Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Run a Fleet of 44 Tonne Road Haulage Trucks Without and Operator’s Licence?

Too Good (or Bad) to be True (Yes, Apparently it is)
Shipping News Feature

UK – When we pointed out last month that the official government website stated that one could run an HGV truck quite legally without the requirement for an operator's licence, provided it relied solely on electricity to power it, we asked if it might be too good (or bad) to be true.

As expected the article led to questions in the House as to the legality of this and it seems that, despite having seen the evidence on the gov.uk website and checked the facts directly with the Office of the Traffic Commissioners, one cannot actually operate such a vehicle without the need for all the relevant legislation covered by an O licence and the tachometer rules, driving hours, breaks etc., being fully complied with.

It seems someone, somewhere realised that, unlike steam powered vehicles, the advances in electrical technology had left a gaping hole in the regulations, and sure enough the powers that be acted to close a loophole that might have tripped them up, especially in a few years’ time when the price of such vehicles meant both new, and the first generation of second hand units, came into the hands of road haulage outfits with a lower budget than the big fleets currently trialling them.

The regulations actually altered some time ago, however whoever was responsible for publishing the legislation on the official site seemingly overlooked it, a fault which our article has prompted the government to now rectify. A spokesperson for the Office of the Traffic Commissioner said:

“The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995 were amended in 2018 to limit the scope of operator licensing exemptions for electric vehicles. The exemption now only applies to electric vehicles first registered before 1 March 2015, and those with a maximum weight of less than 4.25 tonnes, provided they are operated solely for the carriage of goods within GB.”

However although the clause regarding electric, and in fact steam driven vehicles, has now disappeared from the ‘Exemptions’ heading in the website for operators pages, both categories still appear in the online .pdf ‘Goods Vehicle Operator Licensing Guide’.

No matter, the official line is as follows: The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995, Sch. 3, says the following would be exempt from the Operator Licensing Regime:

  • 21. An electrically propelled vehicle [first registered before 1st March 2015]
  • 31. A vehicle - (a) fuelled entirely by alternative fuel, (b) with a permissible laden mass not exceeding 4.25 tonnes, (c) currently used in Great Britain for the carriage of goods, and (d) which has not been so used outside Great Britain

So that, seemingly, is that, however that mention of 4.25 tonnes would appear to be a good idea, ‘alternative fuel’ (one imagines including electricity) future proofs the policy somewhat and has presumably been set at a level to take into account the weight of batteries needed to ensure the range of smaller vehicles which are adopting the technology are fit for purpose.

Photo: An Electric Jen Helec Tug – Courtesy of the Jensen Museum – Yes! Jensen the archetypal sports saloon manufacturer also made commercial vehicles, the production of which funded the company’s aspirations to produce the models it is famous for.