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Types of Bus and Coach Operator Licences

Questions answered about all types of Bus Operators Licences and what licence you should apply for.

Do I need a bus operators Licence?
You will need a bus operator’s licence if: your vehicle carries passengers by road for payment (this is called hire or reward); and the vehicle is classed as a Public Service Vehicle (PSV). Those Vehicles outside Operating Licence Requirements are listed elsewhere on the site.

What is hire or reward?
Hire or reward is any sort of payment which gives a person a right to be carried on a vehicle regardless of whether a profit is made or not. The payment may be made by the person himself, or on his behalf and may be a direct payment (such as a fare or other payment made directly in respect of the journey) or an indirect payment (such as a membership subscription to a club, payment for a bed in a hotel, school fees or payment for concert tickets). Although such indirect payments are usually made in respect of other services (rather than for transport) they are nonetheless viewed by the courts as hire or reward because anyone who had not made the payment would have no right to be carried.

How many types of licence are there?
There are four kinds of licence:

• a standard licence - for national and international operations;

• a standard licence - for national operations only;

• a restricted licence - for small operations only; and

• a special licence - for holders of taxi licences only (see Special PSV O Licences).

What is a standard licence?
Standard licences are used by most full time commercial operators. To get a standard licence you, or your transport manager, must satisfy the requirement of professional competence. (The meaning of professional competence is explained further on). If the requirement of professional competence is met for both national and international operations, you can get a standard international licence. This allows you to take passengers abroad as well as to operate in Great Britain.

If you or your transport manager can only claim professional competence for national operations, you will only be able to get a standard national licence. There are also other requirements you must meet before your licence is granted, these are explained below.

What is a restricted licence?
Restricted licences are used by small-scale operators since they only allow the operator to use one or two vehicles. Neither of these vehicles must be constructed to carry more than: 8 passengers; although vehicles carrying up to 16 passengers may be used if either:

• the vehicles are not used as part of a passenger transport business (e.g. they are used in connection with a hotel business), or

• your main job is not the operation of PSVs which are able to carry 9 or more passengers (ie the operation of the minibus(es) is a sideline and not your main occupation).

You do not have to satisfy the requirement of professional competence to get a restricted licence, but all other requirements are the same as for a standard licence. You must apply in the same way, and obey the same rules.

What is a special licence?
A special licence can be granted only to someone who already holds a taxi licence. Its only use is to let a licensed taxi operate on a local service. The way you apply and all the other rules are quite different from all other types of licence; they are set out in see Special PSV O Licences.

If you are only interested in getting a special licence go straight to see Special PSV O Licences and ignore the rest of this site section.

You should also see the guide to local bus service registration elsewhere on this website or the Transport for London website for details of London local service licensing, as appropriate.

How many bus operators’ licences will I need?
There are 8 traffic areas in Great Britain. You must have a licence for each traffic area in which you have an operating centre. An operating centre is the place where your vehicles are normally kept. The licence will tell you how many vehicles you are authorised to operate at any one time. You can use your vehicles anywhere in Great Britain, as long as they are normally kept in the traffic area that issued your licence.

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