If you’ve started thinking that being a goods vehicle operator may be the career for you, there are a few things you need to know before you get started.
Do I Need a Special Licence?
If you have a lorry or delivery van with a gross plated weight (that is the maximum weight your vehicle can carry) of 3,500kg, then you will need a special licence. If your vehicle does not have a plated weight then you will still need a licence if its unladen weight is more than 1,525kg.
You will also need a Goods Vehicle Operator Licence if you have a vehicle with a trailer and the total of their gross plated weights is more than 3,500kg, or the total unladen weight of the two is more than 1,525kg.
Different Types of Operator’s Licence for Goods Vehicles
One of the most important questions you’ll need to answer when thinking about becoming a courier or freight driver is: what kind of Goods Vehicle Operator’s Licence will I need? That’s right, there’s more than one!
• Standard National Licence
This licence says you can carry your own and other people’s goods in the UK, and your own goods internationally. You may transport trailers with other people’s goods to UK ports as part of an international delivery, but your vehicle must not leave the UK with the goods.
• Standard International Licence
This means you can carry your own and other people’s goods both in the UK and internationally. Currently with a Standard International Licence you can also request a Community Licence, which allows you to make trips between all EU member countries, transit through EU countries and make journeys entirely inside EU countries. This may, of course, be subject to change following Brexit.
For advice on transport outside of the EU contact the International Road Freight Office.
• Restricted Licence
This licence only entitles you to carry your own goods.
Licences remain valid on payment of a continuation fee which must be paid every 5 years.
How to Get Your Special Licence
Applying for your licence can take time as there are a number of steps in the application process; it’s a good idea to start around 9 weeks before you actually want to begin driving your delivery van or lorry. If, however, you need a licence urgently and you have already completed an application for an operator’s licence, the traffic commissioner may consider providing you with a temporary interim licence.
Applications should be made to the Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). The DVSA will ask you to provide information about your financial position as well as making sure you have drawn up a maintenance contract with an agent able to do safety inspections.
Once you have fulfilled all the conditions then you should print out the GV79 form ‘Application for a Goods Vehicle Operator’s Licence’ from the gov.uk website.
Declaring Your Application and Proposed Operating Centre
As part of your application you will need to advertise in a local paper to declare your application and proposed operating centre, in order to give local residents and businesses an opportunity to object.
An operating centre is the place in which your vehicle will be kept when not in use. It must be large enough to house your vehicle safely and not cause any environmental issues.
The UK is divided into eight traffic areas with a different traffic commissioner responsible for each one, so you will need to hold a licence for each area in which you have an operating centre.
Having your own licence is not enough to cover another driver of your delivery van or lorry. Each driver must have his or her own licence and the appropriate training for the work they are doing.
It is worth bearing in mind that these rules apply only for mainland Britain, as Northern Ireland has its own goods vehicle operator’s licensing regulations.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier and delivery van work in the in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.