Horsebox use for a charity

The Question

I am sending this email having spoken to someone called ******* in your office this morning - 09/02/2010 at 11.45am. He was very helpful and asked me to email in order to have something emailed back to keep in the lorry.

I was enquiring about whether or not I needed to apply for an Operator's Licence for our Riding For Disabled Centre to run the Horsebox.

I was told -

Even though I am employed by the Centre to drive the horsebox for the Charity to take horses to shows etc for our Disabled riders to compete on I do not need to have this licence. Our riders do not get charged for transport - The Centre funds this for them. I also asked the question if I require anything further should I travel any of our horses into Europe: ie: Belgium is planned for April 2010, and was also told nothing would be required.

Please can someone put in writing for me the information required for me to keep in the Horsebox so if stopped by VOSA I have it to show as proof of having looked into this.

The DVSA's Answer

I refer to your e – mail of 10 February, addressed to the Central Licensing Office in Leeds, concerning the above. It has been passed to this office for reply. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying.

Horseboxes and goods vehicle operator licensing

In the majority of cases, goods vehicles with a gross plated weight of over 3.5 tonnes or, if there is no plated weight, an unladen weight of over 1525 kg require a goods vehicle operator’s licence, if they are used to carry goods or burden of any description in connection with a trade or business, or for hire or reward. However, generally, where a horsebox is used on an “amateur” basis, we would not normally consider that the vehicle is being used for hire or reward, where it is clear that the carriage of horses is not with a view to making a profit, (i.e where nothing more than petrol money or modest prize money is involved).

However, where it is clear that there may be a commercial element to the activity (see section on charities - below), the user of the vehicle would be advised to hold an operator's licence.


In your email, you have mentioned that you are a registered charity. VOSA's view is that, where it can be demonstrated that a charity is not carrying on a business, then it would not need to hold an operator’s licence, but the burden of proof rests with that charity and it is necessary to take in to consideration all of the charity's activities and not just the transport element. In doing so, it is necessary to consider whether the charity is not being run on a commercial basis, for example are there any paid employees such as drivers, managerial or admin staff? Where, this is the case, it may be considered that the charity is being run on a commercial basis, therefore it would require an operator’s licence.

It is also necessary to consider what is meant by a ‘business.’ Guidance that we have received in the past from the Department of Transport would suggest that making a profit is only one factor and that each case must be looked at individually; a serious undertaking, earnestly pursued for a purpose of fulfilling a social obligation might constitute a business, even when not undertaken for profit.

Where any of the above is applicable, it may be considered that the charity is being run on a commercial basis and - in our view - the user of the vehicle would be advised to hold an operator’s licence, when using vehicles with a gross plated weight of greater than 3.5 tonnes. Therefore your best course of action would be to contact the national enquiry number (0300 123 9000) and request a starter pack so that you may consider applying for a licence.

Taking your lorry abroad

You have asked about taking the horses in to Europe. For information on this please see "Taking your lorry or bus abroad", by performing a search for this document on
I should point out that this is in VOSA’s view and does not constitute legal opinion, as only a court of law can give a definitive interpretation of the legislation. As this is the case, you may wish to engage your own private legal advice on this if you are still unsure.

I hope that the information given above has been of some help. If you have any further queries, do not hesitate to contact me. Once again, please accept my apologies for the delay in sending a full reply.

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