Staying on the Right Side of the Law: Six Tips for UK Van Drivers

A recent survey found that there are over 4.1 million vans on UK roads today. If you’re driving a van for business or personal use, certain rules of the road must be obeyed.

Whether you’re looking to buy a van for the first time or considering van leasing, it isn’t as simple as simply starting up and driving away – even if you’ve long since passed your test.

With some insights from Jonathan Beadle at van leasing company, Van Ninja, we outline the essential rules and regulations for UK van drivers – so there’s no need for driving fines and racking up costly penalty points.

1.      Licence to Thrill

Prospective van drivers must be aware of different van weights and what this means for licence requirements. Legally, if you’ve passed your test after January 1997, you’re permitted to drive any van up to 3500kg. For vehicles above this threshold, you’ll need to pass additional tests to have higher categories added to your licence. This will also apply if you need to tow a trailer behind your van. Driving without the correct licence can result in a £1000 fine and 3-6 penalty points.

2.      Carry That Weight

Drivers should also be aware of the van’s ‘design gross weight’ or ‘laden weight’ which refers to the maximum weight it can be loaded. This is inclusive of cargo, fuel and any passengers who may be in the vehicle. The figure should be stipulated on the vehicle identification number plate (VIN).

Weight distribution is also important as any goods should be spread throughout the payload area with the heaviest cargo secured in place as low as possible and held in place with straps or cages where necessary.

A £300 fine could be incurred if found in breach of these rules.

3.      Driving Restrictions

One of the more confusing aspects of UK van law is the driving time restrictions which apply depending on the weight of your vehicle.

For vans weighing less than 3.5 tonnes, rules state that you are limited to driving no more than 10 hours on a single day – not including rest or breaks.

For vans exceeding 3.5 tonnes, you are limited to nine hours a day, though this may be increased to ten hours per day twice a week.

4.      No Need for Speed?

Also be aware that stricter speed limits apply to vans than the ordinary car which can cause confusion for drivers. Typically, vans are allowed to travel 10mph less than cars while the 30mph limit still applies in built-up areas.

Single carriageways are limited to 50mph, dual carriageways 60mph and 70mph on motorways. This applies to all vehicles weighing up to 3.5 tonnes while those above have speed limiters fitted in line with current legislation.

5.      Free Parking

Many van drivers may have delivery requirements, so should be aware of drop-off zones. Vertical double yellow lines indicate that loading and unloading is not permitted at any time while single yellow means that there are time restrictions in place. Look out for designated loading bays which outline where it is safe to unload.

6.      Tax and Insurance

Much like any car, vans must be taxed annually and the same applies for MOT on vehicles over three years old. Commercial insurance cover may also be required to protect any tools or raw materials you leave in your vehicle unattended.

If you’re looking to make a foray into the van market, it pays to be savvy about UK laws and regulations. Vans can be a joy to drive and an essential tool for your business. Load up and hit the open road with peace of mind.