‘O’ licences for 3.5 tonne vans on the horizon

May 11 | 2021

UK operators of 3.5 tonne vans will soon need to carry a UK Licence for the Community when carrying goods in Europe and that could also mean getting an ‘O’ licence.

The new requirement is part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement struck between the UK and the EU’s Brexit negotiators on 30 December, 2020 and ratified by the EU at the end of April 2021.

The new regulation, which is due to come into force in May 2022, is particularly onerous for van owners because at present the licence can only be issued to operators who hold a UK Standard International Operator’s Licence, or ‘O’ licence, which traditionally has only been required for larger commercial vehicles.

To obtain an ‘O’ licence applicants need to pay a fee of £257 and a further £401 on the issue of the licence, which has to be renewed after five years. To qualify, among other things, the organisation must employ a qualified transport manager, keep accurate maintenance records for each vehicle and be able to demonstrate good financial standing. For HGVs this is currently £8,000 for the first vehicle and £4,500 for each additional vehicle on the fleet. Drivers are also required to hold and maintain a Driver CPC by completing 35 hours of training every five years. However, the Department for Transport (DfT) have not yet announced whether any of the above would apply to ‘O’ licences for 3.5 tonne vehicles. The Mover asked the DfT for clarification on 4 May, but no one was available to comment.

There has long been speculation that the DfT was set to introduce ‘O’ licencing for smaller vehicles generally, but the sheer number of vans involved and the manpower needed to implement and enforce it were considered impractical and beyond the resources of the Department. However, as the new regulation would only affect operators working internationally, this may no longer be the case. 

Given the popularity of 3.5 tonne vehicles in the removals industry, the introduction of even more red tape for those operating in Europe will be an unwelcome development for many businesses. 

With less than a year to go before its scheduled introduction, the DfT needs to realise the implications of this additional burden on the transport industry and make sure that complying with the new regulations does not put small vehicle operators out of business.

The Mover will be watching developments closely and will report on developments as they arise.