Category B Driving Licence Derogation for Alternatively Fuelled Commercial Vehicles

In July 2017, the Government published the consultation, ‘Category B Driving Licence Derogation for Alternatively Fuelled Commercial Vehicles’.

Friday 06 April 2018

In July 2017, the Government published the consultation, ‘Category B Driving Licence Derogation for Alternatively Fuelled Commercial Vehicles’. The policy objective of this consultation is to promote the uptake of cleaner and more efficient vans whilst overcoming the potential barrier caused by the heavier weight of these cleaner power trains and reduced payloads.

Summary of proposals:

  • Allowing drivers with a category B licence to drive alternatively fuelled vehicles with a maximum authorised mass of 4,250kg
  • An exemption from operator licensing requirements for similar alternatively-fuelled vans used for own account haulage only
  • Correct a regulatory anomaly, which means that electric vans are currently exempt from MOT testing

The proposals

Proposal 1

To increase the weight limit of alternatively-fuelled vans that can be driven on a category B driving licence in the United Kingdom.
Current arrangements: Category B allows a driver to drive up to 3.5 tonnes and tow a trailer of 750kg (4250kg). A driver can tow a trailer greater than 750kg as long as the Maximum Authorised Mass of the combination does not exceed 3,500kg. 
The available payload of an alternatively fuelled van is greatly reduced due to the increased weight of the battery cell. The additional weight of the vehicle, which takes it above 3,500kg also prevents drivers with a category B licence from operating the vehicle, instead the vehicles need to be operated by drivers who hold a category C1 licence.
The Government is proposing a temporary derogation to allow alternatively-fuelled vans up to a maximum authorised mass of 4,250kg to be driven on a category B driving licence within the United Kingdom. The proposal is to apply for a five-year derogation, after which the situation will be reviewed. A full impact assessment will be conducted following this consultation to determine the full extent of likely environmental benefits and safety risks.
The fuels that would be included in the derogation are;

  • Electricity (for use by Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV),
  • Range Extended Vehicle (REV),
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV),
  • Hydrogen (for use by Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV),
  • natural gas in the forms of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and its biogenic equivalent biomethane,
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), and its biogenic equivalent, bioLPG.

The regulations governing the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) do not require anyone with a Category B licence to hold the certificate. This means any drivers using the derogation for alternatively-fuelled vehicles will no longer be within the scope for needing the CPC to operate these vehicles.

Under the proposals set out in this consultation, drivers will not be permitted to use a trailer of any size or weight in combination with vehicles benefiting from the derogation. Drivers will be required to abide by all current laws governing the use of vehicles heavier than 3,500kg, including vehicle taxation unless already exempt, and type approval requirements. Operator licensing and testing is covered below.

Proposal 2 

To exempt certain alternatively-fuelled vans from goods vehicle operator licensing requirements in Great Britain only.
Current arrangements: Although electric vehicles are currently exempt, if a local tradesperson purchased another form of alternatively fuelled van, the increased weight above 3,500kg to 4,250kg would bring them under the operator licence regime, with the associated time and additional expenses.
In December 2014, the Government consulted on proposals to remove the general exemption for some vehicles including electric vehicles from goods vehicle operating licencing requirements in Great Britain. Should these proposals go ahead then the intention is to modify these proposals to provide an exemption for all alternatively fuelled vehicles including electric, up to 4,250kg. This would mean that for the first-time, electric vehicles above this threshold could be subject to operator licensing (dependent on the government response to the 2014 consultation). The effects of the exemption would be reviewed after 5 years after coming into force, at that time government may consider the removal of the exemption if there is no clear case for it.
It should also be noted that the proposed exemption above only refers to own account operator licences, and will not include hire and reward. This is due to hire and reward tending to be larger in scale and better able to absorb the costs of operator licensing, and also more likely to already hold an Operator’s Licence. In addition, there is a legal consideration since under EU rules for hire and reward haulage, any exemptions must be purely for domestic journeys and have a minor impact on the transport market because of either the “nature of the goods carried” or the “short distances involved”. The government highlight that It is difficult to argue, particularly as their range increases, that electric vehicles would meet either of these conditions.     

Proposal 3

For roadworthiness testing for electric vans in Great Britain only 
Current arrangements: Goods vehicles with a maximum laden weight of more than 3,500kg are subject to annual roadworthiness testing by DVSA, below that weight vehicles are tested at private MOT centres. Electric vehicle are currently exempt testing requirements. This consultation is proposing to remove the exemption for all electric vehicles however an exemption for milk floats will remain.
Government consulted in December 2014 on the removal of the exemption from annual roadworthiness testing for certain categories of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight over 3,500kg. Electric vehicles were included in these categories.

FTA standing position in this area is that we oppose relaxations of regulations for environmental purposes if they would negatively impact safety performance.  Unlike related suggestions, Department for Transport (DfT) have this time gone to efforts to address the safety angle.  There will also be a full safety assessment carried out before the proposals would go forward.

Feedback from FTA working group members has confirmed a) these changes would make a difference to the case for alternatively fuelled vehicles and b) that the safety case presented by DfT appears valid. 
FTA’s proposed position is: support for these plans, subject to final safety assessments demonstrating that there is no notable impact on road safety.

Additional Background Information 

The Climate Change Act 2008 requires an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 (from 1990 levels). In 2014 transport accounted for 23% of UK GHG emissions. In addition to this the UK Government has a manifesto commitment to ensure that almost every car and van is a zero-emission vehicle by 2050.
In May and July, 2017 the Government consulted on a revised plan to tackle nitrogen dioxide hotspots within the shortest possible time. The Measures encourage a switch from conventional (diesel and petrol) to ultra-low emission vehicles.
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has already made strides in helping to promote the uptake of ultra-low emission Light Commercial Vehicles, (LCV) through incentives such as the plug-in van grant. The grant offers consumers up to 20% of the cost of an eligible N1 category van, up to a maximum of £8,000. In autumn 2016 the grant was extended to include eligible N2 and N3 category vehicles as well as the existing N1 category eligible LCVs.

The government are calling for responses which consider the economic and environmental benefits and disadvantages of the above proposals, along with any perceived safety implications by 18 October 2017. 

Find out more

Contact Becki Kite, Environment Policy Manager at FTA