You think you have an Operator’s Licence – but do you actually?

Recently, here at Dyne Solicitors, we have dealt with a spate of operators who have been called to Public Inquiry and each case has involved the same one issue amongst various others.  That one issue that was common to all the matters was that each Operator thought they had an Operator’s Licence when in fact they didn’t.
Unfortunately, in all cases the company or partnership that thought it had a licence was in fact operating trucks without a Goods Vehicle Operator’s Licence. This is a criminal offence and would be subject to a fine of up to £5000 in the magistrates’ court.
How could they be mistaken about whether they had their licence application granted or not, I hear you ask!  Surely they applied for a licence and were told it had been granted?  Surely they received the discs for their vehicles?  That’s straightforward isn’t it?
Well, in all cases an Operator’s Licence had been granted at some point and had been legitimately used.  However, the problem was that at some point, and usually on the advice of an accountant for tax purposes, the operator had changed entity.  By that I mean a ‘sole trader’ had become a ‘partnership’; or a ‘partnership’ or ‘sole trade’ had become a ‘limited company’.
It may seem like nothing really has happened and that it’s business as usual, except that you are paying a bit less tax.  However, the impact that that change has on an Operator’s Licence is huge.  The new entity (e.g. the limited company) will not have an Operator’s Licence and cannot operate trucks legally.  The old entity (e.g. the sole trade) still has the Operator’s Licence.  It can’t just be given to the new entity.
There are two solutions to this problem:

  1. Submit a new application for the new entity before the new entity states trading.  The application process period can take approximately three months, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time for the application to be processed in time.  Once the new licence is granted, then the new entity can start operating vehicles.


  1. The new entity can subcontract the transport operations to the old entity (the one with the licence).  But be careful, the old entity will be operating the vehicles and so should be employing the drivers and giving instructions etc.  This option is littered with pitfalls and should only be considered after legal advice and most likely only as a temporary measure.

For advice on any transport law issues, contact Jared Dunbar on 01829 773 105
Contents believed to be correct at time of writing and article written on 13.01.14

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