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Does my van need an Operator’s Licence?

Parked vans

You usually only need an operator’s licence if you operate goods vehicles or public service vehicles over 3.5t; however, as a result of Brexit, from May 2022 the UK is introducing new regulations meaning that certain vans between 2.5t and 3.5t will require an operators’ licence or they could be operating unlawfully.

Written by
Transport Solicitor
Chris Powell
Senior Associate Solicitor

Transport solicitor Chris Powell and trainee solicitor Joanne Derbyshire look at the new changes coming to van regulation in the UK and how van drivers could be affected.

Does my van need an Operator’s licence? It may seem like a strange question. After all, historically an operator’s licence (O Licence) has only been needed if you operate goods vehicles or public service vehicles over 3.5t.  This is set to change from 21 May 2022. From that date, certain vans between 2.5t and 3.5t will need an operators’ licence or they will be operating unlawfully and could face prosecution.

The new rules for vans

The changes are contained within the Trade & Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU following Brexit. The exact rules are yet to be finalised but we know that they will apply to:

  • vans or other goods vehicles;
  • above 2.5t and up to and including 3.5t; and
  • that carry goods for “hire or reward” internationally

If all of the above apply, you will need a standard international operator’s licence from 21 May 2022 and will need to carry a copy of a “UK Licence for the Community” when carrying goods abroad.

At the time of writing the UK Government are yet to set out how the new rules will be implemented. It is even possible that they could decide to apply them to international van operators on domestic journeys as well – only time will tell.

Am I carrying goods for “hire or reward”?

The new rules for vans only apply if you are carrying goods “for hire or reward”.

In general, “hire or reward” means that you are carrying goods for, or on behalf of, someone else. This commonly applies if you are paid to move other people’s goods about. If however you are only moving your own goods for your own purposes, this would usually not be classed as hire or reward.

What should van operators do?

Until the Government explains how exactly the new rules will work, there is at the time of writing currently no way for a van operator to apply for an operator’s licence or a UK Licence for the Community. Much needed clarity is expected in the coming months. In the meantime, van operators should make sure they keep checking for latest developments in this area as the clock is already ticking.

If you need advice or help with applying for an Operator’s Licence, speak to one of our transport solicitors today and find out how we can help. Contact us on 0115 910 0600 or email

This article is correct as of 18 May 2021

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