If you fail to hold an operator’s licence and use a goods vehicle on a road for the carriage of goods for hire and reward, or in connection with a trade or business, then not only are you guilty of an offence of using a vehicle without the relevant operator’s licence, which is subject to a court fine, but you also run the risk of having the vehicle and its contents impounded.
The Government are proposing making amendments to the rules governing the impounding of vehicles if you get caught without an operator’s licence. Currently an impounded vehicle can only be returned to its owner, where it can be shown that the person using a vehicle when it was detained held an operator’s licence or the vehicle was not being used for the carriage of goods for hire and reward or in connection with a trade or business. If there is doubt as to whether or not either of these apply, then the vehicle will not be released without the owner of the vehicle making an application to the Traffic Commissioner, who will determine whether or not there has been a breach of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act and whether or not the vehicle can be returned. The Government propose to allow VOSA, in certain circumstances, such as where it may be a first offence and a prosecution may be more appropriate than impounding, to return the detained vehicle to its owner without the need for an application to the Traffic Commissioner. The proposals also include extending the grounds under which an owner of a detained vehicle can apply to the Traffic Commissioner for the release of the vehicle to include that the owner had taken steps to prevent the use of the vehicle without an O licence.
Although the Government are proposing amending the rules, the best course of action, if you are at all in doubt as to whether or not you need an O licence to operate a vehicle, is to take professional legal advice, as what constitutes a goods vehicle is a complex area of law.