Prepare to drive in the EU after Brexit

What commercial drivers may need to do to drive in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.

Requirements for UK commercial drivers in Europe after the UK leaves the EU

In the unlikely event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, commercial drivers will need extra documentation to drive in the EU and EEA.

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Some of these requirements may change depending on the outcomes of EU exit deal negotiations. Bookmark and revisit this web page or sign up for email alerts to stay up to date.

UK commercial drivers and haulage companies transporting goods abroad

Community licences and ECMT permits

Currently, UK lorry drivers carrying out international journeys must have a standard international operator’s licence along with a community licence for journeys to, from or through the EU and EEA.

Vehicles under 3.5 tonnes (including vans) and drivers operating on own account (carrying their own goods) do not need an international operator’s licence or Driver CPC.

From 29 March 2019, if there is no EU exit deal, EU and EEA countries may not recognise UK issued community licences.

In those circumstances, the government is confident that it would be able to negotiate new or reinstate old bilateral agreements with EU countries to provide haulage access.

However, transport managers may wish to apply for ECMT international haulage permits for 2019. ECMT permits will enable UK operators to drive in the EU and EEA (except Cyprus) if UK issued community licences are not recognised. ECMT permits are also recognised in 15 other countries.

Particular categories of transport are exempt from ECMT permit requirements in some countries. Page 11 of the International Transport Forum’s ECMT multilateral quota user guide lists these exemptions.

Regulations were passed through Parliament in November 2018 which confirm that the UK government does not require Northern Ireland hauliers to carry permits when on international journeys to, or through Ireland. This is in keeping with our position in the Road Haulage and Trailer Registration Act that we will not introduce permits on the island of Ireland without the consent of the Government of Ireland.

Operators with a Northern Ireland operator’s licence will not be required to obtain an ECMT permit for a journey to the Republic of Ireland. Operators with a Great Britain operator’s licence should apply for an ECMT permit if they plan to drive in the Republic of Ireland from 29 March 2019.

Limited numbers of ECMT permits will be available. You can apply online for ECMT permits until 11:59pm on 21 December 2018.

To apply for ECMT permits, you will first need to have a vehicle operator licence online account.

Prepare for ECMT permits

Register for updates on GOV.UK and via the DVSA notification system.

Transport managers

Create a vehicle operator licence online account if you do not already have one.

Apply for ECMT permits for 2019 by 11:59pm on 21 December 2018.

Investigate alternative options for transporting your goods to the EU and EEA.

More about ECMT permits

Trailer registration

From 28 March 2019, you must register commercial trailers over 750kg and all trailers over 3,500kg before they can travel through countries that have ratified the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.

This includes these countries in the EU, EEA and Europe:

Albania Andorra Armenia Austria Azerbaijan
Belarus Belgium Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia
Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France
Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Italy
Kazakhstan Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg
Macedonia Moldova Monaco Montenegro Netherlands
Norway Poland Portugal Romania Russia
San Marino Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Sweden
Switzerland Ukraine      

This means that trailers making international journeys through these countries will need to:

  • be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • display their own registration plate (separate from the vehicle towing them)
  • be able to present the Trailer Registration Certificate to a foreign authority on request

You do not need to register trailers that are only used in the UK or only used for journeys between the UK and Ireland.

You also do not need to register trailers used in Spain, Cyprus or Malta. You will, however, need to register trailers if you drive them through any country listed above to reach these destinations.

You can voluntarily register non-commercial trailers that weigh over 750kg but there is no legal requirement to do this.

Prepare for trailer registration

Register for updates on GOV.UK and via the DVLA notification system.

Commercial trailer owners making international journeys

Register commercial trailers with a gross weight over 750kg with DVLA from January 2019.

Private trailer owners making international journeys

Register trailers with a gross weight over 3,500kg with DVLA from January 2019.

More about trailer registration

Published 25 October 2018
Last updated 26 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added a link to apply for ECMT permits until 11:59pm on 21 December 2018.
  2. Update to reflect the provisions in regulations on ECMT permits passed through Parliament on 6 November 2018.
  3. First published.