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How to Apply for an Operator Licence

During a conversation recently, a business owner asked one of our staff whether it was legal to put an LGV that he had just purchased on the road immediately. “I picked it up cheaply at an auction yesterday and was planning on sending it out tomorrow instead of some of the vans – that’s alright, isn’t it?”

Hmm. Not quite.

Two of the main reasons why it wasn’t possible to do this were the fact that the company’s drivers had not completed any Driver CPC periodic training but perhaps more importantly, that the company didn’t have an operator licence.

“How do I go about getting one of those, then?”

The first thing you need to clarify is why you want an operator licence – will you be carrying your own goods or equipment or will you be carrying a load for a third party? The answer to this question determines which type of licence you need to apply for – either a restricted or Standard National/International licence. For Standard-type licences, there is certain criterion that applies that isn’t applicable to restricted licences but more on this later.

There are a number of fees involved with applying for an operator licence.

LicencingEnforcementUndertakingsOnline Services
Overview of SystemDVSADrivers' Hours RulesOCRS
Requirements of Licence HoldersTraffic CommissionersDefect ReportingSelf-Service
Guide to Maintaining RoadworthinessPublic InquiriesDaily Walk Round Checks
VariationsRecord Keeping

The application fee should be enclosed with your initial application with the issue fee payable upon the granting of the licence. An interim licence can be requested if you need to start operating urgently. A separate form is required for this where you need to state the reason why you require interim authorisation.

You will need to submit a GV79 application to the Traffic Commissioner’s Office along with a number of supplementary documents relating to:

  • Financial standing
  • Maintenance arrangements
  • Statutory notification of your application

The levels of financial standing differ for restricted and Standard National/International licences:

Type of LicenceFirst VehicleEach Additional Vehicle
Standard National/International£6,650£3,700

Original bank statements for the previous 28 days are required to prove that you have access to adequate financial resources in order to keep your vehicle in a fit and serviceable state. Many operators make the mistake of enclosing photocopied or online statements which are deemed unacceptable by the Traffic Commissioner’s Office.

You can choose to carry out your maintenance in-house or externally. If you are looking to carry out your safety inspections yourself, you must have access to adequate facilities (detailed on page 25 of the Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness) and have a suitably qualified person in your employment. You must submit a copy of the inspection form that you intend to use when inspecting your vehicle.

If using an external party to maintain your vehicle, along with a copy of the inspection sheet, you must enclose a signed maintenance contract – a sample contract can be found here.

Your application must be advertised within a newspaper serving the area of your proposed operating centre in order to give any local residents the opportunity to oppose your application, should it inconvenience them in any way. This is an area that requires care and attention to detail – we have seen applications rejected for the smallest error in the advertisement. And considering advertisements can range anywhere from £100 to £600 in certain (Edinburgh) publications, it’s a costly mistake to make!

Your advert must appear in the newspaper three weeks either side of your application being submitted; adverts submitted that fall outside these parameters will be refused. The full page of the newspaper containing your advert must be enclosed with your application. You may also have to enclose written permission from the owner if you are leasing or renting your proposed operating centre.

Failure to disclose notifiable convictions is one of the main reasons why applications can be significantly delayed and these can come back to bite years down the line if called to Public Inquiry. Notifiable convictions include those relating to road traffic offences and drivers’ hours breaches. As the Scottish Traffic Commissioner, Joan Aitken said in her recent report: “trust is at the heart of operator licencing and deceiving a Traffic Commissioner at time of application risks the licence”. If you think you have a conviction that should be divulged, it’s best to get some advice before doing so as it may have been “spent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

For Standard National/International applicants, there is one important distinction from restricted licences; you will require a transport manager to be named on your application – or as it’s commonly referred to, a CPC holder. A separate form, a TM1, should be submitted alongside your GV79. Your transport manager must be a suitably qualified person employed internally or on an external contract-basis who has effective and continuous control of your transport activity. If you are proposing an external transport manager, it is advisable to enclose a copy of their contract outlining their duties and contracted hours which must satisfy the recommended by the Traffic Commissioner’s Office:

VehiclesSuggested Hours
2 or less2-4
3 to 54-8
6 to 108-12
11 to 1412-20
15 to 2920-30
30 to 50Full-time

Fundamentally, the operator licence application process can be relatively straight-forward but many would-be operators make small errors, many in relation to the topics detailed above, which prevent them from acquiring their licence in the optimal time. The legislation that governs vehicles covered by operator licencing is complex and can easily leave you confused so gaining some advice from people who deal with it on a daily basis can extremely beneficial.

“There’s a bit more to this than I thought” replied our business owner from earlier. Indeed there is.