Important operator’s licence and testing changes from 1 September 2018

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Changes we have flagged up in earlier posts this year are now in force through the Goods and Motor Vehicles (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018 and make the following changes:

Important change to existing exemption

Goods vehicles that carry goods to process on site, including volumetric cement mixers, are now brought into the operator licensing regime. This is through a change to the existing exemption for vehicles that are ‘fitted with a machine, appliance, apparatus or other contrivance which is a permanent or essentially permanent fixture’. Whereas before goods could be carried to site if they were for use ‘in connection with the machine, appliance, apparatus or contrivance or the running of the vehicle’, this has now been removed and the exemption will only apply to ‘vehicles carrying water, fuel, accumulators and other equipment used for the purpose of propulsion or the running of the vehicle, or for the carriage of loose tools and loose equipment’.

In short, this means that after many years of enjoying the benefit of no requirement to hold an operator’s licence, businesses will now need to specify these vehicles on their licences. The policy behind this is to ensure fair competition and bring to an end the situation where vehicles, including HGVs with engineering plant installed on them but in fact also carrying materials to site, could operate operator’s licence-free and indeed also were outside the plating and testing regime. (In May 2018 such vehicles, and many others, lost their testing and plating-exempt status.) The change could impact on various types of business, though volumetric concrete mixers were one intended target of the change.

Alternatively-fuelled vehicles – new exemption

There is a new operator’s licence exemption for vehicles fuelled entirely by alternative fuels, with a permissible laden mass not exceeding 4.25 tonnes and currently operated in Great Britain. It enables the normal 3.5 tonnes licence threshold to be uplifted. It is intended to be consistent with the clean energy agenda and remove the incentive of not operating alternatively-fuelled vehicles, where there may be a loss of payload because of the additional weight of the alternative onboard technology.

In order to drive such vehicles with only a Category B driving licence (which otherwise restricts the driver to 3.5 tonnes), the driver must have undertaken five hours of training on the driving of an alternatively fuelled vehicle with a maximum mam (maximum authorised mass) exceeding 3.5 tonnes, conducted by an instructor on the National Register of LGV Instructors or the National Vocational Driving Instructors Register. (This Category B driving licence relaxation has been in force since 24 July 2018 through the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.)

Electrically propelled vehicles

The operator’s licence exemption for electrically propelled vehicles will now only apply to such vehicles in use before 1 March 2015. Under a separate change starting on 1 September, electric vans are no longer MOT-exempt if they have a gross weight not exceeding 3.5 tonnes and were first registered on or after 1 March 2015. Such vehicles have to be tested to operate from the third anniversary of registration.

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