Guidance to drivers on changes in the law which allow category B licence holders to drive alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) up to 4.25 tonnes
In 2018, UK law was changed so that the weight limit for Category B driving licence holders driving alternatively-fuelled vehicles could be increased from 3.5 tonnes to 4.25 tonnes.
The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (the 2018 Regulations) made changes to the law to allow Category B licence holders to drive an alternatively fuelled vehicle that weighs between 3.5 and 4.25 tonnes, provided it is not driven outside of Great Britain, used for the transportation of goods, is not towing a trailer and the driver has completed a minimum of 5 hours training.
This non-statutory guidance sets out more information on these changes to legislation. It sets out details of the training required for drivers to take advantage of the new law. It also describes the system of certification that will allow drivers to prove that they have completed the training.
The guidance should be considered by any employer with employees who drive vehicles such as delivery vans, as well as self-employed people and those using their own vehicle for a work-related journey. It will be particularly valuable to those who operate large goods vehicles and those who are responsible for fleet management of goods vehicles.
Rationale for the change
Reducing emissions from vans is key to combatting climate change and improving urban air quality. Vans account for a growing share of total UK vehicles, and have both higher utilisation rates and higher emissions than cars. Government is keen to support the low emission light commercial vehicles sector in increasing its access to cleaner alternatives.
Alternatively-fuelled vehicles can have an increased kerb weight compared with their conventionally fuelled counterparts. Licencing regulations mean, driving a vehicle with a maximum authorised mass of more than 3.5 tonnes would normally require a Category C1 licence. Therefore, operators of alternatively-fuelled vehicles wanting to remain below this regulatory threshold must either suffer a constrained payload or employ drivers with a category C1 licence. This entails higher staffing costs, and in practice is holding back many fleets from adopting alternatively fuelled vehicles.
The recent changes to legislation should make it easier for organisations to introduce alternatively fuelled vehicles into their fleets.
Overview of training requirements
Drivers who wish to take advantage of the new legislation must carry out a minimum of 5 hours of training on driving alternatively fuelled vehicles.
Training may only be provided by members of the only two government recognised LGV training registers3. These training registers hold details of qualified LGV and HGV instructors and training centres.
These UK training registers are:
• National Register of LGV instructors
• the National Vocational Driving Instructors Register.
Operator licensing is a regulatory regime which exists to ensure the safe and proper use of goods vehicles. Generally, transport operators (or self-employed drivers) are subject to the regime if they use vehicles weighing above 3.5 tonnes to carry goods for hire or reward or relating to a trade or business.
General information on operator licensing is available on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/topic/transport/vehicle-operator-licences.
However, there is an exemption for goods vehicles fuelled entirely by alternative fuel, with a permissible laden mass not exceeding 4.25 tonnes, currently used in Great Britain. Alternative fuel is defined as one or more of the following:
c. natural gas or;
d. liquefied petroleum gas.
In addition, there is an exemption from goods vehicle operator licensing for all electrically propelled goods vehicles (of any weight), if first registered before 1 March 2015.
Drivers’ hours and tachographs
The EU drivers’ hours rules (Regulation (EC) 561/2006), which require the use of tachographs and prescribe maximum limits on driving time and minimum requirements for breaks and rest periods, apply to drivers of most vehicles used for the carriage of goods - defined as goods or burden of any description - where the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle (or combinations of vehicle and trailer) exceeds 3.5 tonnes.
Vehicles that are alternatively fuelled by natural or liquefied gas or electricity and carry goods within a 100 km radius of the company base, and do not exceed 7.5 tonnes (maximum authorised mass) including the mass of a trailer are exempt from the EU Drivers rules Regulation.
Details of all the exemptions/national derogations can be found in guidance available on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/drivers-hours-goods-vehicles
If a vehicle meets one of the exemptions/derogations, including the above exemption for certain gas or electric vehicles, then the driver is exempt from the EU drivers’
hours rules. Normally drivers out of scope of the EU drivers’ hours rules would automatically come under scope of the GB domestic drivers’ hours rules.
If the vehicle is solely used for private driving (i.e. not in connection with a job or in any way to earn a living), the driver would not need to comply with the GB rules.
The statutory roadworthiness testing regime is in place to help reduce road safety risks posed by improperly maintained vehicles. Although formerly exempt, electric goods vehicles (of all weights) now require a roadworthiness test, unless they were first used prior to 1 March 2015. (Other types of alternatively-fuelled vehicle are not exempt.)
Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes are subject to the MOT testing regime: https://www.gov.uk/getting-an-mot
Vehicles over 3.5 tonnes are subject to the goods vehicle annual testing regime:
Health and Safety Legislation
Employers also have responsibility under Health and Safety legislation to ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their work activities. This includes the activity of driving on public roads.
Drivers of these vehicles, as well as operators (Employers), have a duty under health and safety legislation to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions.
For practical help to manage the risks from driving at work visit: www.dft.gov.uk/drivingforwork or download the Driving at work - Managing work related road safety leaflet: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg382.htm
Speed limits & Speed limiters
The national speed limits for different categories of road vehicle depends on how the vehicle is configured for use on the road. That generally means whether the vehicle is designed primarily for the carriage of passengers or goods. The way in which the vehicle is fuelled has no relevance to the legislation governing vehicle speeds. For goods vehicles, the weight of the vehicle is also relevant. The gov.uk website has guidance on speed limits for vehicles of different classes, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/speed-limits
Speed limiters are required by legislation to be fitted to passenger carrying vehicles with more than 8 passenger seats (PSVs); and, heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (HGVs). Limiters restrict maximum powered speed to 100 km/h (62.5 mph) in the case of PSVs; and, 90 km/h (56 mph) in the case of HGVs. This will include alternatively fuelled goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
The training for drivers of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs).
The training may be a mix of practical and theory with a maximum driver and instructor ratio of 20:1, and will include vehicle handling techniques when driving a loaded alternative fuelled vehicle, refuelling alternative fuel types, the safe loading of alternative fuelled vehicles current good practice for driver training
As a starting point, drivers on this course must already hold a current full category B (car) driving licence.
Drivers must do a minimum of five hours specific training on how to drive an AFV over 3.5 tonnes. DVSA recommends that drivers practice driving on the road following the five hours’ training and that the training should ideally complement the induction training that an employee receives from their employer.
When a driver has completed the training, they will have a better understanding of these aspects of driving an AFV:
• Road safety benefits
• Fuel-saving driving techniques
• Energy-saving driving techniques
• Refuelling and the safety factors of alternative fuel types
• Safe driving techniques
• Safe loading
• Vehicle handling techniques
• Legislative requirements
Once the training has been completed by a driver, the training provider should contact their training register who will issue the driver with a certificate confirming that they have completed the required training.
This certificate can then be used by third parties to evidence that they have completed the training.
Anyone found driving an alternatively fuelled vehicle between 3.5 tonnes and 4.25 tonnes on a Category B licence without having done the 5 hours training would be guilty of an offence under the Road Traffic Act (1988) – driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.
Drivers who hold a Category C licence including sub categories are permitted to drive alternatively fuelled vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes without the need for additional training. However, the driver would in this case then come into scope of Driver CPC.
Whereas a driver who holds a Category C licence including sub categories (and therefore also a category B licence) who undertakes the additional training is permitted to drive alternatively fuelled vehicles weighing up to 4.25 tonnes without coming into scope for Driver CPC.
Third parties who are likely to want to evidence that a driver has completed training are:
• Insurance companies
• The police
The full requirements and scope of these changes can be found here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/798056/guidance-category-b-licence-requirements.pdf