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Compliance: Should your 3.5t van be fitted with a tachograph?

If there is one area of van fleet management that causes more confusion than any other, it must be that of towing and the law.

The rules are relatively simple, but it seems that many operators are either ignorant or wilfully dismissive of the law regarding tachographs and who is allowed to drive vehicles with trailers.

This is a surprising fact bearing in mind the legal consequences in the event of a crash.

Next time you walk past a 3.5-tonne gvw van with a trailer, see if there’s a tachograph fitted.

The chances are the dashboard will be bare – and in that case the van you are looking at is more than likely breaking the law.

It is reckoned that of all the vans on UK roads with towbars fitted, less than 1% have a tachograph.

Exceptions to the rule

The law states that the weight of the trailer must be added to the gross vehicle weight of the van.

So if the van has a gvw of 3.5 tonnes and it’s towing a two-tonne trailer, the vehicle effectively weighs 5.5 tonnes and must have a tachograph – and you’ll need an O-licence to operate it too.

There are exceptions to this rule and the main two that may apply to Fleet Van readers are:

  • If the vehicle is not being used for hire and reward
  • If the vehicle doesn’t travel more than 50km (33 miles) from its base.

Van fleet operators could also fall foul of the law if they don’t adequately check drivers’ licences too.

Staff who passed their tests before January 1, 1997, will be allowed to drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes gvw on their ordinary licences, but those who passed after that date are limited to 3.5 tonnes.

Therefore, if a 3.5-tonne van has a trailer fitted, it will go over that limit and the younger person won’t be entitled to drive.

The regulations stipulating which drivers are qualified to tow trailers were amended in 1997 so that anyone who passed their driving test since requires a Category B or BE entitlement.

Changes to the rules from January 13, 2013, will further restrict the weight that drivers qualified after 1997 can tow without a separate qualification.

 

Still unsure if you need a tachograph?

Try our Tachograph Compliance Tool



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Comments

  • Dr Mark Vaughan - 31/12/2012 00:12

    Nice concise statement re pickups and tachographs. Once fitted with a tacho many are also unsure what to do when they are not towing, since they now drive a behicle with a tacho but fall outside the requirement to need a tacho.
    Another area you migth want to run an article on that people find vague or are often confused about, is the speed limits that apply to pickups and also vans, definitiosn of dual purpose vehicles, definitions of unladen weight which is rarely supplied by the manufacturer, that some of the guidance provided by our Gov't is not actually what is written in law.

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    • bobby smith - 05/07/2015 20:55

      A couple of points - 1. Drivers who passed their test before 1997 may have an entitlement for up to 7.5 tonne but may have a 101 code which defines that they can drive privately but NOT for work. 2. Over 3.5 tonnes is into HGV territory(now LGV to confuse more!) - so do drivers need to gain their Drivers CPC?. 3. Trailers - you see vehicles including vans towing 3.5 tonne Ifor Wiliams trailers. Your vehicle must have a towing weight which determines the MAXIMUM trailer plated weight you can tow. So for example if it's a 3 tonne plated trailer and your max tow weight is 2.8 tonnes then you will be overloaded - even if the trailer is empty!

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  • jason eyre - 22/12/2013 08:37

    still confused i have a tacho in my pick up lorry 3.5 gvwand a mini digger trailer 2.7tonne do i need ato use tacho to take to customers jobs to do my work im a landscape gardener

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  • Mr B Hudson - 30/01/2014 12:21

    If most 3.5 tonnes vehicles should have a tacho fitted (and havent) why is nothing being done about it ???

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  • ian gerrie - 28/02/2014 13:23

    Ok we need a tecograph for van and trailer . When van is driven on its on do you still need to operate tecograph . Is there drivers driven rules eg like hgv drivers rules we must keel to

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  • jim - 06/03/2014 15:02

    what are the rules from 13/1/13?

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  • denny - 20/08/2014 14:20

    PITY THEY DIDN'T DO SOME WORK AND TOUCH UPON THE NEXT MOST OBVIOUS QUESTION.....DO I NEED TO INSERT THE TACHO CARD WHEN NOT TOWING?
    I spoke to a VOSA guy today and he said.....no, when not towing, assuming the vehicle is no more than 3.5ton, you don't need to insert your card in the tacho. The fact there is a tacho in the cab does not matter if you are not towing at the time. He said they will not usually look to pull over a van that is not pulling a trailer, (unless the nose is in the air from being overloaded).
    As already stated, if towing for hire or reward you need an O license.

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  • Gary - 26/01/2015 10:56

    A couple of points - 1. Drivers who passed their test before 1997 may have an entitlement for up to 7.5 tonne but may have a 101 code which defines that they can drive privately but NOT for work. 2. Over 3.5 tonnes is into HGV territory(now LGV to confuse more!) - so do drivers need to gain their Drivers CPC?. 3. Trailers - you see vehicles including vans towing 3.5 tonne Ifor Wiliams trailers. Your vehicle must have a towing weight which determines the MAXIMUM trailer plated weight you can tow. So for example if it's a 3 tonne plated trailer and your max tow weight is 2.8 tonnes then you will be overloaded - even if the trailer is empty!

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  • Dwane jhonston - 05/07/2015 20:53

    Ok we need a tecograph for van and trailer . When van is driven on its on do you still need to operate tecograph . Is there drivers driven rules eg like hgv drivers rules we must keel to

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  • Iain - 12/10/2016 17:43

    I understand there are also several exemption categories here:- https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/389294/drivers-hours-emergency-exemption.pdf

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  • Chris Byrne - 28/11/2016 16:30

    If we have a van that is 3.5 tonne gvw and fitted with a towbar and only use the trailer to move equipment belonging to the company, do we need a Tachograph? We will NOT be towing the trailer for 'Hire or Reward' so it would seem not?

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  • marc - 15/01/2017 18:56

    confused! I repair service and maintain trailers and compressors for a large utilities company, now I'm told as there a utility company they are tacho exempt, can I recover and tow there equipment to workshop if I have no tacho?

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