Guidance

International road haulage: 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.

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.

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

Find out more about:

The other licences and permits you need depend on which countries the vehicle will travel to or through.

EU Community Licences

You can apply for EU Community Licences if you make international journeys for hire or reward within the 27 EU countries and 5 other countries.

You can still apply for the licences, even though the UK has left the EU.

You can use the licences in:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

EU Community Licences also allow cabotage (loading and unloading of goods for hire or reward between 2 points in a country by a vehicle that’s not registered in that country.).

Find out how to apply for EU Community Licences and the rules you have to follow.

ECMT international road haulage permits

You can apply for European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) international road haulage permits for journeys between 43 ECMT member countries:

Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.

Find out how to apply for ECMT permits and the rules you have to follow.

ECMT international removal permits

You can apply for a permit for laden or empty journeys if you’re a specialist removal company and you move household goods and business possessions between or across the 43 ECMT countries:

Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.

Find out how to apply for international removal permits and the rules you have to follow.

Bilateral road haulage permits for some non-EU countries

You can apply for bilateral road haulage permits for some non-EU countries the UK has agreements with:

Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Russia, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

You only need a permit for journeys to or through Turkey when you’re continuing on to a third country.

Find out how to apply for bilateral international road haulage permits and the rules you have to follow.

Countries the UK does not have arrangements with

You need to apply for licences from countries that the UK does not have a special arrangement or agreement with.

Get advice from the embassies of the countries you need to travel through or to.

Own account traffic

‘Own account’ is where either:

  • your vehicle is only carrying goods in connection with your own business
  • your delivery contents are not for hire or reward

When you do own account work, you do not need:

  • permits in some countries
  • an EU Community Licence in the EU

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

Non-EU countries where you need permits for own account traffic

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

  • Belarus
  • Morocco
  • Russia
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey

Non-EU countries where you do not need permits for own account traffic

You do not need a permit for journeys through:

  • Georgia
  • Ukraine

Special rules apply to own account journeys between:

  • the UK and Hungary
  • the UK and Cyprus

How the own account permit works

You do not need an EU 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 a 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 and cross-trade

Cabotage is the loading and unloading of goods for hire or reward between 2 points in a country by a vehicle that is not registered in that country.

Cross-trade is the haulage of goods for hire or reward between 2 EU countries by a vehicle registered in a different EU country.

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

Croatia is not included in this agreement.

How many cabotage and cross-trade jobs you can do

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

You can currently 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.

You can carry out further cabotage jobs in other EU member states (except Croatia) on your home journey if:

  • your vehicle enters the country empty
  • you do not go over the 3 jobs in 7 days limit

Documents you need for cabotage

You must be able to prove that you’re operating within the rules for cabotage. The driver must have documents with them 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 or 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.

Published 4 September 2012
Last updated 8 August 2019 + show all updates
  1. Removed detailed information about the authorisations and permits you will need after Brexit. This information has been moved to a new guide. Added a link about how to prepare for Brexit which takes you to this new guide.

  2. Updated cabotage and cross-trade rules if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019 to confirm you’d be allowed to carry out 2 cabotage or cross-trade 2 journeys until 31 December 2019.

  3. Updated to confirm you can continue to use your EU Community Licence until 31 December 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, and that you would need an ECMT permit to transport goods through EU or EEA countries to non-EU or EEA countries who are ECMT members.

  4. Added the deadline of 11:59pm on 16 March 2019 for applying for 2019 ECMT permits if you have not already applied for them.

  5. Extended the deadline to apply for 2019 permits from 11:59pm on 21 December 2018 to 11:59pm on 18 January 2019

  6. Added a link to apply for ECMT permits until 11:59pm on 21 December 2018.

  7. Added the dates you can apply online for ECMT permits for 2019, and clarified that permits will only be allocated after the application period has ended - they will not be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

  8. Added a link in the ECMT international road haulage permits section to the criteria that will be used to allocate ECMT permits.

  9. Added information about what to do If you think you might need an ECMT permit to transport goods in 2019.

  10. 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.

  11. Added a link to PDF for an Application for Moroccan Exceptional Empty Entry and Hors Contingent Permits.

  12. Updated cabotage wording in consultation with DfT(c) policy team.

  13. First published.

  1. Step 1 Apply for operator licences and permits

    1. Check if you need a vehicle operator licence
    2. Apply for a vehicle operator licence

    You will need other licences and permits, depending on the countries you're driving to or through.

    1. You are currently viewing: Check which licences and permits you need

    Your vehicle must pass a specialist test before you can transport dangerous goods (ADR test).

    1. Book a specialist vehicle test
  2. Step 2 Make sure your driver is eligible to drive abroad

  3. Step 3 Check the rules for the goods you're carrying

    1. Find out what you need to do if you're exporting your own goods

    There are rules for transporting certain goods. Your driver may need to follow set routes or stop at specific check points if you’re transporting mixed loads or specific types of goods. Check the rules for:

    1. Find out what you need to apply for if you’re moving goods temporarily out of the UK

    If you're transporting goods outside the EU they must have been cleared by customs (given ‘permission to progress’). The exporter can tell you if this has happened.

  4. Step 4 Make sure your driver has the right export documents

    Your driver will need copies of:

    • any export licences
    • the road consignment note (‘CMR note’)
    • the Movement Reference Number (MRN) from the export declaration - if you're moving goods out of the EU
    • the MRN and the Local Reference Number (LRN) - if you're moving goods under the Common Transit convention (CTC)
    • the ATA Carnet document - if you're moving goods out of the EU temporarily
    • the TiR Carnet document - if you’re moving goods in a sealed load compartment with a seal number

    The exporter should be able to give all of these to you.

    You'll also need to have a customs seal approval certificate for the vehicle if you’re moving goods in a sealed load compartment. You'll get this when your vehicle passes the TiR test.

  5. Step 5 Find out what vehicle documents your driver needs to carry

  6. Step 6 Check local road rules

    1. Check the road rules for European countries on the AA website
    2. Check travel advice for countries outside Europe

    When you have your documents, insurance and any extra equipment you need, you can transport goods abroad.