Drivers will be able to operate much heavier electric or gas-powered vans without having to apply for a new license, as part of new proposals to make it easier to switch to low emission vehicles.
Currently, a driver with an ordinary class B license for a car can drive a van weighing up to 3.5 tonnes.
However, new low emission vans are generally heavier than conventional diesel vans because of the weight of electric batteries. This reduces the amount of goods they can carry, or mean the driver has to apply for an upgraded license for heavier vehicles and lorries.
To make it simpler for businesses to invest in greener vehicles without needing to apply for new licenses for drivers, the Department for Transport has proposed changes to licenses.
Incentivising the switch
Under new plans now open for consultation, drivers with ordinary licenses will be able to drive vans weighting up to 4.25 tonnes 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. 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”, said transport minister Jesse Norman.
“We want to make it easier for businesses to opt for cleaner vehicles, and these proposals are designed to do just that.”
Impact of vans
Government figures show a rapid rise in light goods vehicle traffic in recent years, with vans clocking nearly 50 billion vehicle miles in 2016 - a 23 per cent rise compared with a decade earlier. 96 per cent of vans on the road are currently diesel powered.
Head of fleet at food delivery company Ocado, Stuart Skingsley, said the changes would allow them to “field the latest alternatively-fuelled vans”.
“At Ocado, we are very keen to incorporate the latest low emission technologies in our vehicle fleet, but we have been unable to do so, due to the extra weight of the technology and category B licence restrictions.”
The move is the latest government move to incentivise low emission commercial vehicles, having already extended its electric vehicle grant scheme to vans and trucks.