Alternative fuel vans: Legislation must keep up with transport innovation

Nigel Morris MHA MacIntyre

Van operators face continued pressure on margins, increasing inflation and labour costs.

They need to focus on every aspect of their supply chain and the government’s plan to encourage demand for electric vehicles is a positive development.

The ability to consider a wider choice of alternatively fuelled vehicles - with potentially lower fuel cost but not at the detriment of capacity - would ease the burden on businesses, especially SMEs.

As the transport industry moves away from dependency on fossil fuels, legislation needs to keep pace with new alternative vehicle designs and other developments.

Operators that are prepared to embrace new technologies and address environmental concerns will be keen to ensure that this is economically viable and doesn’t impact the ability to maximise utilisation, which could damage the bottom line.

It’s encouraging to see that health and safety - a critical issue in the transport industry - is also being considered in line with the proposed policy.

Following the introduction of similar changes in Germany and France, we have not heard of issues with safety or increased severity of accidents.

The measure to exclude vehicles meeting the proposed derogation from towing a trailer could help mitigate the potential safety impacts.

However, it would be useful to see if any studies exist or could be undertaken to measure the impact, as this is an area where operators may be disadvantaged by not being able to use a trailer, unless stepping up to a higher licensing category.

MOT testing of electrically-powered vans is another area where we welcome the clarity and consistency that this proposal could bring.

However, the criteria for such testing will need to be carefully considered to ensure that the down time incurred and cost of testing doesn’t have a negative impact on operators compared to that of operators still using conventionally fuelled vehicles.

More detail is also required to ascertain what testing has to be undertaken and what standards an electric vehicle will need to meet.

There is a view that full electric vehicles have fewer moving parts and so the maintenance and MOT requirements could be reduced.

However, this needs to be properly evaluated and the testing criteria fully considered before introduction.

By Nigel Morris, tax director at MHA MacIntyre Hudson

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