Operator Licence Awareness Course  (OLAC)

Professional competence refers to the meeting of specified qualifying conditions, by individuals, that enable them to become the “nominated” transport manager on a goods vehicle operator’s licence (O-licence). This topic covers the requirements and responsibilities involved for both the transport operator (ie the employer) and the nominated transport manager, whether a direct employee of the transport operator (ie an internal transport manager) or a freelance employee (ie external transport manager).


Employers' Duties


Employers must:

  • employ at least one professionally competent transport manager for each O-licence that they hold, or engage at least one external “freelance” professionally competent manager

  • ensure that the nominated professionally competent transport manager continuously and effectively manages the vehicle fleet; the employer must supervise and monitor the actions of the transport manager

  • confirm that the nominated professionally competent transport manager is of good repute

  • inform the Traffic Commissioner of any changes affecting the professionally competent transport manager

  • inform the Traffic Commissioner within 28 days if the professionally competent transport manager is convicted of any offence.


Employees' Duties


Employees (ie transport managers) must:

  • provide proof of their professional competence qualification

  • make proper working arrangements for the operation and maintenance of the vehicle fleet and control of drivers so as to prevent the laws on road transport from being broken

  • inform their employer if they are personally convicted of any offence

  • notify the relevant Traffic Commissioner if they resign from the post of nominated transport manager.


In Practice


What is Professional Competence?

In the context of the management of road transport operations, professional competence refers to the meeting of certain qualifying conditions, by individuals, and any individual can become professionally competent by passing a DfT-approved examination or gaining another qualification recognised by the Department for Transport. No transport industry experience is required, nor is there any requirement to demonstrate practical ability (eg through the achievement of a suitable NVQ).

Who Needs to Be Professionally Competent?

Road transport operators who wish to work for hire or reward, either nationally or internationally, must be professionally competent or employ at least one professionally competent transport manager, as required by the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 and EC Regulation 1071/2009, which establishes common rules concerning the conditions to be complied with to pursue the occupation of road transport operator. Any application for a Standard O-licence must therefore include the details of a person who is professionally competent and who has continuous and effective responsibility for vehicle operations.

Own account operators — those businesses that only transport their own goods and materials — do not need to employ a professionally competent person as part of their O-licensing arrangements. Own account operators can apply for a Restricted licence, which has no requirement to appoint an individual with professional competence qualifications. If a company that would qualify to operate on a Restricted licence wishes to transport goods for other businesses on occasion, they must apply for a Standard O-licence and they would need to employ a professionally competent person.

Those who wish to transport both their own goods and other people’s goods within the UK and internationally need to apply for a Standard international licence.

How is Professional Competence Demonstrated?

Professional competence is usually demonstrated by holding a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) issued in consequence of passing an examination specifically designed for the purpose of holding an equivalent qualification recognised by the Department for Transport (DfT). It may also be demonstrated by an acquired rights certificate.

The Driver CPC is a qualification for drivers and has no relation to the operator’s professional competence requirements. The two should not be confused.

National and international qualifications

There is only one version of the CPC, which covers both national and international operations. So even if a CPC candidate wishes only to manage operations under a national O-licence he or she must still take the international CPC examination.

Qualifications to Prove Professional Competence

There are several qualifications which can prove that an individual has achieved professional competence status.

Examination for a Certificate of Professional Competence

Examinations specifically for the purpose of demonstrating professional competence are available from the Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society of Arts (OCR) examinations syndicate and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (CILT(UK)); other examining bodies may also provide the examinations in due course.

The examinations meet the requirements for the new combined national and international professional competence qualification. There are no academic entry requirements for the examination and no fixed rules or requirements for study. Prospective transport managers can prepare for the examination by:

  • attending a residential course

  • attending a non-residential course

  • studying with the help of a special learning pack or a correspondence course

  • studying without assistance.


Full details of the CPC examination and future examination dates are available from the OCR Examinations Board or CILT (UK).


Computer-based testing

Computer-based testing is available for the CPC multiple choice assessment paper on demand, allowing candidates to sit or re-sit an assessment at a time convenient for them.

This will enable results to be issued more quickly than can be achieved with the paper test, which can only be taken in March, June, September and December.

Official examination syllabus

The official examination syllabus as set out in EC Regulation 1071/2009 contains the following main list of subjects that must be covered in the professional competence examination.

  • Civil law.

  • Commercial law.

  • Social law.

  • Fiscal law.

  • Business and financial management of the undertaking.

  • Access to the market.

  • Technical standards and technical aspects of operation.

  • Road safety.


Courses for the Certificate of Professional Competence

A number of colleges and training centres offer courses for the Certificate of Professional Competence including our centres in Swansea & Cardiff.


Other acceptable qualifications or diplomas

Certain other qualifications may be acceptable as proof of professional competence. The following organisations have at some time made available to their members certificates that could provide proof of professional competence and obviate the need to take the CPC examination.

  • Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in the UK.

  • The Institute of Road Transport Engineers (a constituent body in the Society of Operations Engineers).

  • The Movers’ Institute (formerly the Institute of the Furniture Warehousing and Removing Industry and now part of the British Association of Removers).

  • The Institute of Transport Administration.


Such proof of professional competence is only valid if supported by a current certificate of Transport Manager CPC exemption issued by the relevant body. Further information on proving professional competence in this way should be obtained from the organisation concerned.


Acquired rights


Grandfather rights (GFR) certificates were issued up to 30 November 1979 to transport managers who were in responsible road transport employment under an operator’s licence before 1 January 1975. All those with GFR who were named on an operator’s licence on 4 December 2011 had a new acquired rights (AR) certificate issued automatically and those to whom this did not apply but who could prove they had continuously managed a road transport undertaking for the 10 years prior to 4 December 2009 could apply for one up to 4 December 2013.


The Transport Manager Acquired Rights certificate remains valid as proof of professional competence for those who hold one but a GFR certificate is no longer valid.


Professional competence qualifications from other EU Member States

A qualification in professional competence from any EU Member State can be used to satisfy professional competence requirements in other EU Member States. If, however, an operator wants to operate in the national market of any other EU country, he or she will need to obtain a mutual recognition certificate to support the application.

These are available on payment of a prescribed fee.

Further information can be obtained from the DVSA Customer Service Centre or the Traffic Area Office where a licence is held or where a nominated professionally competent transport manager is named on a licence.

If neither of these applies contact can be made with any Traffic Area Office for further information. If the operator employs a competent person who holds a RSA or OCR full professional competence certificate (National or International) issued since March 1992, it will not be necessary to obtain a mutual recognition certificate.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

In principle, the CPC qualification, once awarded, remains valid indefinitely and unlike the Driver CPC, there is no statutory requirement for any periodic training. However, Traffic Commissioners expect transport managers to keep their professional knowledge up to date by undertaking CPD at least every five years. Lack of recent CPD evidence may well count against a transport manager when the Traffic Commissioner is considering disciplinary action and at a public enquiry in September 2018, the North East Traffic Commissioner disqualified a negligent transport manager who admitted that he had done no further training since qualifying in 1990 until he passed a further CPC examination.

Traffic Commissioners will always require CPD evidence when a transport manager:

  • hasn’t acted for an operator in the last five years

  • holds a qualification that is more than 10 years old

  • has been called to a public enquiry where his ability to exercise continuous and effective management is under consideration.


Employment Arrangements

The Senior Traffic Commissioner’s Statutory Document No. 3 (Transport Managers), version 6 issued in November 2018, specifies that only those persons who can fulfil the statutory requirements for having “continuous and effective responsibility for the management of the transport operations of the business in so far as they relate to the carriage of goods” can act as a transport manager.

The transport manager retains legal responsibility regardless of whether his or her activities are delegated.

The “nominated” professionally competent person is, therefore, responsible for the safe operation of vehicles under his or her control. Because of their experience or the qualifications attained, they are also expected to have an understanding of the legal, financial and operational requirements of vehicle fleet operation.

When the applicant for a Standard O-licence is not professionally competent, he or she must employ someone, either full time or part time as appropriate, as the nominated person. That person may be either a direct employee of the applicant (ie an internal transport manager) or an independent contractor (freelance, ie an external transport manager). A number of key questions will be asked by the Traffic Commissioner to try to assess if the employment or contractural arrangement is likely to be an effective one. These questions include:

  • the number of O-licences for which the professionally competent person will be responsible

  • the amount of time which the professionally competent person will spend in carrying out his or her duties for the operator

  • the number of operating centres and number of authorised vehicles for which the professionally competent person is responsible, both on that licence and any other O-licence

  • the geographical location of the professionally competent person in relation to the O-licence and the operating centres on that licence, along with the operating centre(s) on any other O-licence upon which they are nominated as transport manager

  • any other employment or activities in which the proposed professionally competent person is engaged which may restrict his or her ability to devote sufficient time to the duties of a professionally competent transport manager on that O-licence

  • the terms upon which the proposed professionally competent person is to be employed

  • whether the individual is of good repute

  • the distance between the residence of the proposed external transport manager’s residence and the operator’s base.


Internal transport managers

This type of transport manager needs to have a close, legal relationship with the operator. To qualify as an “internal” transport manager, they must meet three requirements.

  1. Have a genuine link to the operator, such as being a full-time or part-time employee, director or owner.

  2. Effectively and continuously perform their transport manager role for the operator in question.

  3. Be resident in a European Union country. The requirements of the legislation are unlikely to be satisfied by a transport manager who lives abroad.


External transport managers

When an operator does not employ a qualified transport manager on a full or part-time basis (ie the operator does not have an “internal” transport manager), or does not act as the transport manager him or herself, it is possible to use external transport managers in certain circumstances. The operator may “hire in” a transport manager, eg a consultant transport manager under contract to an operator on a part-time basis. Such an appointee is an “external” transport manager.

The external transport manager must:

  • have effective and continuous management responsibility for the transport activities of the operator

  • have a contract with the operator that specifies the tasks they perform as transport manager

  • only work for a maximum of 4 operators with a combined maximum total fleet of 50 vehicles — meaning that across all four operators they cannot have responsibility for more than 50 vehicles; lower limits may be set by the Traffic Commissioner in certain cases

  • act solely in the interests of the operator and independently of transport customers

  • be of good repute and be resident in a European Union country. The requirements of the legislation are unlikely to be satisfied by a transport manager who lives abroad.


Operators seeking to employ freelance competent persons (ie external transport managers) should, therefore, seek to satisfy themselves that the appointee has sufficient time and knowledge/experience to effectively control the vehicles in the fleet. Asking questions similar to those noted above will help operators to determine if the appointment should go ahead.


Traffic Commissioners can take direct action against transport managers, internal or external, who fail to fulfill their responsibilities. A list of offences is to be published that will automatically lead to nominated transport managers being declared “unfit” to manage transport operations.


However, the Upper Tribunal (in appeal 2017/023) stressed that the “need for a proper, active transport manager is not a mere formality, but a serious requirement”. The transport manager cannot be such in name only, but must fulfil their obligation to exercise continuous and effective management.


Responsibilities of Professionally Competent Transport Managers


Businesses will have job descriptions which outline what tasks and duties professionally competent transport managers should undertake. Traffic Commissioners will, however, expect them to have certain core responsibilities. These include making proper working arrangements to ensure that:

  • drivers comply fully with the hours and tachograph regulations and the Working Time Directive

  • drivers comply with all speed limits

  • the maintenance of vehicles takes place at appropriate scheduled intervals, including the regular safety inspection of vehicle; maintenance procedures must include a documented procedure for daily driver vehicle (when in use) checks and reporting of defects

  • appropriate maintenance records are kept for a minimum of 15 months

  • arrangements are in place to avoid vehicles becoming overloaded

  • authorised vehicles are kept at the authorised operating centre when not in use

  • the Traffic Commissioner is notified if the transport manager resigns from the company.


Form TM1, may be found at GOV.UK website. This form includes a declaration by the nominated professionally competent transport manager acknowledging the above responsibilities.


How Many Professionally Competent Transport Managers are Needed?


The number of professionally competent transport managers employed by a business will depend on its size and structure. Although the minimum is one professionally competent manager per O-licence, the Traffic Commissioner may specify more are required. Such a request would be based on:

  • the number of vehicles operated on the licence

  • the geographical location of the depots within the traffic area

  • the division of responsibilities for the operation of the vehicles.


Individuals do not have to devote all of their working time to transport operations activities but they should still be able to demonstrate that they have continuous and effective responsibility for the running of the fleet. Annex 1 to Senior Traffic Commissioner’s Statutory Document No. 3 provides guidance as to the number of hours a transport manager should devote to transport management duties based on vehicle numbers.


Good Repute


At the time of an application for a Standard O-licence, the professionally competent transport manager nominated on the licence must prove that they are of good repute and they must be able to do so for the duration of the licence. They are required to disclose previous convictions for road transport offences, incurred during the previous five years, appertaining to the operation of goods vehicles. The offences to be disclosed relate to:

  • vehicle roadworthiness

  • speeding

  • overloading

  • safe loading

  • drivers hours and record keeping

  • driver licensing

  • maintenance

  • illegal use of rebated fuel

  • certain traffic offences

  • certain offences relating to the International Road Haulage Permits Act 1975.


The Traffic Commissioner will consider the number and seriousness of these offences before deciding whether to grant an operator’s licence to the applicant. It should be noted that Traffic Commissioners can take into account offences committed outside of the UK when considering the good repute of the individual.


A more critical situation arises with regard to good repute if the nominated professionally competent person has been convicted of more than one “serious offence”. A “serious offence” (not limited to transport offences) is defined as one that incurs:

  • a prison sentence of more than three months

  • a community service order of more than 60 hours

  • a fine exceeding level 4 (currently £2500).


A Traffic Commissioner must refuse to grant an O-licence if the nominated professionally competent manager has been convicted of more than one serious offence.


People working in partnerships should be aware that if one of the partners is considered not to be of good repute, then the Traffic Commissioner will automatically view the whole business as not being of good repute. The application will be refused.


Spent convictions, as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, do not have to be revealed to the Traffic Commissioner.


It is also possible for a professionally competent person to lose their good repute after the O-licence has been granted. If the Traffic Commissioner calls for a public inquiry because the nominated person has been convicted of offences relating to goods vehicle operation, the Traffic Commissioner may decide that the professionally competent person is not a fit and proper person to continue to be nominated on a licence.


If a transport manager is convicted of any offence after the O-licence application has been issued details must be reported to the Traffic Commissioner within 28 days.


Traffic Commissioners must give transport managers 28 days’ notice if they intend to investigate their good repute and/or professional competence.


Penalties Against Transport Managers


When a Traffic Commissioner finds that a nominated transport manager is no longer of good repute or professionally competent, he may disqualify the manager from acting as such for either an indefinite period or for such period as the Commissioner thinks fit. A Commissioner may also require the manager to either undertake refresher training or sit and pass the CPC examination again before lifting the disqualification. The manager may appeal against any such decision to the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber.


National Electronic Register of Transport Managers


All EU Member States are required to keep a National Electronic Register of all O-licensed road haulage operators containing, among other data, the names of the designated (ie nominated) transport managers and the name of any transport manager declared to be unfit to manage a transport undertaking, and the reason for and the duration of the declaration of unfitness. This name must remain on the register until such time as the good repute of the person has been re-established.


Changing Professionally Competent Transport Managers

The Traffic Commissioner must be notified of any change affecting professionally competent business partners or nominated transport managers (including any re-organisation that affects their control of vehicles). Notifications should be made on Form GV80A enclosing the original professional competence certificates for any new transport manager.


If the professionally competent business partner or nominated transport manager dies, leaves the business, has experienced circumstances which may affect his or her good repute, or can no longer carry out his or her duties effectively (due to physical disability or mental disorder), the Traffic Commissioner must be informed. In such cases, the licence will normally terminate automatically unless, at the request of the operator, a Traffic Commissioner specially allows it to continue for a period of up to six months, which might be extended by three months in the event of the death or physical disability of the nominated transport manager.

Review of Professional Competence

Traffic Commissioners have the power to review the suitability of licensed operators’ operating centres at five-year intervals. They also have the right to check that the operator continues to comply with the professional competence requirement at the same time.

List of Relevant Legislation

  • Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995

  • Road Transport Operator Regulations 2011

  • Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995

  • Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 (Commencement and Transitional Provisions) Order 1995

  • EC Regulation 1071/2009


Further Information




  • Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (CILT(UK))

    • http://www.ciltuk.org.uk

    • CILT(UK) is the UK territorial body of CILT, which is the professional body for those in all sectors of logistics and transport and has a presence in more than 30 countries across the world. CILT(UK) is also an accredited awarding organisation for a range of transport and logistics qualifications.

  • Department for Transport (DfT)

    • http://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport

    • The DfT oversees the delivery of a reliable, safe and secure transport system that responds efficiently to the needs of individuals and business while safeguarding the environment. It is responsible for a number of agencies including Highways England and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

  • Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)

  • Oxford, Cambridge and the RSA Examinations (OCR)

    • http://www.ocr.org.uk

    • The OCR is a leading UK awarding body, dedicated to supporting education providers by offering respected qualifications and comprehensive support.

Information Credit: Croner i

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