How New Businesses Can Gain and Keep an O Licence

An Operator’s Licence, commonly known as an ‘O Licence,’ is a critical certification for transport businesses involved in delivering goods for profit. Issued by the Traffic Commissioner’s office, it’s legally mandatory for any company seeking to operate vehicles for hire or reward. This article explores the O Licence, its significance, types, application, and the role of transport management software in ensuring compliance and efficient operations in the transport industry.

What is an O Licence, and who needs one? 

An Operator’s Licence (or ‘O Licence’) is a required certification provided through the Traffic Commissioner’s office, for transport businesses who do any transportation of goods for either hire or for reward. So if the business is running vehicles with the aim to make money from delivering goods, they are required to possess an O Licence. 

Failure to possess this licence while transporting goods for hire or reward is a punishable offence and could result in imprisonment. Therefore, obtaining this licence is vitally important. 

Benefits of the O Licence 

Having an O licence gives the haulier the peace of mind that they are running their fleet legally and adhering to industry best practice. It is easy for anyone to locate O Licences via the Vehicle Operator Licensing Service (VOSA) website; therefore it is crucial to maintain the licence’s validity and keep all information up-to-date. 

By following the guidelines set in the O licence terms, it can also path the start to the haulier’s journey to becoming FORS accredited or achieving the DVSA Earned Recognition status. Both these accolades can set a haulage business apart from the competition and accelerate their path to winning contracts. 

Understanding which licence is needed 

Firstly, the haulier needs to understand which licence would be most applicable to their operations, as there are a few variations. Here are the types of licences to choose from: 

  • Standard National Licence: This licence allows the holder to carry their own goods in the UK and also internationally, while also granting them legal permission to transport goods that they don’t own, but only in the UK .
  • Standard International Licence: This licence allows the holder to carry their own and others’ goods in the UK and also internationally. 
  • Restricted Licence: This licence allows the holder to only carry their own goods.

How to get an O Licence 

Getting all the information ready here is key, and the quicker this is produced and collated, the quicker the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) can make their decision. Key information includes: 

  • The details of the director allocated to the licence. 
  • The details of the nominated transport manager. 
  • Details of the operating address for the business. 
  • A count of the vehicles and trailers dedicated to the site. 
  • A summary of the business’ financial situation. 
  • Details of how the vehicle maintenance is carried out.
  • Declaration of any criminal convictions, if any exist for those listed on the licence. 

The next step is to advertise the application for the licence. This can be done online or in a public domain, advertising the designated operating centre and inviting challenges. This can all be carried out by a dedicated transport lawyer if desired. 

 The decision on the licence application is usually provided on average within 7 weeks and the fee for the full licence is £257. However, businesses can apply for an interim licence for (£68)* whilst this is ongoing, so that they can operate whilst the waiting for the decision on their permanent licence. 

*2023 latest cost provided by the DVSA 

Challenges to keeping the O Licence 

Making sure that all the information is kept up-to-date is extremely important. Any misinformation could lead to a breach of compliance, and potentially a knock on the door from the Traffic Commissioner’s office. 

The DVSA carries out regular checks on vehicles, and if they identify any potential issues they can immobilise the vehicles indefinitely. Here are a few issues they often identify in these checks: 

  • Vehicles being overloaded, therefore potentially dangerous. 
  • Vehicles deemed unroadworthy due to poor maintenance. 
  • Drivers have not adhered to rules on the transportation of dangerous goods. 
  • Monitoring drivers’ hours to ensure no compliance breaches are made. 

The O licence can also be revoked if certain criteria is met, including if the: 

  • terms within the O licence are broken. 
  • health and safety conditions provided by the business are inadequate. 
  • company goes into administration or bankruptcy. 
  • information is entered incorrectly, for example a location used by the operator is not listed in their documentation. 
  • DVSA on-site inspection was failed. 

It is important to also remember to update the licence every 5 years, however a reminder is usually sent out prior to this.  

Can transport management software help hauliers to maintain their licences? 

A Transport Management System (TMS) is used by transport companies to manage and schedule their daily transport operations. A major benefit of using a tool like a TMS software is that it drives a greater awareness throughout the business of compliance requirements, as well as help to structure the processes that helps a business adhere to the best practices that will help them retain their licence. These features can help with: 

  • Monitoring drivers’ hours and using an analytics tool to help stay compliant. 
  • Store important documents which are easily accessible such as driver licences and operator licenses. 
  • When building jobs identifying load capacity, therefore not overloading vehicles and managing work in a safer way. 
  • Daily walk around checks mobile apps for vehicles to ensure appropriate quality checks every day. 
  • MOT scheduling and notifications, including a documented history of MOT and maintenance checks of vehicles. 
  • Assign specific codes to jobs, so drivers can take appropriate action when handling specific goods, especially dangerous goods. 
  • Invoice on time and correctly using integrated accountancy software, helping to avoid customer dissatisfaction and potential fines. 

Read more: What is a transport management system?

Using a TMS software can help new businesses set up their operations in the best possible way, ready for the start of their journey into the transport industry. Not only this but using it in the right way will make their lives so much easier, and help to get start on the right foot. 

Learn how to select the right TMS software for your business by downloading our Transport Management Software Buyer’s Guide.

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