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New laws requiring firms to hold operator licences if they undertake international work with vehicles less than 3.5 tonnes could be the start of a licensing regime for all UK vans, according to transport lawyers.

From 21 May 2022, vans with a maximum authorised mass of over 2.5 tonnes and up to 3.5 tonnes that are transporting goods for hire and reward internationally, will be subject to the O-licensing system.

Operators will need to be able to show they have enough finance to maintain their vehicles and also have a transport manager in place.

Mike Hayward, head of Woodfines regulatory team, said the change in the law could be the start of further enforcement of light goods vehicles: “Once that starts to come in, perhaps it’s not too far away for UK vans,” he said.

“You can see the industry would be interested in that on the basis of the current delivery network: it’s not subjected to the same level of drivers’ hours legislation and all of those aspects.

“You can see merit in having that attached to the van network.”

The traffic commissioners referred to the overhaul in their latest annual report and said they were preparing for the new regulations: “We cannot avoid mentioning the need for operators with light goods and other vehicles between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes to prepare for changes in the law,” they said.

“If operating internationally they will be required to apply for an operator’s licence and have transport managers for vehicles that have previously been outside the traffic commissioners’ remit.

“This will also inevitably increase the pressure on the OTC, who are also preparing to implement these changes.”

Chris Powell, a senior associate solicitor at Rotheras, added: “Operators who fall within these rules should make sure they sign up to government updates, so they can be ready for the new rules when they come and avoid the risk of their vehicles being impounded.”