How To Get An HGV Operator’s Licence


If you want to obtain an HGV operator’s licence it is likely that you have put things in place to start and operate your own HGV business.  Obtaining an HGV licence ensures that the HGVs within your business operate in a safe and proper manner, ensuring that goods are transported safely and in accordance with national guidelines.

Legally, all vehicles that weigh over 3.5 tonnes in weight and are used to transport goods as part of a business or trade will require a goods operator’s licence.  If you are an operator who does not have licence then this could invalidate your HGV and fleet insurance and also place you in breach of your legal obligations.

Types of Operator’s Licence

Operator’s licences cover commercial transport HGVs, and also Public Service Vehicles (PSVs).

There are three main types of HGV operator’s licence:

  • Restricted Operator’s Licence

This type of licence is a Goods Vehicle Operator’s Licence.  It enables the holder of the licence holder to carry their own materials and goods as per their business or trade.  This licence does not permit the licence holder to carry goods for other organisations or people.  If you do this then you could lose your operator’s licence and also face a hefty fine.

  • Standard National Operator’s Licence

The Standard National Operator’s Licence permits the licence holder to carry their own goods, but also to carry goods for other people in Great Britain. The licence includes transportations within the UK. 

Even if the operator’s licence holder only transports goods for other people occasionally, they will still need this type of operator’s licence.  Although this type of licence does not permit international operations, it does allow the operator’s licence holder to haul trailers from ports that are within the UK and that may be part of longer international journeys. Be careful to ensure, however, that the operator licence holder’s HGV does not leave Great Britain during its own journey.

  • Standard International Operator’s Licence

The Standard International Licence is similar to the Standard National Licences, with the main difference being that they include transport operations in and around Europe. For operator’s who obtain this licence, they will be issued with Community Authorisations that are needed for operations that take vehicles through and in European Community countries.

The type of operator’s licence will dictate the conditions the operator’s licence holder can operate in.  Before you apply for one of the above licences, it is important that you understand the conditions of each type of licence and ensure that you apply for the correct licence for your business operations.

Haulage operators must also ensure that drivers have appropriate training and qualifications.

Applying for the Licence

The application for the operator’s licence is made using form GV79 which can be found here.  The completed application form is then sent to your local Traffic Area.

The application will need to be advertised locally so that those living or working within the vicinity of each operating centre you own have an opportunity to make representations relating to the application.  The application for the licence should be made at least 9 weeks before you need the licence to ensure that the traffic commissioner has sufficient time to raise any enquiries. 

It is against the law to operate before the issuing of the licence. The government website provides you with additional guidance and support relating to your application.  

HGV Licencing – Rules

Operator’s licences are now a digital-only function.  The Department for Transport is the governmental department that oversees the applications for HGV licencing that are dealt with by traffic commissioners.  You should expect to hear back from the traffic commissioners within 40 days of submitting your application online, but it can take longer than this if you apply during a busy period.

There are certain rules and conditions that relate to each type of licence that you need to be aware of. 

For restricted operating licences you will be required to satisfy standards of finances and fitness.  For any licence you will always be required to satisfy the traffic commissioner that you are fit to hold a licence and are of good repute.  You will also need to prove that the business is financially stable and viable, and that you and your staff comply with rules relating to safety.

When it comes to a standard operating licence, you will need to show that you have:

  • Good financial standing
  • A business that is properly established and based within Great Britain and that the business has access to a HGV
  • Good repute
  • Professional competence
  • Advertised your operating centres
  • Met environmental standards
  • Agreed to the conditions of the licence
  • A transport manager who is competent

There are also rules relating to the operating centre that the business operates from.  For a start, you will need a secure and safe facility within which the HGVs are based.  The operating centre should have adequate parking that is off-street for all the HGVs and any trailers.

The traffic commissioner who assesses your application for an operator’s licence will want to be reassured that the operating centre has sufficient space, safe access and is in an acceptable location.

Transport Managers

As a business, you will need an internal transport manager who can evidence that they continuously and effectively perform the role of transport manager for the operations.

HGV Operator’s Licence – Exemptions

Some vehicles are exempt from needing an operator’s licence.  They include the following vehicles:

  • Snow clearing vehicles – including vehicles that distribute grit and salt
  • Recovery vehicles
  • Road sweepers and cherry picker vehicles

Costs of Obtaining An HGV Operating Licence

For every new licence (or change to an operator’s licence that already exists) there is a one off payment of approximately £260.00.  This is the application fee for the operator’s licence.

Once you have applied for the operator’s licence and paid the fee mentioned above, you will then hear back as to whether your application has been successful.  If it has, then you will be required to pay a licencing fee amounting to £449.00.  This fee covers a five year period, and if you want to continue your existing licence after the five year period, you will be required to pay a further £449.00.

Interim licences cost £68.00.

All the fees mentioned above are non-refundable.

Changing Your Licence

If you have an existing licence and you want to make changes to it, you can apply to vary or change your existing licence online.

Operator’s and new businesses can use the online system to:

  • Complete applications online
  • Export HGV data
  • Change details
  • Update, add, or remove manager details
  • Upload relevant documents and financial information

Renewal of The Operating Licence

Renewing your operator’s licence at the end of the five year operating period is straightforward.  Instead of completing and submitting a brand new licence application, you are required to complete a checklist relating to your licence.  You then pay the requisite fee. 

Remember to always apply for the renewal in good time before your existing licence expires, otherwise there is a risk that there could be a period of time during which you will not hold an operator’s licence.

Traffic commissioners recommend that you apply for a renewal at least two weeks before the expiry of your existing licence.

Changes to Operating Licences from 21 May 2022

From May 2022 there will be some changes to operator’s licences.  The main change is that the regime will be expanded to include vehicles that weigh more than 2.5 tonnes and up to 3.5 tonnes.  This means vehicles such as courier vans will fall into the scope of operator licences from May 2022.

HGV Insurance

Heavy goods vehicles need comprehensive insurance to ensure the vehicle is protected alongside the driver and the goods carried by the vehicle. Depending on the business you work for, you may need a non-standard and bespoke insurance policy.

ISIS Insurance offers a wide variety of insurance options and quotes that cover everything a HGV might need when it comes to insurance, from skip lorries to refrigerated vehicles.