The Government will seek agreement with the EU to permit drivers with category B licences to drive electric and hybrid vans weighing up to 4.25 tonnes.
It follows news that operators of alternatively-fuelled vehicles up to 4.25 tonnes will also be exempt from HGV operator licensing, as long as they only operate domestically.
The announcement, which follows a two-month consultation period, has been welcomed by the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
Currently, drivers with category B (car) licences are permitted to drive vans which weigh up to 3.5 tonnes. However, electric and hybrid vans of a comparable size must carry a large battery pack, making them slightly heavier.
"FTA is delighted the government has listened to the logistics industry and taken this positive step to make it easier for transport and freight companies to operate electric vehicles. This will make it cheaper and easier for firms to include alternatively-powered vehicles in their fleets. It is an excellent example of how the government can use regulatory adjustments to help our industry implement more energy-efficient working practices," said Becki Kite, FTA's Environment policy manager.
Kite believes the change means companies will no longer be penalised for using alternatively-fuelled vehicles and will more likely to adopt them.
"The heavier weights of these vehicles mean they have often been inaccessible for van operators who do not have an operator licence or the appropriately trained drivers,” she said.
“For firms with the appropriate operator licence, the additional regulation still meant extra cost in implementing appropriate compliance policies and recruiting additional drivers. Now they will be able to absorb these vehicles easily into their current working practices."