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HGV driving in Europe – What you need to know

Truck drivers from the UK travelling to the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland post Brexit must ensure they are in possession of the relevant documents that are valid for the required time. They must also adhere to the rules in the EU and EEA relating to haulage and cabotage. Our quick guide covers what you need to know when driving your HGV in Europe.


HGV drivers, their passengers and crew must all have a valid UK passport to travel to the EU, EEA and Switzerland. On the day you are intending to travel, each passport must have at least 6 months left before it expires and be less than 10 years old.

Be mindful that it takes about 3 weeks to renew your passport via the standard service, and most countries in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will refuse entry if there is insufficient valid time left on it.

Ireland is an exception, allowing your passport to be used until it has expired.


Although you do not need a Visa to enter the EU as a lorry driver if you hold a British passport, if you are driving in the EU regularly, you may require one.

The current requirement is that a visa is only required if you spend more than 90 days in the EU within any 180-day period.

You should also check any specific entry requirements for the country you are entering prior to travel, these can change from time to time, the coronavirus being the prime example.

UK Driver licence

Driving Licence Photocard

You can use your current UK driving licence photocard to drive the categories of HGV vehicle you are entitled to drive in the EU. There are some circumstances under which you will additionally need an International Driving Permit as well.

Regardless of whether you have an IDP or not, you should carry your drivers licence at all times.

International Driving Permit (IDP)

Generally, you will not need an IDP to drive in the EU, EEA and Switzerland, but you may need one if:

  • You have a paper licence
  • A licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

You should check with the embassy of the country you will be driving in but for reference:

  • a 1926 permit to drive in Liechtenstein
  • a 1949 permit to drive in Spain, Iceland, Malta and Cyprus
  • a 1968 permit to drive in all other EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland

Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs

To drive an HGV in the EU and EEA, you must comply with the UK-EU FTA rules on drivers’ hours and tachograph.

Working time rules can vary and there are some tachograph exemptions.

Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)

If you are taking an HGV to the EU, EEA or Switzerland and you work for a UK haulage company, you must carry your Driver CPC card.

If your employer is EU based, you should check with your company to determine what you must carry to prove your competence to drive.

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Carrying Goods (Cabotage)

Any UK goods vehicle operator working in the EU, EEA or Switzerland carrying out haulage work, must have the following:

  • A standard international licence
    • Applies to:
      • Vehicles or vehicles plus a trailer with a gross plated weight of over 3,500kg
      • Vehicles or vehicles plus a trailer with no plated weight specified but an unladen weight of over 1,525kg
      • Vans with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of over 2,500kg
      • Vans towing a trailer with a gross train weight (GTW) of over 2,500kg
      • Cars towing a trailer with a GTW of over 2,500kg
  • A UK Licence for the Community
    • Required for all journeys made within the EU, EEA and Switzerland for hire or reward

The UK Licence for the Community allows you to carry out a limited number of haulage ‘jobs’ within an EU country (cabotage) or between 2 EU countries (cross trade).

If you are transporting goods to the EU you are permitted to carry out 2 haulage jobs within the EU after dropping off your initial shipment, one of which can be cabotage. The cabotage job must be completed within 7 days of dropping the initial shipment you brought from the UK, and in the same country where you dropped that initial shipment.

Journeys that are exempt from the cabotage rules include:

  • Driving an empty trailer between EU countries
  • Dropping off goods that came from the UK in an EU country
  • Taking goods from an EU country back to the UK
  • Goods being transported for a non-commercial purpose (some charity deliveries may fall into this category)

You may be able to carry out an additional cross-trade job before returning to the UK if you have an ECMT permit, bringing the haulage job total to 3.

Any cabotage or cross-trade jobs must be declared on the EU portal prior to completing the work.

Documents Required for Cabotage Jobs

If you are carrying out cabotage work in the EU, you must have the following documents with you showing:

  • Name, address and signature of the haulier and sender
  • The location and date where you picked up the goods from
  • The destination for delivery
  • Name, address, and signature of the international consignee with the delivery date
  • A description of the shipment and how it is packed and loaded, including the number of packages, their markings and identity numbers
  • The quantity or gross mass of the goods
  • The vehicle and trailers number plates
  • Vehicle and trailer documents
  • Driver documents (as above)
  • Digital or physical copies of the posting declarations for the jobs
  • Export documents including an electronic consignment note (e-CMR) or a paper CMR
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We hope you have found this brief guide to what is required for driving an HGV in Europe useful. As you can appreciate, the document requirements have become a lot more complicated since leaving the EU, so the key to not missing anything is to prepare well in advance.

Please note that the information on this page is subject to change without notice and is only given as a guide. You can visit the website for more info.

For further information about the latest HGV driving work, please contact Optimum Driving Group for more details.