Chapter 6: Operator’s Licence

The Operator’s Licence is a requirement for anyone wanting to operate goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. There are 3 types of Operators Licence: International, National and Restricted. The Type of licence that is relevant for domestic household removals is the National Operators Licence. To obtain this the applicant has to hold a CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence). This is a detailed and complex course in transport management and the operator will need to pass the exam at the end to obtain a CPC. Once the applicant has a CPC they will have to apply to the Department of Transport for an Operator’s Licence. In the application process the applicant will have to produce evidence that they are financially positioned to operate goods vehicles properly, will have to be of good repute have no previous convictions for traffic violations, will have to have an operating centre, a maintenance contract with an authorised mechanic, and publish a request for a licence in the local newspaper nearest the proposed operating centre. Any licence award will be probationary and will require the operator to have regular safety inspections to all their vehicles and trailers at agreed intervals. Once the probationary period has passed the Commissioner of the traffic area concerned will either grant a full licence or a licence with restrictions, such as operating times or length of licence or safety inspection dates.  Any changes to the licence such as additional vehicles will require the applicant to repeat the above process.

As you can imagine this is a very detailed and professional process which is very expensive. You would really expect no less as badly maintained, managed and dangerous Lorries on the road is a threat to everyone.

Now getting back to removals. Most removal companies operate vehicles over 3.5 tonnes usually 7.5 tonnes up to 18 tonnes. All these companies will need to comply with the above criteria. However the van and man company who is fine for shop deliveries and very small moves, may try to advertise for, and claim they can carry out full house removals. They are doing two things: firstly, they are short selling the professional removals industry and secondly, they are short selling the unsuspecting mover. They will always compete on price but it’s not always price that’s key as I’ve explained earlier. It`s value for money that really counts.

Wouldn’t you rather employ a company that has passed all the criteria of the Department of Transport, has had the vehicle moving your goods inspected no more than 8 weeks ago, has a good understanding of the rules and regulations? Or would you rather place your goods in an extended body transit that is more than likely to be overweight whenever it’s more than half full, is quite likely to break down and is operated by someone that has little or no knowledge of transport regulations and legislation? Of course you would but, HOW DO YOU TELL?  Remember the Internet advertising and, not being able to spot a good remover in the first email, these are all the sort of problems that you will not be aware of. When getting quotes, you would not think to ask about vehicles etc and they certainly won’t mention that they will be using a small fleet of undersized vans for your move, or even worse using one and then saying they want more money for subsequent trips ( see true stories for details of this one, it happens!) So ask them, if they have nothing to hide they will be happy you asked.

There are exceptions to this rule, there are some really well run removers who only use small vehicles this will generally be for ease of access, for example they may only operate in city centres, or in difficult terrain where access is not possible for larger vehicles. Moving with one of these companies will be fine, but you must check that they are members of either the Guild or BAR; to make sure they are vetted.

It’s not just the Operator’s licence that separates the man and van operator. It’s also the requirement of tachographs. Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of over 3.5 tonnes will need to have a tachograph fitted and the driver will have to have obtained a goods vehicle licence. Under these rules the time driving is restricted and the driver will need to take regular breaks. Drivers of small vans do not have to comply with these rules and can drive as many hours as they like.

Not only do Guild Members have to meet the tight requirements for membership, they also will have their vehicles inspected once a year along with providing copies of their Operator’s licence and references from their bank, accountant, and insurance broker to demonstrate that they are competent to operate as Guild approved removers.

Take a close look at your proposed remover. They may not be quite as they appear!