent a letter with your reference number and requesting any additional information if required.

You must not drive a vehicle until you have a licence. If necessary you can apply to the DfI for an interim licence, which is awarded on a discretionary basis.

Forms and guidance

Other goods vehicle operator’s licence forms and guidance are available here:

 Renew your licence

If you already have a current licence issued before 1 July 2012, you do not need to apply for a new one under the Goods Vehicles Act until your existing one is due to run out.

You will have to complete a licence checklist rather than a full application and pay the fee by the date your licence expires or you will no longer hold a valid licence.

Contact the DfI Central Licensing Office at least two weeks before the expiry date of your licence if you have not received the licence checklist or been asked to pay the fee.

Make changes to an existing licence

You can use the VOL service to check, change (vary) or update your goods vehicle operator’s licence. If you used the old self-service, sign in using the same details.

Make an objection, complaint or representation

If you wish to make an objection, complaint or representation about an existing Goods Vehicle Operator Licence holder or a current application you can do so using the guide below.

For further information about Operator Licensing requirements:

  • telephone: 0300 200 7831

More useful links

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