Van drivers will be able to operate heavier electric or gas-powered vehicles without having to apply for a new licence, as part of moves to improve air quality in towns and cities across the country. The Government claims it will help to level the playing field by addressing the payload penalty, which currently puts operators of cleaner vans at a commercial disadvantage compared to operators of equivalent conventionally-fuelled vehicles.
Currently, a motorist with an ordinary category B licence for a car can drive a van weighing up to 3,500kg. Cleaner vans, especially those powered by electricity from batteries, are generally heavier than conventional diesel vans because of the battery they carry. This reduces the amount of goods they can carry, or means that van drivers have to apply for a category C licence with the associated costs and medical report requirements.
Now the Department for Transport has published plans to allow B licence holders to drive vans weighing up to 4,250kg if they are powered by electricity, natural gas, LPG or hydrogen.
“Vans have become essential to our economy and are vital for our builders, small businesses and delivery drivers,” Transport Minister Jesse Norman said. “We have more of them on our roads than ever before. That’s a good sign for the economy, but our challenge is to try to tackle their impact on air quality. We want to make it easier for businesses to opt for cleaner vehicles, and these proposals are designed to do just that.
“Road traffic estimates show there has been a rapid rise in light goods vehicle traffic over the last 20 years, in part powered by the growth in internet shopping. In 2016 vans clocked up 49.1 billion vehicle miles – a 23% increase over 2006. Vans spend much of their time driving around our towns and cities, and over 96% of them are diesel powered. So making them greener is essential for people’s health and the environment.”
A public consultation on the proposed new measures will last for 12 weeks.