This topic covers the principles of Operator Licensing in the UK, the criteria that must be met for a licence to be granted and the disciplinary powers available to the authorities. The process by which a licence may be obtained or varied is covered in the topics Obtaining an O-Licence in Great Britain and Obtaining an O-Licence in Northern Ireland.

A sufficient supply of transport is essential for economic development and the best customer service at the lowest price will be provided in a deregulated market that is open to competition between providers. The present system of “quality licensing” was established in the UK by the Transport Act 1968 and EU single market policy has since built on that model. This seeks to encourage competition by not arbitrarily restricting the number of goods vehicle operators that can enter the market but in order to ensure continuity of operations that are conducted in a safe and legal manner, strict quality criteria must be met by anyone wishing to operate heavy goods vehicles.

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