The Department for Transport’s confirmation that a licence derogation will be put into place for alternatively-fuelled vans has been welcomed by fleet industry bosses and van users alike.
A report on the website of the SMMT, which lobbied strongly for the change, explains that the move allows drivers with a standard Category B driving licence to drive alternatively-fuelled commercial vehicles (AFCVs) up to a maximum gross vehicle weight of 4.25 tonnes, rather than 3.5 tonnes allowed in traditionally-powered vehicles.
The change in the law follows a Government consultation to determine the impact of such a derogation, given that electric vans in particular are often heavier than their diesel counterparts due to the weight of the battery packs.
The new ruling covers electric commercial vehicles, including range extender and plug-in hybrid vans, as well as those powered by hydrogen fuel cells, compressed natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas.
“This derogation is important because it allows fleets to adopt large AFCVs, most likely panel vans, in the 3.5-tonne sector without it affecting payload,” Eddie Parker, LCV consultant at fleet management company Arval, said. “Previously, anyone wanting to use a 3.5-tonne AFCV would have had to carry less, because of the weight of batteries and other equipment. We believe this is a progressive step and we very much welcome it.”
Part of the derogation mandates five hours of official training for drivers of AFCVs, so fleet operators wishing to use the 4.25-tonne AFCVs will need to factor this in, though details of the training package are yet to be announced.
Eddie Parker added: “Although this move could be criticised as being inconsistent because 3.5-tonne drivers do not have to undergo additional training, we prefer to see it as an exciting opportunity and a valuable way of combining greater environmental focus and vehicle safety.”