Does my business require an operators licence?

The Question

The VOSA helpline suggested that you would be able to confirm whether or not we need an operators licence.

We operate a Mercedes Sprinter Van at 3500kg, GVW, a mini bus at 3900kg, 3 Landrovers at 3050 kgs and an all terrain forklift at 12560 kgs.

The landrovers full trailers laden to 2500kgs. We are a sculpture park where we bring in artworks from artists and other galleries around the world. Works are displayed and then returned. The works are not for sale and public entry to 500 acres of landscape and galleries is free. Nothing we do is for hire or reward and we do not pay the artist for loan of works and they do not YSP.

I would be grateful if you could confirm whether we need an operator licence.

The DVSA's Answer

I refer to your email of 19 January. . Please accept my apologies for the considerable delay in replying. I will cover the relevant matters raised in your email under separate headings:

Who needs a goods vehicle operator's licence?

Most 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. The requirement also applies to vehicles used for infrequent periods - such as one day.

"Dual purpose" vehicles

Under Schedule 3 (2) of the goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995 "a dual purpose vehicle and any trailer drawn by it" is identified as exempt from goods vehicle operator licensing.

Examples include Range Rovers, Land Rovers, Jeeps, certain Japanese vehicles and those designed to go over rough ground as well as on roads, not being track laying vehicles.


You mention that you have a minibus. Under Section 1 (a) of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, a public service vehicle is defined as any vehicle (other than a tramcar) which carries more than eight passengers for “hire or reward”. Such vehicles are generally within the compass of operator licensing. (A definition of hire or reward is the systematic carrying of passengers for reward, that goes beyond the bounds of mere social kindness. It is immaterial that no contractual relationship may be intended, the words “hire” and “reward” must be read separately).

For example - a payment shall be treated as being made for the carrying of a passenger if made in consideration of a person's being given a right to be carried, whether for one or more journeys and whether or not the right is exercised. Therefore, if payment is made for for anything (irrespective if the transport is deemed to be "free" and where the vehicle has nine or more passenger seats) then a PSV operator's licence would be required to operate this vehicle. (Where the vehicle has less than nine passenger seats you would be advised to contact the Private Hire Section of your local authority, in order to find out their own individual requirements).

I should point out that this is in VOSA’s view and does not constitute legal opinion.

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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