International road haulage: HGV and trailer documents

Heavy goods vehicle (HGV) and trailer documents you need to legally cross international borders in a UK-registered vehicle.

Your vehicle must be taxed and you must carry certain documents about your HGV and trailer with you if you drive a commercial vehicle carrying goods between countries. These include:

  • the vehicle and trailer registration documents
  • certificates for any specialist approvals the vehicle has
  • a goods vehicle operator licence disc
  • licences or permits needed for the journey
  • vehicle and trailer insurance documents
  • GB sticker

There’s separate guidance about the HGV driver documents you need for international road haulage.

Vehicle and trailer registration documents

Your need to carry your vehicle registration documents when driving abroad for less than 12 months. This can be either:

  • the vehicle log book (V5C), if you have one
  • VE103 to show you’re allowed to use a hired or leased vehicle abroad

There are different rules if you take the vehicle out of the UK for 12 months or more.

Trailer registration certificate

You need to carry the trailer registration certificate when you travel abroad.

Find out how to register your trailer to take it abroad.

If you have an abnormal load trailer

You also need to carry a ‘certificate of keeper’ if you have an abnormal load trailer.

Certificates for specialist vehicle approvals

You need to carry any documents about specialist approvals your vehicle has. These might include approvals for:

Letter about MOT extensions due to coronavirus (COVID-19) (Great Britain only)

MOTs have been extended due to coronavirus. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has updated its electronic records, but has not issued new paper documents.

When you make international journeys, carry a copy of this letter from DVSA that explains your MOT has been extended. This letter has been shared with the European Commission.

You should also carry:

  • a printed copy of the email confirmation you received from DVSA if you were given a 12-month extension
  • a print of the vehicle record from the service to check the MOT history of a vehicle – this shows the new expiry date

Find out more about MOT extensions due to coronavirus.

Goods vehicle operator licence disc

You must display a valid operator licence disc for either:

Haulage licences or permits needed for the journey

You need to carry copies of the licences or permits that are needed for the journey you’re making.

Check which international road haulage permits you need to carry.

If you’re carrying out a job within an EU country (cabotage)

You need to carry extra documents about the load you’re carrying if you’re doing a cabotage job.

If you’re using an ECMT permit

If you’re using a European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit, you also need to carry:

  • an ECMT certificate of compliance for the vehicle and trailer
  • an ECMT certificate of roadworthiness

Find out more about ECMT permits.

Vehicle and trailer insurance (green cards)

A ‘green card’ is proof of motor insurance cover when driving abroad.

You should carry one for the vehicle you’re driving in the EU (including Ireland), Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland.

You will need to carry more than one green card if:

  • you have fleet or multi-car insurance – you’ll need a green card for each vehicle
  • your vehicle is towing a trailer – you’ll need one for the towing vehicle and one for the trailer or caravan (you need separate trailer insurance in some countries)
  • you have 2 policies covering the duration of your trip, for example, if your policy renews during the journey

You must carry a physical copy of your green card when driving abroad. Electronic versions of green cards are not acceptable.

Make sure your employer has got green cards

Make sure your employer either:

  • contacts their vehicle insurance provider at least 6 weeks before you travel to get a copy
  • prints green cards their insurance providers electronically send to them (this does not need to be printed on green paper)

When you will have to show your green cards

You will need to show green cards if you’re involved in an accident.

You may need to show green cards at police checks and at the border when:

  • you enter the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway
  • move between the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway

This will depend on the border authorities of each country.

Find out more about vehicle insurance.

If you’re involved in a road accident

Contact your insurance provider if you’re involved in a road accident in the EU.

Any legal proceedings against either the responsible driver or the insurance provider of the vehicle will need to be brought in the EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway where the accident happened. You might have to make your claim in the local language.

You will not get compensation in some countries if the accident is caused by an uninsured driver or if the driver cannot be traced.

Get legal advice if you need more information about this.

Goods insurance

In some countries, you may need to produce a certificate of insurance for the goods carried to avoid paying a premium.

Check the rules with the British Embassy in the countries you’re travelling through or to.

GB stickers

You do not need a GB sticker if your number plate includes the GB identifier on its own or with the Union flag.

You must display a GB sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has any of the following:

  • a Euro symbol
  • a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
  • numbers and letters only – no flag or identifier

If you’re in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you must display a GB sticker no matter what is on your number plate.

Vehicle tolls, charges or taxes

You may have to pay a:

  • vehicle toll or charge in EU countries
  • vehicle tax in some non-EU countries

Some non-EU countries have an agreement with the UK that means that registered goods vehicles are exempt from these taxes.

Countries currently charging visiting foreign goods vehicles to use their roads include:

Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Check locally for the latest, most up-to-date information about road charges and taxes.

You may need to carry paperwork, stickers, payment cards or electronic toll devices to use roads abroad.

Vehicle emission levels and controls

Many European towns and cities are Low Emission Zones (LEZ). This means that vehicles are not allowed in (or charged a fee) if their emissions are above a certain level.

Check the European Low Emissions Zone website to find out which areas are LEZs and what you must do to enter them.

Fuel duty and value added tax

When you buy motor fuel in the UK the price includes tax. When you take your vehicle abroad some countries may charge additional tax on the fuel in your tanks.

Taxes on UK fuel entering EU countries

There’s no limit on the amount of fuel that you can carry between EU countries in ‘standard tanks’, provided that it remains in these and is not off-loaded.

Some EU countries (including Belgium and France) interpret a ‘standard tank’ differently and say that supplementary tanks fall outside this category.

In these countries, for a tank to qualify as a ‘standard tank’, you must be able to show that:

  • it’s of a type that was permanently fitted by the manufacturer to all motor vehicles of the same type as the vehicle in question
  • its permanent fitting enables fuel to be used directly for propulsion or, where appropriate, by refrigeration or other systems

In Belgium and France, authorities might say that ‘catwalk tanks’ and ‘belly tanks’ do not meet these rules. You might be charged additional duty or fined when carrying fuel in these tanks.

Find information on the fuel you can legally use in a road vehicle.

Published 7 September 2012
Last updated 31 December 2020 
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