Operator Licence Applications and Variations

An operator's licence (or O Licence) is the legal authority needed to operate goods vehicles in Great Britain. The O licence system ensures that minimum safety and environmental standards are in place to protect other road users and the public.

The DVSA claim that over 80% of all licence applications are incomplete or incorrect. This adds to delay in an already long process to get an operator’s licence.


Plumwood Ltd offers a service, where we can help you through the process of an operator licence application or variation to an existing licence

Who Needs an Operator Licence?

If you operate vehicles above 3.5 tonnes that are used to carry goods for trade or business purposes, you require an operator’s licence. This includes short-term rental vehicles hired for as little as one day.

The O licence must be held by the person or company who ‘uses’ the vehicle and this may, or may not be, the owner of the vehicle. The user of the vehicle can be:

  • the driver, if they own it or if they are leasing, buying on hire purchase terms, hiring or borrowing the vehicle (e.g. a typical owner-driver operation)
  • the person who employs or controls the agent or driver

This is required if you only move your own goods or if you move other people’s goods for hire or reward.

Types of operator licence

There are three different categories of licence according to the use of the vehicles.

  • Restricted licence - Allows you to carry your own goods nationally or internationally, but does not permit you to carry other's goods.
  • Standard licence - Allows you to carry any goods, either your own or other's, anywhere within the UK.
  • Standard International licence - Allows you to carry any goods, either your own or other's, anywhere within the UK and internationally.

Additionally, all holders of standard National and International Operator Licences must be professionally competent, or employ someone who is professionally competent. This is demonstrated through holding a Certificate of Professional Competence in National or International Road Haulage.

Plumwood can help you with the relevant forms and requirements to apply for the correct Operators Licence for your business and thereafter with any amendments to your fleet size or operating centre(s).