Documents you need to carry if you're the driver or a passenger in a commercial transportation vehicle that crosses international borders
If you drive or travel as a passenger in a commercial vehicle carrying goods between countries you must carry certain documents with you.
This guide tells you about the main documents you must have with you to cross international borders.
When you know what your route will be for a European or international road haulage job, you’ll want to make a checklist of the customs and other legal documents that you’ll need for each of the countries you’ll enter.
Passports and visas, driver’s licence and age restrictions
You must have a number of documents ready to show when making trips out of the UK.
Vehicle drivers and any passengers or crew members in the vehicle must each have a valid passport. You should check the expiry date and the entry rules of the countries on your route.
Some countries may require a passport to be valid for a certain period after entry, eg to enter Turkey you must have 6 months left on your passport. Look at the ‘Entry requirements’ section of the countries you’re planning to visit.
UK passports are issued by the Identity & Passport Service (IPS). Find out how to apply for or renew a passport.
If you have a UK passport (or any EU passport) you don’t need a visa to enter other EU member states. You may need a visa if you’re travelling outside the EU. Look at the ‘Entry requirements’ section of the countries you’re planning to visit.
If you drive a goods vehicle you must have the right category of licence for the vehicle you’re driving. You can see a list of driving licence categories.
You can use your current UK licence to drive the categories of vehicle for which it is entitled in all EU member states and European Economic Area (EEA) countries. Find information on driving in another country.
International driving permit
The International Driving Permit (IDP) shows the details of national driving licences in other languages. It allows foreign officials to confirm the identity of the permit holder, the driving category entitlements held and their validity periods. The IDP supports, but does not replace, your photocard or paper driving licence. You should still carry your full UK driving licence and passport with you at all times.
IDPs are issued by the major motoring organisations and the Post Office:
- read about and apply for an IDP on the AA website
- read about and apply for an IDP on the RAC website
- read about and apply for an IDP on the Post Office website
You don’t need to be a member of either organisation to apply for an IDP, but you must be resident in the UK, over 18 years of age and have passed a driving test.
Fuel duty and value added tax
When you buy motor fuel in the UK the price includes tax. When you take your vehicle abroad some countries may charge additional tax on the fuel in your tanks.
Taxes on UK fuel entering other countries
Under EU rules there’s no limit on the amount of fuel that may be carried between member states in standard running tanks, provided that it remains in these and isn’t off-loaded.
An EU directive defines what constitutes ‘standard tanks’, but the definition is open to differing interpretation, particularly in France and Belgium. These countries sometimes claim that supplementary tanks fall outside this category. For a tank to qualify as a ‘standard tank’, a driver must be able to show that:
- it’s of a type that was permanently fitted by the manufacturer to all motor vehicles of the same type as the vehicle in question
- its permanent fitting enables fuel to be used directly for propulsion or, where appropriate, by refrigeration or other systems
French and Belgian authorities sometimes claim that ‘catwalk tanks’ and ‘belly tanks’ fail this qualification. Drivers of vehicles are sometimes charged additional duty, or even fined, when carrying fuel in such tanks.
Find information on the fuel you can legally use in a road vehicle on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website.
Drivers’ hours and tachographs
If you drive a goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes on international journeys you must comply with EU rules on drivers’ hours and tachograph use.
When required, you must be able to produce, at the roadside:
- tachograph charts and any legally required manual records for the current day and the previous 28 calendar days
- the driver’s digital smart card, if you hold one
If you’ve been sick or taken other time off in the 28 days before your journey you should carry a letter from your employer to confirm these periods of inactivity.
Cabotage is the haulage of goods between two points in the same country by a haulier that is not registered in that country.
To undertake cabotage operations, the driver must have documents relating to the international journey showing:
- the name, address and signature of the sender and haulier
- the place and the date of taking over of the goods and the place designated for delivery
- the name and address and signature of the international consignee with the date of delivery
- the common description of the goods, method of packing, number of packages and their special marks/numbers
- the gross mass of the goods or their quantity otherwise expressed
- the number plates of the motor vehicle and trailer
Find out more about cabotage.
Insurance and medical documents for drivers
In some countries drivers are held to be legally responsible for their loads, whether or not they know of the contents.
It’s a good idea to leave photocopies of all medical, insurance and legal documents as back-up with family or friends in case you need copies outside of your company’s normal business hours.
In some EU and other countries your vehicle must carry warning equipment, such as visibility clothing and warning triangles and spare bulbs.
You should make sure you have comprehensive insurance before travelling. You should check carefully for any exclusions and that your policy includes medical, health, personal liability and legal expenses cover and 24-hour emergency assistance. Read more information about foreign travel insurance.
European Health Insurance Card
Throughout the EEA countries and Switzerland, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you access to the same state-provided healthcare as a resident of the country you are visiting.
In some countries, healthcare will be at a reduced cost or even free of charge, but even with an EHIC, many countries expect the patient to pay towards their treatment. You should try to claim back this cost before you leave the country in which you were treated, but if you’re not able to do so, you may be able to seek a refund when you are back in the UK.
Some non EU and EEA countries have also signed up to the EIHC scheme. Read guidance on travelling outside of the EEA on the NHS website.
British diplomatic consuls in foreign countries can be a valuable first-port-of-call for help in the event of an emergency. There are many things that British consuls have the ability to do to help UK citizens in difficulty. Find guidance on the support available for British Nationals abroad.
Speed limits in the European Union
Speed limits vary across the European Union, and penalties for breaking the limits can be severe. Drivers should be aware of the rules in each country.
Identity and Passport Service
0300 222 0000
Published: 3 September 2012