Does empty moving truck needs EU operators licence?

emty-trailer-licenceSometimes you need to move a tractor unit from one place to another and can't find a load to cover your diesel costs. Recently we had a case where, the owner of a truck had to move it with an empty trailer to another country. The truck has been bought from Germany with the purpose to be used under Bulgarian operators licence. A very reasonable question was asked - does he need European operators licence if the truck is pulling empty trailer?

European Operators licence for transport good for hire and reward

The EU operators licence (community authorisations) is regulated by Regulation (EC) № 1071/2009. To find out the answer of the above question, we need to look at the definitions set in the Regulation. Article 1, paragraph 2, stipulates what is governed by this regulation:


  1. This Regulation shall apply to all undertakings established in the Community which are engaged in the occupation of road transport operator. It shall also apply to undertakings which intend to engage in the occupation of road transport operator. References to undertakings engaged in the occupation of road transport operator shall, as appropriate, be considered to include a reference to undertakings intending to engage in such occupation.


The above means the the rules apply to all road transport operators. If we check Article 2, point 3 we can find that  "the occupation of road transport operator" means the occupation of road passenger transport operator or the occupation of road haulage operator; We can see that the point of interest here is what exactly is 'road haulage operator'. If we look at point 1 of the same Article 2, we can find that  "the occupation of road haulage operator" means the activity of any undertaking transporting goods for hire or reward by means either of motor vehicles or combinations of vehicles;

You can see that the interpretation of the aforesaid articles leads us to the finding: the Regulation rules apply only if you are road haulage operator, meaning that you need to actually transport goods for hire and reward (you are not allowed to drive on own account 12t+ HGVs)

Bulgarian case law on pulling empty trailer

We have tried to identify some case law on the matter and see if our interpretations of the Regulation are correct. Luckily there is case law about the very same question, we look answer for. In administrative penal case № 253 /2012 of the Bulgarian Lovetch District Court [text in Bulgarian], the jude heard a case where a haulier had been stopped on the road, driving an HGV with empty trailer. He didn't have a valid tachograph test protocol too. Regulatory body had imposed sanctions on the company haulier because of the non-working tachograph and because the haulier didn't have EU operators licence.

The court confirmed the fine for the lack of valid tachograph test but has stricken out the fines imposed on the grounds of lack of operators licence. The motives of the judge are as follows:


Undoubtfully, the witness testimony showed that the vehicle was empty i.e it was not loaded. Detailed interpretation of the term "transportation" however shows that there has to be moving of goods for hire and reward with own or rented vehicles, including leased vehicles, which is not applicable in the current case. As written in the claim application, the claimant X was not doing carriage of goods but he merey was driving the vehicle empty to town of Pleven to leave the vehicle for sale at an auto trader.


You can see from the above, that you don't need a valid operators licence if you merely move your truck/empty trailer to another place. There will be, no doubt, traffic control officers who will argue this. In any case of any sanctions imposed, they can be successfully challenged in court.

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