The rules of van driving may surprise first-time drivers
The rules of van driving may surprise first-time drivers
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5 things every first-time van driver should know

New to operating a commercial van? You should be aware of the laws that apply to you in the UK. Let’s break down a few of the main rules and regulations so you can take your business on the road.

Whether it’s holding the proper licence, insurance, parking or unloading, make sure you’re up to date on all the rule that govern the running of your business on the road.

#1 Make sure you have got the right licence to drive your van

Wondering what vans you can drive? A standard UK car driving licence (Category B) covers light commercial vehicles that can weigh up to 3,500 kg. You can also tow an additional 750 kg with a trailer. These figures are for Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), which means the weight of the van, plus the payload (even if the payload is not used), plus you and your passengers.

The heaviest Standard Roof Renault Trafic model, for instance, has a kerb (unladen) weight of 1,760 kg; you could therefore use it to transport cargo weighing up to 1,280 kg*. If you want to drive a van weighing between 3,500 kg and 7,500 kg, or tow heavier trailers, you’ll need to add higher categories to your driving license.

#2 Check your van’s status regarding road tax, insurance and MOT.

Many ask whether [there are specific taxes on driving a van]. The short answer is: yes, but some exceptions apply. You could be exempt if your van is only used in business journeys, for instance. However, if you use your commercial van for non-work-related purposes, it will be considered a taxable benefit. You can calculate your vehicle tax rate and payy your tax online, hassle-free.

Vans just get an MOT test like any other vehicle – after the third anniversary of registration, and once a year thereafter. Check the government’s MOT fee's table to see how much it will cost you – your van will be classified as either class 4 (up to 3,000 kg GVW) or class 7 (3,000–3,500kg GVW).

Lastly, your van needs to be insured – it’s the law! Make sure you get business cover when insuring your van, as private insurance won’t do.

#3 Follow the legal limits on how long you can drive

In the UK, there are rules governing the number of hours you can drive and when to take driving breaks. These rules apply to you if you drive your van for commercial purposes more than four hours per workday; note that the maximum amount of driving permitted on any working day is 10 hours. Consult the Great Britain domestic rules for more information about how these rules apply to goods vehicles.

#4 You can’t load and unload just anywhere

Designated loading bay facilities are your safest bet for loading and unloading your van, if you can find one. These are painted on the street as a white rectangle marked “loading” and also have signs detailing specific restrictions. Also look out for yellow painted lines on kerbs. A double yellow line means no loading at any time, while a single painted line means no loading during the times specified on the accompanying signage.

#5 Vans are subject to specific speed limits

This one comes as a surprise to many. In some areas, chiefly single and dual carriageways, vans must adhere to speed limits that are 10 mph lower than those of cars. There is an important exception: if you are driving a car-derived van like the ML19 version of the Renault Kangoo, you adhere to normal car speed limits.

This advice only covers the basics, but you should be well on your way to driving safely and legally by now. Happy driving!

*Payload equals the Maximum Operating Mass (Gross Vehicle Mass or GVW) less the Kerb Mass. Kerb Mass is the weight of the complete vehicle including coolant, oil, a 90% full fuel tank, a 100% full AdBlue tank, spare wheel and jack, but excluding driver and crew. All Kerb Masses, and therefore Payloads quoted are subject to a 5% manufacturing tolerance and are based on the base level model. Any additional equipment added (options or accessories), or the selection of a higher trim level, could result in a higher Kerb Mass and a reduced Payload, and may increase CO2 and decrease MPG figures.