From 21 May 2022, you’ll need a standard international goods vehicle operator licence to transport goods for hire or reward in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Vehicles between 2.5 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes that cross international borders and conduct activities for ‘hire or reward’ will come in scope of operator licensing requirements and will need to obtain an International Operator’s Licence.

They are also being applied to both cars and vans towing trailers as well as vans or other light goods vehicles used for hire and reward in the EU, such as pickup trucks.

The regulations cover the gross combination weight of the vehicle and trailer, so if the combined gross weight exceeds 2,500kg (2.5 tonnes) and the combination is used for hire and reward work in the EU, the new rules will apply; even if the vehicle without trailer has a gross vehicle weight of less than 2.5 tonnes.

The law does not apply to those transporting goods on a non-commercial basis or using vans for their own purposes i.e. an electrician using a 3.5-tonne van and carrying their own equipment for their own use would not be ‘in scope’.

Vehicles in the relevant weight categories operating solely in the UK will not be affected either – although the DfT has not ruled out introducing similar legislation for the UK at some point in the future.

But the move could affect operators in Northern Ireland who operate across the Irish border into the Irish Republic, which is an EU member state.

The new rules will also apply to international transports where goods are loaded and then unloaded in the European Union, and to the driving of UK-operated cabotage in the EU.

The new requirements, which follow a consultation last year, are part of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement and include a requirement for operators to appoint a designated transport manager with a valid Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (TM CPC) qualification when applying for a licence. Applications for an operator licence opened in March 2022.

The Department for Transport has also said that anyone operating loaded goods journeys in and between European member states may need to share information digitally about journeys in the EU. This includes details of the operator, driver, driver employment, dates of travel, and the vehicle used.

The new operator licensing rules aim to address potential safety issues with vehicles between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes.

Anyone regularly carrying out work which will bring them in scope of the legislation are being urged to join either the Road Haulage Association or Logistics UK (which operates the Van Excellence scheme), if they are not already members.

For companies that regularly drive larger vans in EU countries it may also well be worth consulting a transport lawyer for advice, particularly if you’re not sure if the new rules will apply to you.