Guidance

International road haulage: vehicle operator licences and permits

The licences and permits you need to operate gross vehicle weight vehicles above 3.5 tonnes on international journeys from the UK.

Introduction

If you operate vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating above 3.5 tonnes on international journeys, you need a number of licences and permits.

What you need depends on the countries the vehicle will travel to or through.

Vehicle operator licences

You must have a standard international vehicle operator licence to carry your own goods, and other people’s goods, both in the UK and on international journeys.

This applies to all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating above 3.5 tonnes.

Operators who are issued with an international licence can also request Community Licences, which are required for all operations for hire or reward in, or through, EU countries.

Drivers who transport dangerous goods abroad must have an International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) training certificate, unless they’re transporting small loads.

Find out more about being a goods vehicle operator

How to apply for a vehicle operator licence

You can apply for a goods vehicle operator licence online. You also need to:

  • advertise your application for a licence
  • advertise your proposed operating centres
  • designate a transport manager
  • provide information about your financial situation
  • draw up a maintenance contract with a garage or agent to do safety inspections and repair vehicles if you don’t do this yourself

Driver qualifications

Your drivers must be properly qualified.

To become a professional lorry, bus or coach driver, you must get a professional driving qualification called the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

You must then do 35 hours of periodic training every 5 years to keep your Driver CPC qualification.

Find out more about employing people to drive

EU Community Licences

If you make international journeys for hire or reward within the EU, you must have both a:

  • standard international vehicle operator licence
  • a Community Licence

A Community Licence allows drivers to use a single permit for trips between all EU member states. The licence also allows transit traffic through EU member states and to and from non-member countries.

Community Licences also allow cabotage (journeys entirely within one other EU member state).

Community transit and the EU

Most regulations on the international carriage of goods by road within the EU have been harmonised as part of the single market.

Journeys between the UK and other EU member states are governed by common rules.

Community Licences are also valid in the 4 member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA):

  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Switzerland

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway also belong to the European Economic Area (EEA). Many EU regulations are applied in all the EEA countries. However, in some areas, local laws still apply and therefore conditions vary between countries.

Find out more about dispatching your goods within the EU

How to apply for Community Licences

You can get Community Licences free of charge if you have a standard international vehicle operator licence.

Call the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to get a Community Licence. You’ll need your vehicle operator licence number to apply.

DVSA customer service centre
Telephone: 0300 123 9000
Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

Community Licences are issued until the 5 yearly renewal date of your operator’s licence.

Your current Community Licence will continue to be valid until the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Rules for using Community Licences

You’re only allowed to use Community Licences issued to you.

The licence includes:

  • an office copy, which must be kept at your main office so that it can be inspected by enforcement agencies
  • certified copies - you can get a certified copy for each of the vehicles authorised by your standard international vehicle operator licence

Certified copies of the Community Licence are not specific to any one vehicle.

Your vehicles must carry a certified copy of a Community Licence on all international journeys. Your drivers must show it to any enforcement official when asked. It’s an offence not to do so.

If your operator licence is withdrawn or you surrender your licence

If a traffic commissioner is considering revoking an international licence, they’ll also consider withdrawing the Community Licence. You must return the documents if they do withdraw it.

You must also return the documents if you surrender your licence.

Lost, damaged or stolen Community Licence documents

You must tell DVSA if your documents are lost, damaged or stolen.

DVSA customer service centre
Telephone: 0300 123 9000
Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

Bilateral road haulage permits for some non-EU countries

The UK has agreements with some non-EU countries which allow hauliers to travel to or through those countries.

You must have a permit for the country with which the bilateral agreement has been made.

Where bilateral permits apply

You must have a bilateral permit for journeys to or through:

  • Belarus
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Morocco
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey (you only need a permit for journeys to or through Turkey when you’re continuing on to a third country)
  • Ukraine

Single-journey permits are valid for one complete journey. The outward and return trips count as one complete journey.

Multiple-journey permits are available for Morocco which authorises 15 return trips during the validity of the permit.

How bilateral permits work

You must get a bilateral permit before you start your journey from the UK.

The driver will need to show the permit at the border, and they’ll be allowed to pass into or through that country.

Depending on the terms of the bilateral agreement, they may still have to pay certain local taxes.

Whether or not you need a permit depends on:

  • the size of the vehicle
  • the nature of the goods being carried

There are exemptions for:

  • small vehicles
  • certain loads
  • certain types of operation

How to apply for a bilateral permit

You must apply for bilateral road haulage permits for non-EU countries at least 5 working days before you expect to start the journey. You have to pay any fees involved - the application form tells you what the fees are.

You also need a permit for ‘own account’ journeys to:

  • Belarus
  • Morocco
  • Russia
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey

Other permits for Morocco

You need to apply for a Moroccan empty entry and hors contingent haulage permit if you’re:

  • entering Morocco empty
  • taking in filming equipment and material for film or TV products, or equipment in connection with exhibitions (including racing), or other goods as specified under Article 3 of the Bilateral Agreement

You must:

  • apply at least 5 working days before you expect to start the journey
  • return all permits (used and unused) within 15 days of them expiring

Special entry permits

Contact the DVSA International Road Freight Office to apply for special entry permits.

DVSA International Road Freight Office
Telephone: 0113 202 6072
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

ECMT international road haulage permits

You can get European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) international road haulage permits for journeys between ECMT member countries.

ECMT international road haulage permits can be used for:

  • journeys between member countries, including transit journeys whether laden or empty
  • third-country journeys to other ECMT countries which would otherwise be prohibited under certain bilateral agreements

Where ECMT international road haulage permits apply

There are 43 member countries of the ECMT.

Albania Armenia Austria Azerbaijan
Belarus Belgium Bosnia-Herzegovina Bulgaria
Croatia Czech-Republic Denmark Estonia
Finland France Georgia Germany
Greece Hungary Ireland Italy
Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg
FYR Macedonia Malta Moldova Montenegro
Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal
Romania Russian Federation Serbia Slovak Republic
Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland
Turkey Ukraine UK  

How ECMT international road haulage permits work

ECMT international road haulage permits are valid for one calendar year and allow an unlimited number of journeys within that period. The UK does not issue short-term permits.

You can transfer permits between vehicles, but they’re only valid for one vehicle at a time. The permit must be kept on board for the whole journey.

ECMT international road haulage permits cannot be used for:

  • transit of ECMT countries on journeys to non-ECMT states
  • cabotage
  • unaccompanied trailers or semi-trailers
  • own account operations

Some countries (particularly Austria, Greece and Italy) impose extra restrictions on the use of ECMT international road haulage permits.

Each ECMT member country is allocated a limited number of permits each year, under a quota system. Once the quota of ECMT international road haulage permits has been used, further permits are available throughout the year, for which fees are charged on a sliding scale. Normally, all permits are allocated before the beginning of the year in which they are valid.

The UK’s ECMT international road haulage permit system is administered by the DVSA International Road Freight Office.

How to apply for an ECMT international road haulage permit

To get an ECMT international road haulage permit and log book, you must make sure that the ECMT ‘certificate of compliance’ is completed. These verify that the vehicle intended for use is environmentally compliant to standards Euro 4, 5, 6 and EEV. These are completed by the vehicle manufacturer or DVSA.

Compliance certificates are also required for the trailer and a further roadworthiness certificate must also be completed to be presented to the DVSA International Road Freight Office before you’re issued with an ECMT permit and log book.

You must carry the log book in the vehicle and use it for recording journeys taken. You must enter journey details before the journey begins.

The log book can be stamped at control points by the competent authorities.

Records are detached from the log book and must be sent to the DVSA International Road Freight Office within 2 weeks of the end of each calendar month.

ECMT international road haulage permits have the same number as the log book.

If you need a permit to transport goods before 31 December 2018

Contact the DVSA International Road Freight Office if you need an ECMT international road haulage permit to transport goods before 31 December 2018.

They will give you advice about applying.

DVSA International Road Freight Office
Telephone: 0113 202 6072
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

If you think you might need a permit to transport goods in 2019

If you think you might need an ECMT international road haulage permit to transport goods between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2019, you’ll be able to apply online from November 2018.

You cannot apply yet, but you can start preparing your application.

Start preparing by collecting the following information:

  • which of your current valid standard international or restricted goods operator licences you want to use when you apply for an ECMT international road haulage permit
  • how many international trips you made in the last 12 months using this goods operator licence - an outward and return trip counts as one journey (if you’re an operator in Northern Ireland, licensed by Department for Infrastructure, exclude journeys made from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland)
  • what percentage of your trips made in the last 12 months were international - you’ll need to provide a percentage bracket and will be given percentage bandings to make one choice

When you apply, you’ll have to select which sector you mainly transport goods in. You’ll have to select one category which represents the bulk of your international journeys from:

  • chemicals
  • food products
  • furniture
  • metal
  • mail and parcels
  • raw materials and waste
  • refined fuels
  • transport and machinery
  • textiles
  • unrefined fuels
  • wood
  • other non-metallic mineral products
  • none of these sectors (you can select this if you don’t transport goods mainly in one of the other categories)

You’ll also need to consider the countries you intend to transport goods to over the next 12 months as there are restrictions for some ECMT member countries.

Your current Community Licence will continue to be valid until the UK’s exit from the European Union.

More details about the application process will be published here when they’re available.

ECMT international removal permits

If you need to remove goods between or across ECMT member countries, you may be able to get special permits for laden or empty transit journeys and third-country journeys between member countries.

How ECMT international removal permits work

The permits are not subject to any quota and are available to firms employing the specialised equipment and staff needed to undertake removal operations.

The permit can only be used by one vehicle at a time. It must be kept on board the vehicle for the whole journey, including an unladen journey before or after a laden one.

ECMT removal permits are valid for one year from the date of issue. They do not authorise cabotage.

How to apply for an ECMT international removal permit

Download and fill in an ECMT international removal permit application form.

Send the form with the permit fee to the DVSA International Road Freight Office. The form tells you the fee.

DVSA International Road Freight Office
Hillcrest House
386 Harehills Lane
Leeds
LS9 6NF

Licences for countries the UK does not have arrangements with

To operate haulage vehicles in a country the UK does not have a special arrangement or agreement with, you need to get a licence from that country.

You can get advice from the embassy of the country you need to operate in.

Own account traffic

If your vehicle is carrying goods in connection with your own business (not for hire or reward), you’re exempt from:

  • Community Licence requirements in the EU
  • permit requirements in certain other countries

However, you still may need to carry an ‘own account’ document.

Where own account applies

You must carry a permit on the vehicle for journeys to:

  • Belarus
  • Morocco
  • Russia
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey

You do not need a permit for journeys through:

  • Austria
  • Georgia
  • Ukraine

Special conditions apply to own account journeys between:

  • the UK and Hungary
  • the UK and Cyprus

How the own account permit works

You do not need a Community Licence to carry goods on own account between EU countries and the UK if the following conditions apply:

  • the goods carried are the property of the business or must have been sold, bought, let out on hire or hired, produced, extracted, processed or repaired by the business
  • the purpose of the journey is to carry the goods to or from the business or to move them, either within the business or outside, for its own needs
  • the vehicles used are driven by employees of the business
  • the vehicles are owned by the business or have been bought by it on deferred terms or hired, providing that the conditions of Council Directive 84/647/EEC are met (this provision does not apply to the use of a replacement vehicle following breakdown of the vehicle that is normally used)
  • haulage is not the major activity of the business

Operations between the UK and Cyprus or Hungary

You do not need a special licence for own account operations between the UK and Cyprus or Hungary.

However, the vehicle needs to carry a document containing the following information:

  • the name and address of the operator
  • the operator’s trade or business
  • the nature of the goods being carried
  • loading and unloading points
  • registration number of the vehicle being used
  • the route the haulage takes

You may be asked to provide evidence of the ownership of the goods.

Cabotage

Cabotage is the haulage of goods between 2 points in a country by a vehicle that isn’t registered in that country.

If you’ve delivered an international load to an EU member state, and you hold a Community Licence, you can carry out cabotage jobs in that state.

Croatia is not included in this agreement.

How many cabotage jobs you can do

The number of cabotage jobs you can carry out is limited by EU rules.

You can carry out 3 cabotage jobs which must take place within 7 days of when you dropped off the load that you brought into the country.

On your home journey you can carry out further cabotage jobs in other member states so long as:

  • you enter the member state unladen
  • you don’t go over the 3 jobs in 7 days limit
  • the state isn’t Croatia

Documents you need for cabotage

You must be able to prove that you’re operating within the rules for cabotage. As a driver you must have documents with you showing the:

  • name, address and signature of the sender and haulier
  • place and the date of taking over of the goods and the place designated for delivery
  • name and address and signature of the international consignee with the date of delivery
  • common description of the goods, method of packing, number of packages and their special marks/numbers
  • gross mass of the goods or their quantity otherwise expressed
  • number plates of the motor vehicle and trailer

VAT on cabotage operations

You may be liable to pay VAT on cabotage operations in the member state in which the journey is made. You’ll need to register in that country for VAT.

Penalties for the misuse of licences and permits

It’s illegal to misuse or forge a Community Licence, bilateral or ECMT permit, or to make a false statement to obtain one.

It’s also illegal not to have the right documents for your journey.

You may be fined by the authorities in the country where the offence was committed if you are convicted of such offence.

If you are convicted of the misuse of documents, your vehicle operator licence taken away, suspended or restricted.

Any fine, forgery or misuse of permits can lead to administrative action being taken against you, including temporary or permanent withdrawal of Community Licences or permits.

More information

Find out more about:

Published 4 September 2012
Last updated 13 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added information about what to do If you think you might need an ECMT permit to transport goods in 2019.
  2. Updated section 'Get an ECMT permit' to remove reference to the your vehicle being environmentally compliant to the Euro III standard as this is no longer valid.
  3. Added a link to PDF for an Application for Moroccan Exceptional Empty Entry and Hors Contingent Permits.
  4. Updated cabotage wording in consultation with DfT(c) policy team.
  5. First published.