Driving a Van in United Kingdom

The laws and rules of van driving covered in this comprehensive guide apply to anyone driving a van in England, Scotland, and Wales.

We clarify the speed limits for vans and how the 'design gross weight' works. Check the current rules on loading, parking, and how drivers' hours apply to drivers of small trucks.

UK Van Drivers Guide

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

Road Tax

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:

How to tax a vehicle (e.g. car, motorcycle, truck)
Check if a van is taxed
Vehicle tax rates (VED) (including motorhomes)

Note: The fine for driving without Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) can be £1,000 in United Kingdom.

MOT Certificate

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

MOT Guides:

Getting an MOT for a small truck
Get MOT reminders (e.g. by email or text message one month before)
Check the MOT status of a vehicle
MOT costs (table showing the maximum test stations can charge)

Note: The fine for driving without a valid MOT certificate can be £1,000 in the United Kingdom.

Vehicle Insurance

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).

The national speed limits apply for safe motoring and only in ‘optimum conditions’. There are lower speed limits for vans than for cars and car-derived vans (CDV).

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

Driving a Van Rules in the United KingdomSome 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
  • Fuel
  • 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.

Note: Another section explains more about roadside vehicle checks for commercial drivers. The police and DVSA officers can also issue fixed penalties to drivers who commit offences.

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 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.

Driving a Van Rules in the United Kingdom