Date updated: Monday 22nd January 2024

Traffic Commissioners have the authority to grant or refuse licences to operators of commercial vehicles, including Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and Public Service Vehicles (PSVs). The decision to refuse a licence is typically based on a thorough evaluation of the applicant's suitability, compliance with regulations, and other relevant factors. 

The Traffic Commissioner can decide to:

  • refuse to grant a licence

  • refuse to vary an existing licence

  • attach conditions to a licence

  • grant a licence allowing fewer vehicles than the number applied for

While specific grounds can vary by jurisdiction, set out below are common reasons for which a Traffic Commissioner may refuse a licence in the UK.

Financial Standing

The applicant fails to demonstrate sufficient financial standing, indicating an inability to meet the financial responsibilities associated with operating a commercial vehicle fleet.

Reputation and Fitness of the Operator

The Traffic Commissioner determines that the operator lacks the requisite good repute and fitness to operate commercial vehicles. This assessment may consider past convictions, legal compliance, and the overall reputation of the operator.

Previous License Revocation or Disqualification

The applicant or associated individuals have a history of license revocations, disqualifications, or non-compliance with regulatory requirements. Previous breaches of licencing conditions may be taken into account.

Criminal Convictions

The presence of criminal convictions, especially those related to dishonesty, fraud, or serious criminal offences, may lead to the refusal of a license.

Inadequate Operating Centre Facilities:

The operating centre or premises where vehicles are based does not meet the required standards, such as lacking proper facilities for vehicle maintenance, record-keeping, and compliance management.

Failure to Meet Environmental Standards:

Non-compliance with environmental standards, such as emissions regulations, may lead to the refusal of a licence.

Vehicle Safety and Maintenance Issues:

The applicant has a history of failing to maintain vehicles in a safe and roadworthy condition, or there are concerns about the ability to meet safety and maintenance standards.

Unreliable or Unsafe Operations:

The Traffic Commissioner has evidence or concerns about the operator's ability to provide safe and reliable services. This could include issues related to vehicle breakdowns, service interruptions, or other operational problems.

Falsification of Information:

Providing false or misleading information during the application process can be grounds for refusal. This includes misrepresentation of financial standing, previous directorships, operating centre facilities, or other relevant details.

Failure to Comply with Regulations:

The applicant has a history of non-compliance with transport regulations, such as drivers’ hours regulations, tachograph rules, or other legal requirements governing commercial vehicle operations.


Appealing a decision may be possible, and operators should be aware of the procedures available to challenge a refusal. You can appeal to the Upper Tribunal against a traffic commissioner decision (form UT12). here

You must send the form to the tribunal within 1 month of the traffic commissioner’s written decision. The address is on the form.

Find out more about making an appeal to the Upper Tribunal here.