UK Van Drivers Guide
Table of Contents
Let’s start the ultimate guide to van driving by checking whether the motoring laws actually allow you to drive a van. In fact, having a standard car driving licence means you should be able to drive any truck up to 3,500kg.
This part is important:
Did you pass the driving test after the 1st of January 1997? If so, you may need to take extra driving tests before you can:
- Drive any vehicles weighing between 3,500kg and 7,500kg.
- Use your small truck to tow a trailer.
You can view your driving licence to see what information the DVLA is holding and to check what types of vehicles it allows you to drive. Even so, there are ways of adding higher categories to a driver’s licence.
Note: Driving a vehicle without the correct licence can result in 3 to 6 penalty points and a fine up to £1,000.
Tax, MOT, and Insurance
Driving a van on public roads and highways means you need to tax it. There is a way to check when your tax will run out if you are unsure.
Road Fund Tax Guides:
Note: The fine for driving without Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) can be £1,000 in United Kingdom.
All vans will need MOT testing every year once the vehicle becomes three (3) years old. The two different classes for van MOTs are:
- Class 4 for trucks up to 3,000kg design gross weight (includes CDVs)
- Class 7 for trucks from 3,001kg to 3,500kg design gross weight
Note: The fine for driving without a valid MOT certificate can be £1,000 in the United Kingdom.
UK vehicle insurance law requires vans to be adequately insured before driving them on public roads. It provides some protection for people and for property if there is a road accident.
You need to determine the level of cover needed and inform the insurer whether you will use the vehicle for social or for business purposes. This information is going to affect the policy and the cost.
Note: Driving without van insurance can result in an unlimited fine and six (6) to eight (8) penalty points.
Speed Limits for Vans
As a rule, the 30 mph speed limit applies to all traffic on all roads with street lighting (unless the traffic signs show otherwise).
|Type of Vehicle||Built up Areas||Single Carriageways||Dual Carriageways||Motorways|
|Vans||30 mph||50 mph||60 mph||70 mph|
|Car derived vans||30 mph||60 mph||70 mph||70 mph|
|Vans with a trailer||30 mph||50 mph||60 mph||60 mph|
Note: Speeding offences can result in 3 to 6 penalty points and a fine up to £1,000 (£2,500 for motorways).
Design Gross Weight Limits
The ‘design gross weight’ of a vehicle refers to the maximum it can weigh when loaded. You can find this rating stamped on the vehicle identification number plate (VIN).
What ‘Design Gross Weight’ Includes
Some drivers might call it ‘gross vehicle weight’ or ‘laden weight’. Either way, it means exactly the same. It is the maximum weight allowance for the vehicle, and would also include the:
- Van, driver, and any passengers
- Load (e.g. cargo carried inside the vehicle)
Note: You can find a local weighbridge to check how much your vehicle weighs.
Penalty for Overloading a Van
You should never overload a vehicle or its individual axles. Doing so can affect the performance and the safety.
Note: Exceeding the maximum permitted axle weight can result in a court summons or a fine up to £300.
Parking and Loading
If you see yellow vertical lines painted on the kerb they signify an area where you cannot load a vehicle. It can also show whether any restrictions apply (displayed on a plated sign).
In some cases, loading markings and plates will show areas designated for loading bay facilities. A white box marked ‘loading’ along with a plated sign give the details of any specific loading restrictions.
Securing Goods in a Vehicle
It is not uncommon to drive a van that does not feature a bulkhead. Failing to secure your goods properly in the cargo area means it may cause harm to someone in the event of a road accident. For example, the contents could slide forward and end up in the cab section.
Always load goods evenly throughout the area designed to carry cargo, and place the heaviest items on the bottom. Avoid overloading the individual axles, and use appropriate restraints to secure a load (e.g. straps and netting).
Note: The short video clip [1:20 seconds] gives tips on how to load a van in a safe and legal manner.
Rules on Drivers’ Hours
The length of time that you can drive without stopping for a rest depends on several factors. Even so, you must follow the rules on driving hours and rest breaks. Applicable rules will depend on:
- The weight of the vehicle.
- The country that you are driving in.
- The reason for using the vehicle.
Within the United Kingdom
Great Britain domestic rules on drivers’ hours outline working hours and required rest periods. You must follow the guidelines if you drive a van for business for a period of more than four (4) hours in one day.
Note: Exceeding your daily driving limits means you could receive a fine up to £300.
Overseas of the United Kingdom
You would need to follow the domestic rules as stipulated in each country for travel made outside of the United Kingdom. The relevant embassies can provide further details.
Note: Some exemptions apply, but you must follow the EU rules when towing a trailer with a combined design gross weight above 3.5 tonnes.
Van Maintenance and Towing a Trailer
Keeping your van safe to drive is a legal requirement in the United Kingdom. The DVSA produce a guide explaining daily walkaround checks that van drivers should conduct to ensure the vehicle is roadworthy.
Note: Using a van in a dangerous condition can result in 3 penalty points and a fine up to £2,500.
Towing a Trailer
A quick check on your driving licence information will confirm whether you are allowed to tow a trailer. The rules on towing a trailer can:
- Affect how many hours you can drive before taking a rest break.
- Require the use of a tachograph to record the hours driven.
You would need a licence (e.g. the same as when becoming a goods vehicle operator) for the van and the trailer if:
- The total unladen weight of the van and the trailer combined is more than 1,525 kg.
- The van and the trailer are plated with a total gross plated weight of more than 3,500 kg.
The operator’s licence is not required if the unladen weight of the trailer is less than 1,020 kg and you are only carrying your own goods.
Note: You must follow reduced speed limits when towing a trailer and avoid going over normal allowances.
Roadside Vehicle Checks
As a van driver, you might get asked to stop at the roadside by either the police or officers from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
Their powers include carrying out roadside spot checks on vans and issuing any necessary prohibitions to drivers. A prohibition would prevent you from driving the vehicle until you get the problem fixed.
Van Driving and Employment Laws
Being self-employed as a van driver, or employing other drivers, means you have some legal obligations and responsibilities to comply with. Under UK law, employers and people in self-employment must:
- Assess how their work activity might affect others or create risks.
- Identify any risks and take appropriate preventive and protective steps to control them.
You would also be responsible for ensuring that:
- The van is in a safe condition to drive.
- Your drivers have suitable training, they are aware of road traffic laws, and they follow the United Kingdom Highway Code.
The DVSA produces a guide that gives advice for businesses who are running a fleet of vans and how to keep them safe to drive and cost-effective.
Note: Companies may be liable if any employees are killed or get injured during their working hours.