Driving a van
Driving a van
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Questions & Answers

Driving a van

Driving a van requires knowing certain specific rules: loading, weight... Here are some answers to your questions.

What vans can I drive on my driving licence?

The categories of vehicles you can drive are set out in your photocard driving licence. All full UK car driving licences show Category B, covering cars and vans up to a maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 3,500 kg including up to 8 passengers. So, where light commercial vehicles are concerned, you’re covered. For example, the heaviest Renault Trafic panel van has a kerb (“unloaded”) weight of 1,870 kg. Adding a payload of 1,200 kg (which includes passengers and the driver) puts the gross vehicle mass at 3,040 kg total. Check here for further details regarding vehicle weight restrictions.

Driving in London: what is the Low Emission Zone?

The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) covers all Greater London excluding the M25 and is in force all year, 24/7. To reduce pollution, the use of certain vehicle classes therein is restricted and/or subject to a charge. Vans affected are those registered before 2002: smaller vans and minibuses with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of up to 3.5 tonnes and 5 tonnes, respectively. You can check your vehicle with Transport for London with Transport for London, and register if necessary. Note that the Zone is monitored by camera, with no barriers or toll booths. For larger vans falling outside the emission standards, the daily charge is £100.

What can you tow without a trailer licence?

If you have a full UK driving licence, you can drive a van with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) up to 3,500 kg while towing a trailer up to 750 kg in gross weight and 2.55 metres in width.

You can also tow a trailer over 750 kg as long as the combined gross weight of towing van and trailer does not exceed 3,500 kg. If you obtained your driving licence before 1997, you may be able to drive a van and trailer with a combined gross weight of 8,250 kg. Check your driving licence information online to find out more.

What is the permissible maximum weight?

The maximum authorised mass (MAM) also known as gross vehicle weight (GVW), "plated weight" or "laden weight", is the combined weight of van, driver and passengers, fuel and load.

Vans and all light commercial vehicles are assigned a gross weight which is shown on the vehicle identification plate. For a practical example, most Renault Master vans have a gross vehicle weight of around 3,500 kg and a net (kerb or unladen) weight of around 2,000 kg. The maximum payload is therefore 1,500 kg.

Are there specific taxes on driving a van?

The tax rate you pay on your business van depends on van usage and your own personal tax rate. Generally speaking, you will indeed need to pay taxes on your commercial van. If you also drive your van for personal use, you will pay a share of the current fixed Benefit-in-Kind rate (BIK) for van drivers, set at £3,230. Your tax sum due will simply be your personal rate of tax multiplied by that fixed BIK value. Therefore, if you pay 30 per cent in taxes, you’ll owe £951 per year. Determine taxes on mileage fuel paid by the company by multiplying your tax rate by the fuel BIK, currently set at £610. Find out more information in the technical guidance on company vans expenses and benefits. Note that vehicles which are exclusively used for business journeys are exempt .

What is the Road Fund Licence?

Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), colloquially known as the Road Fund Licence, is the tax payable for most vehicles to drive or park on UK roads.

Until 2014, drivers were issued paper discs to be displayed inside their vehicles as evidence of having paid the VED. The current system is entirely online-based through the DVLA. While the tax rate for cars and vans registered before 1 March 2001 used to depend on engine size, CO2 emissions and fuel type have been taken into account since then.

For instance, a petrol or diesel light goods vehicle registered on or after 1 April 2017, with CO2 emissions of 151-170g/km, would be subject to a £500 VED in the first year. Zero-emission electric vehicles are exempt. Make sure to check vehicle tax rates tables to find out how much you need to pay.

What's the amount of my road tax?

Vehicle Excise Duty, or VED – historically known as road tax – is a fee set by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that you're obliged to pay in order to operate your van on public roads. Most vans fall under the TC39 VED tax code, which applies to light goods vehicles registered on or after March 2001, with a gross vehicle weight up to 3,500kg. In 2017-2018, the TC39 tax rate will amount to £132 for 6 months or £240 for 12 months.

Euro 4- and Euro 5-compliant light goods vehicles fall under the TC36 tax code, which incurs a lower road tax of £77 for 6 months or £140 for 12 months. Note that these amounts may also vary depending on your chosen method of payment.

How much is the road tax for my van?

The cost of road tax for your Renault van will depend on a number of factors, including its weight, age and engine size. Most vans not exceeding a GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) of 3,500 kg are classified as light goods vehicles, and are taxed at a flat rate of £230 per year (if registered after 2001). Some vans registered before 2010 – those that meet Euro 4 and Euro 5 standards – are taxed at a lower rate of £140.

Where do I need an International Driving Permit to drive?

A Great Britain or Northern Ireland driving licence enables you to drive in all EU countries and countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), as well as Switzerland. UK drivers will require an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in many non-EU/EEA countries , though they may also require additional documentation. Also note that some countries, including in the EU and EEA, may have additional requirements where, e.g., compulsory equipment is concerned. You can find out more about these from the AA or the RAC .

Am I insured when I drive my business van on personal time?

Although many commercial insurance plans will cover your vehicle when it’s being driven for personal use, you can only be sure by discussing this with your provider.
Generally speaking, personal use of business vehicles leads to increased liability. If you plan to use your business van for more than strictly business purposes, this may change your cover and should absolutely be included in the “Description of use” section of your certificate of insurance. Note that vans outfitted as emergency vehicles (like ambulances) however, generally aren’t covered for any kind of personal use. Your insurance provider will ask you how you’ll be using your van when they provide you with a quote. Be sure to let them know.
Find out more about what you need to know when insuring your van.

Which type of insurance do I need for my van?

Motor insurance is a legal requirement to drive a vehicle in the UK. At the very least, you must have third-party insurance, which means you will be covered in an accident causing damage or injury to another person and/or their property.

Furthermore, unless your van is strictly for personal use, you will need commercial van insurance. There are various insurance products tailored to specific businesses. For instance, if deliveries are your bread and butter, you may opt for courier van insurance, which will typically include cover for the goods you transport as well as your vehicle.

It is also a good idea to obtain fire and theft coverage in addition to your basic policy. You may want to use an insurance broker to get the best cover for your specific needs.

What can I tow with my licence?

Licences issued from 1 January 1997 allow you to drive a van up to 3,500 kg gross vehicle weight and tow up to 750 kg in a trailer no wider than 2.55 m.

If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, you may be allowed to drive a van and trailer combination up to 8,250 kg. Check the information on your driving licence to make sure.

You may also tow a trailer over 750 kg if the combined gross weight of towing van and trailer does not exceed 3,500 kg. For heavier combinations, you require a medium-sized lorry and trailer licence (category C1+E), which lets you drive a combined weight up to 12,000 kg maximum.

Where I can I find alternative fuels for my van?

In the UK, electric vehicles are the major alternative to the internal combustion engine with a network of more than 14,000 connectors in 5,000 locations.

You can find several online maps showing the charge point nearest to you, including the Department for Transport’s National Charge Point Registry. Other alternative fuels like biogas and natural gas can be more difficult to source. However, biodiesel (vegetable oil processed to run in standard diesel engines) is now available at fuel stations UK-wide. For the more off-grid operator, straight vegetable oil is a possible alternative fuel, but may require engine modification.

What kind of alternative fuels are there for vans?

The UK government is phasing out use of diesel engines for vans by 2040: alternative fuels will be essential.

Electricity is the most common and readily available alternative fuel for vans. Others are being developed, and a few are currently available though they require some engine modification. Possible biofuels include biodiesel and bioethanol, as well as hydrogen, natural gas in the forms of compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, and its biogenic equivalent, biomethane. Liquefied petroleum gas is a possibility as well as its biogenic equivalent, bioLPG.

Do I need headlight converters to drive my van in continental Europe?

When driving a UK vehicle on the right-hand side of the road, your dipped headlights can dazzle oncoming vehicles.

Headlight converters are, essentially, self-adhesive masks to blank out the part of the beam that could dazzle other drivers. Fitting them to your headlights is a legal requirement to drive in France, Belgium and much of continental Europe, even if you are only driving in daylight. For twin headlights, the mask is only applied to the outer pair. Remember to remove them on return to the UK.

Will my van pass a vehicle inspection?

Refer to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness for instructions on carrying out both daily walk around checks and more in-depth annual inspections of commercial vans. The guide includes an example of a driver’s vehicle defect report, which you can use as a checklist to make sure your van is up to shape.

If by chance your vehicle counts as a Heavy Goods Vehicle (i.e. is used for the carriage of goods exceeding 3,500 kg), refer to the Heavy Goods Vehicle Inspection Manual , which provides details of inspection methods and pass/fail criteria. Common failure items include headlamp aim, lamps, brake systems or performance, and suspension.

Do I need to give my van a vehicle inspection?

As an operator of commercial vehicles, you are responsible for their roadworthiness. This includes performing all and any necessary checks or inspections to ensure your vans are roadworthy.

The necessary steps are outlined in the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness . The frequency of most checks and inspections is up to you, as is the choice of who to perform them (i.e. the driver, a fleet coordinator, or a third party). You should be aware that it is an offense to use an unroadworthy vehicle on the road, and that you can be held responsible whether you are the driver yourself or paying someone to drive the van for you.

How do I give my van a vehicle inspection?

There are two main types of vehicle inspections: daily walk-around checks and first-use inspections, also known as “regular safety inspections”.

You can perform these inspections yourself by following the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness and/or contract a third party to perform regular checks. Note that you are always legally responsible for your vehicle’s condition: if you choose to go through a third party, you will be expected to do your due diligence by checking that they are qualified and meet all the proper standards.