Regulation – transport, storage and distribution sector

Public service vehicle operator licensing

Under the terms of the Public Passenger Vehicle Act 1981 as amended by the Transport Act 1985, the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and subsequent Regulations, operators of Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) that carry passengers by road for hire and reward (essentially a payment) must have a valid PSV operator’s licence.

A PSV is defined in Section 1 of the Public Passenger Vehicle Act 1981. Licences are obtained from the Traffic Commissioner in the traffic area in which you have your operating centre. There are eight traffic areas in Great Britain and you must have a licence for each of the areas in which you have a centre. Find your local traffic area on the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) website.

Type of licence required

There are four types of licence, depending on the services that are provided:

  • standard licence – this allows operators to provide passenger services only in Great Britain
  • standard licence, national and international – this allows operators to take passengers abroad as well as providing services at home
  • restricted licence – this only permits the operation of one or two PSVs
  • special licence – this is only granted to someone who holds a taxi licence and it allows the taxi to be used to provide a local bus service

Licences are valid for life provided that the operator complies with the terms of the licence and pays the appropriate fee.

Conditions that must be met

Before granting a licence the Traffic Commissioners must be satisfied that the operator is:

  • of good repute
  • financially sound
  • able to maintain his or her vehicles in good condition.
  • professionally competent

You can download a guide to maintaining roadworthiness from the VOSA website (PDF).

Number of vehicles that can be run

You can apply to operate as many vehicles as you will need to be able to offer the services you plan to provide. The licence will authorise the operation of this number of vehicles provided that you have satisfied the Traffic Commissioners that you can run and maintain them. You will be issued with the same number of vehicle licence discs as has been authorised by the licence. A disc must be displayed on each vehicle that is used to carry passengers for hire or reward. You can swap the discs from one vehicle to another.

The Traffic Area Network website contains comprehensive information on PSV operator licensing. Read guidance notes on PSV operator licensing on the VOSA website. You can also find out how to apply for standard and restricted licences from the VOSA website.

The position in Northern Ireland

PSV operators in Northern Ireland must obtain a Road Service Licence from Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI), part of the Department of the Environment (DOE). There are two types of licence:

  • a national licence – this permits the operator to carry passengers within the United Kingdom
  • an international licence – this allows passengers to be carried on international trips, including to the Republic of Ireland

Licences must be renewed annually. Find out about licensing at the DVLNI website.

This document is based on Crown Copyright © 2004-2011
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