The tricky topic of when you need an operator’s licence for a horsebox has raised its head once again. H&H speaks to a rider who unwittingly found himself on the wrong side of the law, as well as the British Grooms Association and DVSA...
Equestrians could be unknowingly breaking the law by transporting horses without an operator’s licence, a recent case has highlighted.
Professional polo player Jack Richardson’s company, JMN Richardson Ltd, was fined at Guildford Magistrates’ Court on 24 February after a DVSA roadside check in September 2019 found the company did not have an operator’s licence.
The business was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £230 costs and a £250 victim surcharge.
Mr Richardson told H&H his horsebox was pulled over when he arrived at Coworth Park polo grounds, Ascot.
“I had my horses’ passports, my driver was fine and the tachograph was up to date, but I didn’t have an operator’s licence – I wasn’t aware I needed one,” he said.
“I thought they only applied to transport companies. We don’t always move our horses for profit or gain; sometimes I’m going for a ride or going to a practice, it’s not always to a game where I’m getting paid.”
Legislation states an operator’s licence is required by owners of horseboxes over 3.5t that are used for transporting horses for hire or reward. This includes as part of commercial activity, when there is expectation of receiving “more than just modest” prize money.
The guidance adds if a horsebox user has turned professional and their success has attracted corporate sponsorship or they receive any other form of corporate support, this may be perceived as having a commercial element so an operator’s licence would be required. When transporting horses on behalf of others for amateur activity, and for nothing more than fuel money to cover costs, an operator’s licence is not required.
Mr Richardson, who has since applied for the licence, said more people need to be aware of the legislation.
“I have one lorry – I’m not a massive logistics company. I do think I was made an example out of, which is fine if others can learn from it,” he said.
“It’s definitely something people should look into as it’s not something you’re told about when you buy a lorry.”
Lucy Katan of the British Grooms Association told H&H that although she had not heard of any other cases, people should be aware of the requirements.
“Once the coronavirus pandemic is done and dusted, the Government will probably be looking at every way possible to gain some funds back, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see in time more investigations regarding these,” she said.
DVSA’s head of enforcement delivery Laura Great-Rex told H&H operator licences aim to improve road safety.
“We detect operator licence issues through our roadside checks and responding to reports from the public,” she said.
“Operators can be fined up to £5,000 for not having a licence and risk having their vehicle being impounded and scrapped after 21 days.”
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