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Equine Council for Northern Ireland

Strengthening, developing and supporting our industry

Transport Regulations

Details of the regulations are available on the DoE website at the bottom of this page.


New Regulations come into force for Vehicle Operators: How are you affected?


These changes have been introduced by the Department of the Environment Transport Regulation Unit (TRU), which takes over the role of freight operator licensing, up to now carried out by the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA). Under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010, all freight operators using vehicles over 3.5 tonnes as part of a trade or business are required to be licensed.

In the past only ‘Hire or Reward’ operators were required to hold an operator’s licence, now ‘Own Account’ operators i.e. those who carry their own goods in the course of a trade or business will be required to hold an operator’s licence, as is the case in GB.

In practice this will mean that any operator of a vehicle over 3.5 tonnes used as part of a trade or business will be required to be licenced even when carrying their own goods. ECNI have sought clarification from the Department of the Environment and the Driver and Vehicle Agency on a number of issues affecting the equine sector. The primary concern is establishing their definition of “as part of a trade or business” and how this will be implemented. Those who simply use their vehicle as part of a hobby or as an amateur rider will not come under the new regulations and can carry on as normal. The winning of prize-money or sharing of fuel costs between friends travelling together will not count as ‘income’ as long as you can show that you do not derive an income from your pursuits.

The situation becomes more complex for those participating at a higher level or where they derive an ‘income’ from their activities. It is for this reason that ECNI has sought clarification urgently to allow vehicle owners to make an informed decision as to whether or not they fall under the regulations.

The cost of applying for the operator’s licence is significant, especially for the many small businesses and individuals making up the equine sector here in Northern Ireland. For any licence (there are three types) all applicants must pay a one-off £254 application fee. If the licence application is successful, operators will then have to pay a licensing fee of £449, which covers a period of 5 years. This represents a total outlay of £703 and while it can be argued that this covers users for five years, it is still an extra expense that will not have been budgeted for.

For those who come under the new regulations, there are three types of licence that can be applied for:-

1. Restricted Licence – for those who only carry their own goods or materials in connection with their trade or business. This licence covers all transport operations in the UK.

2. Standard (National) Licence – for those who carry their own goods or materials in connection with their trade or business and/or carry goods for hire or reward. This licence covers all transport operations in the UK. A Transport Manager CPC qualification is required to be held by somebody in or employed by the company.

3. Standard (International) Licence – same as above except this licence covers transport operations throughout Europe.

Whilst the cost does not vary between licence types, the restricted licence requires less stringent checks and paperwork. The complication for equine users is the definition of ‘own goods’ and ECNI have raised this query with the DoE and DVA and will update the sector as soon as these points have been clarified. It remains to be seen as to how the DVA will decide on the owner of a horse or pony if required. ECNI believe that clear guidance should be provided to ensure not only the correct level of compliance but to make sure that only those operators who need the licence apply for it.

Another potential cause for confusion is the fact that tractors are exempt from these regulations when being used for agricultural purposes but they will be required to comply if they are used for ‘non-agricultural purposes’. ECNI have again sought clarification on this matter.

In order for the sector to be treated in a fair manner, it is vital that these points are addressed to prevent an un-necessary burden of increased costs or paper work being placed on users. Guidance for the sector in the rest of the UK was published when similar regulations were implemented a number of years ago and it is the intention of ECNI to ensure that this information is made available to vehicle operators here in Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

It is also worth noting that for those existing operators who have not previously held an operator’s licence (ie ‘own account’ operators) there is a permit scheme in operation until 30th September. Such operators will have an opportunity to apply for a licence, between 1 July and 30 September 2012, during which time they will be issued with a permit. They will initially only pay their application fee and the permit will enable them to continue to operate legally pending the determination of their licence application. Over time, the Department will contact permit holders asking for a licensing fee. Once this is paid, a full licence will be issued for all successful applications. It is in the interest of existing own account businesses to apply under the permit scheme, as it will exempt them from the requirements to produce documentary evidence of financial standing and from advertising their application.

Full details on the regulations are available from the Department of the Environment’s website and ECNI will make available information on the points raised as soon as clarification from the relevant bodies has been received. This will be published on www.equinecouncilni.com and also on the ECNI Twitter (@equinecouncilni) and Facebook pages.