Backhouse Jones Watermark

A Weight on your Shoulders?

26 February

3.5 tonne weight exemption for international licensing to fall

Historically, the UK has not required operators to hold an operator’s licence to run vehicles domestically with a Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW) under 3.5 tonnes, and even on an international EU basis that threshold currently remains the same. However, this situation in terms of EU vehicle operation has an end date, and a date for change that may well lead to some new UK legislation.

According to Article ROAD.6(d) of the EU-UK Trade and Co-Operation Agreement (TCA), from 21 February 2022, goods vehicles with an MPW of over 2.5 tonnes but below 3.5 tonnes MPW will no longer be exempt from holding a valid licence (i.e., a UK Licence for the Community) in order to travel to the European Union. This obviously poses something of a problem given that currently the UK Licence for the Community appears to be a document issued alongside a UK Standard International Operator’s licence, as was the case with its predecessor, the European Community Licence. However, there is currently only a requirement in the UK to hold a Standard International Operator’s Licence where the vehicles being operated have an MPW of over 3.5 tonnes. This therefore raises the question of how this new EU licensing requirement will be implemented given that as current UK domestic legislation stands, the licensing requirements for vehicles between 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes MPW would differ between the UK and EU.

There are approximately 12 months until this new weight threshold comes into effect under the TCA. This is quite a short a timeframe when one considers the requirements to hold a UK Licence for the Community; the core requirements being outlined in Annex ROAD-1, Article 3 of the TCA, namely:

  • To have an effective and stable establishment
  • To be of good repute
  • To have appropriate financial standing, and
  • To have the requisite professional competence

These may sound familiar! They are effectively the same requirements prescribed in UK domestic law to hold a Standard National or International Licence.

It seems unlikely in this short timescale that the UK would require all UK-based operators of vehicles between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes MPW to have to apply for and obtain a UK Operator’s Licence within the current regime. However, the fact that the UK agreed to this provision being included in the TCA does potentially indicate the direction in which the UK Government may be thinking of taking the UK operator’s licensing regime.

In any event, there will need to be some thought before the 21 February 2022 deadline into how international van operators with vehicles under 3.5 tonnes but over 2.5 tonnes are going to be able to acquire a UK Licence for the Community as prescribed under the TCA. It may be that the UK Government simply implement a process or procedure that allows for operators with such vehicles to apply for the UK Licence for the Community without having to hold a UK Standard International operator’s licence. Even here though they will have to assess the mandatory qualification criteria (repute, financial standing, professional competence and stable establishment). This potential option is not to say that the government will not, in fact, consider simply making it a requirement for operators of vehicles between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes MPW to hold a Standard International Licence before issuing the UK Licence for the Community from 21 February 2022.

Having noted this deadline in the TCA and the potential implications that may ripple from its inclusion, this is something that should now remain on the haulage and van industry’s radar.

How will the UK Government regulate the international small vehicle sector? What process will those operators need to adhere to in order to get a UK Licence for the Community? Is the Government taking the domestic licensing regime in the same direction? All of these are questions which we shall hopefully see answered in the coming 12 months.

If you wish to discuss this development and/or your situation regarding your own operator’s licence, please contact the Backhouse Jones Regulatory Team on regulatory@backhouses.co.uk or on 01254 828300.

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