Do you need an operator licence to run vans?

The landscape of operating vans and larger vehicles in the UK has shifted considerably in the past years, particularly with the regulatory changes post-Brexit. Historically, the rules surrounding the need for an Operator Licence (often referred to as an O’ Licence) were fairly straightforward. However, recent changes have brought a more intricate framework into play, particularly for those running vans or light goods vehicles (LGVs).

A Look Back

Historically, the necessity for an O’ Licence was confined to those who operated goods vehicles or public service vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) exceeding 3.5 tonnes. If you fell under this category, an O’ Licence was mandatory. However, if your operation predominantly revolved around lighter vehicles, specifically those below 3.5 tonnes, then you were generally exempt from this requirement.

The Regulatory Shift

As of May 2022, post-Brexit adjustments have redefined these boundaries. Now, certain vans weighing between 2.5t and 3.5t require an Operator Licence if they are operating within the EU. If you’re running such vehicles and aren’t in possession of the required licence, you are not only operating unlawfully but also risk facing prosecution.

This means that many operators of vans or LGVs, who previously didn’t need to consider this aspect, will either need to obtain an operator’s licence for the first time or have to integrate such vehicles into their existing fleet licence.

Financial Requirements

Financial standing is an essential criterion for obtaining the licence. For those operating an LGV-only fleet, a financial reserve of £1,600 for the initial vehicle and an additional £800 for each subsequent vehicle is mandatory. If you’re operating a mixed fleet of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) and LGVs, an extra £800 is required for each LGV, augmenting the pre-existing financial obligation.

The Role of Transport Managers

A significant change that comes with this regulation is the obligatory appointment of a Transport Manager possessing a CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) qualification. This ensures that a qualified individual is overseeing the operation, ensuring compliance with the new regulations.

However, there’s an exemption clause: if someone has consistently managed LGV vehicles for a decade before 20 August 2020, they’re excused from this requirement. Labelled as ‘acquired rights’, this exemption is temporary and will last only till 20 May 2025. After this, even those with a decade’s experience will be required to secure their Transport Manager CPC qualification.

Other Considerations

It’s crucial to understand that certain operator’s licence regulations, particularly those exclusive to the UK (such as rules about operating centres, advertising, or maintenance intervals), have their roots in GB and NI regulations. They were never introduced as a consequence of EU regulations. Thus, the separation from the EU, in some respects, has not altered those procedures.


The evolving landscape of vehicular regulations, especially post-Brexit, has expanded the criteria for those needing an Operator Licence. It’s more crucial than ever to stay updated and ensure compliance, both for the sake of legality and to ensure smooth operations within and outside the UK. If you operate vans or LGVs within the said weight range and plan to operate in Europe, now is the time to revisit your licensing requirements.


If you are running vans into Europe you will need a qualified Transport Manager, you can either hire an External Transport Manager or become a qualified Transport Manager yourself, click here to find out how you can become a qualified Transport Manager  

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