Can you get an operator’s licence but not buy lorries?

The world of heavy goods vehicle operations in the UK is governed by strict regulations, and it’s essential to understand the requirements for holding an Operator’s Licence. But can you have an Operator’s Licence and not own a lorry? Let’s delve into this.

Understanding the Operator’s Licence

According to the West Midlands Traffic Commissioner (TC), Nick Denton, operators are required to have a vehicle available to operate at all times to hold an O-licence. To qualify for an Operator’s Licence, be it Standard or Restricted, an applicant must meet the following criteria:

Establishment in Great Britain:

The applicant needs physical premises in GB where core business documents are kept. PO Box or third-party addresses aren’t acceptable for standard licences.

Have a Competent Transport Manager:

This individual should be of good repute and professionally competent.

Access to a Vehicle:

The licence holder doesn’t necessarily need to own a vehicle but should have a formal contract in place with a hire company or similar to acquire one when necessary.

Good Repute and Fitness:

The applicant must be deemed fit to hold a licence.

Financial Stability:

Proof of enough financial resources to manage the business is required.

Maintenance Arrangements:

Suitable facilities for maintaining vehicles should be in place.

Regulatory Compliance:

The applicant must ensure all rules and regulations are followed.

Furthermore, a key point to note is that while a licence holder isn’t required to always own or hire a vehicle (e.g., for seasonal work), they should have an arrangement in place to access one when needed.

Historical Context

The foundation of the Operator Licences as we know them today can be traced back to the Transport Act 1968. They are governed by the Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995. The Act mandates that goods vehicles in the UK need an Operator’s Licence for commercial operations, barring a few exceptions.

The Traffic Commissioners, eight in total, are responsible for issuing and overseeing these licences, each licence catering to a distinct region in the UK.


Not all vehicles need an Operator’s Licence. The primary exemptions are:

Small goods vehicles weighing up to 3.5 tonnes.

Old vehicles registered before January 1977 within specified weight limits.

Vehicles from non-UK EU member states.

Emergency and special service vehicles like police, fire brigade, and ambulance.

For the finance and leasing sector, understanding who requires an Operator Licence is crucial. If you own, lease, or employ someone to drive a vehicle, you need this licence. For those providing finance, lease terms should explicitly state that lessees must hold a valid Operator Licence.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

These licences aren’t transferable. And if operators violate any conditions, they can face dire consequences. The Traffic Commissioner can revoke, suspend, or curtail an Operator Licence. More severe breaches could lead to disqualification from obtaining future licences.

Operating without a valid licence is also a criminal offence that can result in hefty fines. Moreover, vehicles can be seized and possibly scrapped if found operating without the necessary licence.

In Summary

For vehicle operators, having a valid Operator’s Licence is paramount. The repercussions of non-compliance can be both criminal and financially damaging. For financial institutions and funders, safeguarding assets means ensuring lessees always have a valid Operator Licence. Being in the heavy goods vehicle business in the UK comes with its complexities, but understanding and adhering to the rules is a non-negotiable aspect of responsible operations.

NTP Online Learning can be a valuable resource to gain a better understanding of the process and requirements for obtaining an operator licence and answering operator licencing questions so make sure you subscribe to our blog so you never miss important information, remember adhering to the regulations not only keeps you on the right side of the law it ensures that you are adhering to the terms of your operator licence.

Thinking about operating your own transport business, you’ll need a qualified transport manager so why not become one yourself? NTP provide the UK’s leading Transport Manager CPC course. Find out more about this course and how it can help you by clicking here 

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