Horsebox drivers must follow rules or risk losing everything

  • Confusion abounds about who needs a operator’s licence when moving horses by lorry, and what additional paperwork is required for those working as a business. H&H speaks to experts to help unravel this complex issue...

    Horsebox drivers must ensure they have operators’ licences if needed and comply with all requirements, or risk facing the legal consequences.

    Owen Evans, director of Essex Driver Training, told H&H many equestrians either do not have the correct licences, or have them but do not fulfil the requirements.

    “When you’re in a lorry, you’re not a rider any more, you’re the same as Mr Tesco; it’s the law,” he said. “If your equestrian activity is operated through a business, whether or not the horsebox is owned privately, you will need an operator’s licence.”

    Mr Evans explained that operators’ licences are a must for those who transport horses, or any other goods, for hire and reward, or in the course of their trade or business, for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

    This covers horse transporters but also professional riders, producers, sole traders and those competing above a level deemed as amateur.

    There are different types of licence: restricted, which covers most riders, and standard national and international. Mr Evans advised contacting a driver trainer or the DVSA to determine which is needed.

    He also stressed that in holding such a licence, the holder is bound by a contract to fulfil requirements such as ensuring vehicles are roadworthy and keeping appropriate records.

    “If the DVSA turns up and you haven’t got the records you should be keeping, you can end up in a public inquiry,” he said. “They have the power to say you’re not a fit and proper person to hold the licence, or fit to be a company director. They have the power to do that.”

    Lucy Katan, founder of the British Grooms Association (BGA) and Equestrian Employers Association (EEA) told H&H travelling horses is a complex issue.

    “There is so much to think about with so many rules and regulations,” she said. “Employers have a responsibility to ensure things are done correctly and that they are aware of rules and regulations, including, but not limited to, having an operator’s licence.

    “The BGA and EEA now have on their websites a new comprehensive guide to transporting horses for grooms, employers and owners to get all the information they need to ensure they are compliant.”

    A DVSA spokesman told H&H the aim of operators’ licences is to improve safety, protect the environment and “maintain a level playing field”.

    “Owners of horseboxes weighing over 3.5 tonnes need an operator licence if their activities generate a profit or are at least cost-neutral through prize money or sponsorship,” he said.

    “A licence is not required if the prize money is not part of the expected income of an amateur activity and those winnings are on an incidental basis.

    “We detect operator licence issues through our roadside checks and responding to reports from the public.

    “Operators can be fined up £5,000 for not having an operator licence and risk having their vehicle being impounded and scrapped after 21 days.”

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