If there is one area of van fleet management that causes more confusion than any other, it must be that of towing and the law.
The rules are relatively simple, but it seems that many operators are either ignorant or willfully dismissive of the law regarding tachographs and who is allowed to drive vehicles with trailers.
This is a surprising fact bearing in mind the legal consequences in the event of a crash.
Next time you walk past a 3.5-tonne gvw van with a trailer, see if there’s a tachograph fitted.
The chances are the dashboard will be bare – and in that case the van you are looking at is more than likely breaking the law.
It is reckoned that of all the vans on UK roads with towbars fitted, less than 1% have a tachograph.
Exceptions to the rule
The law states that the weight of the trailer must be added to the gross vehicle weight of the van.
So if the van has a gvw of 3.5 tonnes and it’s towing a two-tonne trailer, the vehicle effectively weighs 5.5 tonnes and must have a tachograph – and you’ll need an O-licence to operate it too.
There are exceptions to this rule and the main two that may apply to Fleet Van readers are:
- If the vehicle is not being used for hire and reward
- If the vehicle doesn’t travel more than 50km (33 miles) from its base.
Van fleet operators could also fall foul of the law if they don’t adequately check drivers’ licences too.
Staff who passed their tests before January 1, 1997, will be allowed to drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes gvw on their ordinary licences, but those who passed after that date are limited to 3.5 tonnes.
Therefore, if a 3.5-tonne van has a trailer fitted, it will go over that limit and the younger person won’t be entitled to drive.
The regulations stipulating which drivers are qualified to tow trailers were amended in 1997 so that anyone who passed their driving test since requires a Category B or BE entitlement.
Changes to the rules from January 13, 2013, will further restrict the weight that drivers qualified after 1997 can tow without a separate qualification.