Guidance

International road haulage: vehicle documents

Vehicle documents drivers need to legally cross international borders in a UK-registered vehicle.

When you drive a goods vehicle from one country to another, you must make sure that you have certain documents on board.

This guide provides information about the main documents you will need as a driver to make sure that your vehicle is legally able to cross international borders.

For information about the main documents you will need to ensure that you, as a driver, are able to cross international borders read the guidance on driver documents for international road haulage.

If you take a UK-registered lorry, coach or bus abroad you must have the following valid documents with you:

You may also need to carry paperwork (eg stickers or certificates), payment cards or electronic devices in countries which charge you to use their roads or have low emission zones.

Don’t laminate or make any changes to these copies or documents.

Vehicle registration documents

If you take a UK-registered vehicle out of the country for less than 12 months, you must take documentation to show that you are authorised to possess the vehicle. This means you must carry the original Vehicle Registration Certificate (V5C) with you.

If you have not received the V5C certificate, or the original has been lost, stolen or defaced, you can download the application for a vehicle registration certificate (V62).

If you take your vehicle out of the UK for more than 12 months (permanent export), you must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by completing the purple section, part 11 (V5C/4) of the VC5. It’s important that you take your registration certificate with you as you may have to hand it to the relevant authority when the vehicle is registered abroad.

Read about taking a vehicle out of the UK permanently or temporarily.

If your vehicle is hired or leased, the supplier company is unlikely to let you have the original VC5. Instead you can apply for a Vehicle on Hire Certificate (VE103). This certificate is authenticated proof of permission from the owner to take the vehicle abroad. A Vehicle on Hire Certificate is valid for one year and you can buy one from motoring organisations such as:

  • Automobile Association (AA)
  • British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA)
  • Freight Transport Association
  • RAC Motoring Services
  • Road Haulage Association

Vehicle insurance documents

The basic EU legal requirement is third party vehicle insurance. This covers injury to other people, including your passengers, damage to or loss of other peoples’ property resulting from an accident caused by you. It doesn’t cover any costs incurred by you as a result of an accident.

Third party, fire and theft provides the same cover as third party but also includes fire damage and theft of the vehicle.

Fully comprehensive provides the same cover as third party, fire and theft and additionally covers any damage to your vehicle.

Every motor insurance policy issued in the EU must provide the minimum insurance cover required by law in any other EU country.

Green Card

In many countries, even those within the EU where a UK insurance certificate is acceptable, you may be asked to produce a Green Card. The Green Card is not an insurance cover. It simply provides proof, in those countries where the Green Card is valid, that the minimum third party liability cover required by law in the visited country is in force.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) operates the Green Card system in the UK. You can find out about Green Cards on the MIB website. A green card is no longer compulsory for all countries in the Green Card system.

Insurance for goods in transit

In some countries, you may need to produce a certificate of insurance for the goods carried to avoid paying a premium. It’s also important to ensure that the risk of goods being damaged, delayed, perished, lost or stolen in transit is properly managed. See the guide on moving goods by road.

Goods vehicle operator’s licence

To transport goods abroad in an HGV for hire or reward you must have a standard international operators licence.

This allows you to carry goods both in the UK and on international journeys. The licence comes into force once the fee has been paid and the licence documents are issued. Providing the 5 yearly renewal fee is paid and there are no infringements, the licence lasts indefinitely. Identity discs are also issued and must be displayed in each specified motor vehicle. The identity discs show the:

  • operator’s name
  • vehicle registration mark
  • operator’s licence number
  • disc expiry date
  • type of licence

Community licences, permits for travel and cabotage

A valid Community Licence is required for all hire or reward operations in or through EU countries. They have replaced the need for community permits, bilateral permits between member states and permits for transit traffic through the EU. They do not replace permits for travel to or through non-EU countries, where these are still required. Only operators and hauliers who hold standard international licences can request Community Licences.

The guide to Being a goods vehicle operator contains further information on goods vehicle licensing. DVSA is the authority which deals with operator licensing applications.

You can find contact details for the central licensing office and the offices of the Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain on GOV.UK.

Information about the EU rules on cabotage, and the documents you must carry to drive between 2 points in a country where a vehicle isn’t registered, has also been published on GOV.UK.

GB sticker or Euro-plates

All vehicles registered in the UK must display the international registration letters GB on the rear of the vehicle when taken temporarily abroad.

UK registered vehicles displaying Euro-plates (a circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on a blue background) don’t need to fix a GB sticker to the rear of their vehicle when driving in EU countries. In non-EU countries, a GB sticker must still be displayed on the rear of UK-registered motor vehicles, caravans or trailers. Most motoring organisations and many tour operators will supply GB stickers.

In addition to the Euro symbol or GB sticker, drivers and keepers of vehicles registered in Great Britain are also permitted to voluntarily display national flags and certain identifiers on their number plates.

Vehicle tolls or taxes

If you use a vehicle to transport goods abroad you may have to pay a vehicle toll or charge in EU countries you drive through or a vehicle tax in some non-EU countries. Some non-EU countries have an agreement with the UK that means that registered goods vehicles are exempt from these taxes.

Countries currently charging visiting foreign goods vehicles to use their roads include:

Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Check locally for the latest, most up-to-date information about road charges and taxes.

Where relevant, you may need to carry paperwork, stickers, payment cards or electronic toll devices to use roads abroad.

Vehicle emission levels and controls

Many European towns and cities are Low Emission Zones (LEZ). This means that vehicles are not allowed in (or charged a fee) if their emissions are above a certain level.

Visit the European Low Emissions Zone website to find out which areas are LEZs and what you must do to enter them.

Help with goods vehicle documentation

The following organisations can help with vehicle documentation to ensure that the vehicle can be legally driven across international borders.

Government organisations and agencies

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - provides information and advice on controlling risks in the workplace to ensure the protection of people’s health and safety. View details of the requirements of the carriage of dangerous goods on the HSE website.

DVSA - a government agency that provides a range of licensing, testing and enforcement services. Find out how to contact DVSA.

DVLA - facilitates road safety and general law enforcement by maintaining registers of drivers and vehicles, and collects car tax. Find out how to contact the DVLA.

Insurance associations

Access a list of insurance brokers, authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, on the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) website

Find out about the Green Card system on the MIB website.

Motoring organisations

Find out about driving abroad on the Automobile Association (AA) website.

Find out about driving abroad on the RAC website.

The British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) is the trade association for the vehicle rental and leasing industry in the UKFind the index of vehicle rental and leasing topics on the BVRLA website.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) represents the transport interests of companies moving goods by road, rail, sea and air. Find out about the freight industry on the FTA website.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) provides advice, information and business services for the haulage industry. Find out about the haulage industry on the RHA website.

Published 7 September 2012
  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. Check which licences and permits you need
  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 if you need export licences

    There are rules for transporting certain goods. Check the rules for:

  4. Step 4 Find out what documents your driver needs to carry

  5. Step 5 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.