The Department of Transport (DfT) has announced proposals that could increase the ceiling for driving a commercial vehicle on a standard Category B licence from the current 3.5 tonnes to 4.25 tonnes, if they are powered by a range of fuels classified as more environmentally friendly.
However, leasing company Arval says that the proposals could raise risk management questions for fleets.
Eddie Parker, LCV consultant at Arval, explained that the move was designed to allow more widespread adoption of AV commercial vehicles, which tend to be heavier than their diesel or petrol powered equivalents, while preserving payload capacity.
“It is easy to see the thinking behind this, and moves to improve air quality from CV operation should be applauded, but it does also raise risk management questions for drivers and fleets,” he said.
“Currently, if you want to drive a vehicle above 3.5 tonnes, you have to gain a full C1 licence for up to 7.5 tonnes, which place a whole series of additional obligations on drivers and operators.
“The question facing fleets is whether they feel it is responsible to place drivers with standard ‘car’ licences into a vehicle with a mass that has previously been seen as requiring specialised training, and into something that is three-quarters of a tonne heavier and twice as heavy as the largest cars.
“Across the fleet sector, in recent years, the discussion has tended to be about whether the driving standards for larger CVs should be applied to smaller vehicles. This new proposal moves things in the opposite direction.”
To put this idea into effect, the UK would need to seek a temporary derogation from the EU Third Driving Licence Directive, although some EU states have already done this.
In addition, rules relating to Operator’s Licences and Drivers’ Hours rules may engage above 3.5 tonnes, unless certain exemptions are granted, as well as regulations covering driver CPC.
Parker said: “The Government’s proposal is, overall, a good idea but it does need some discussion by the industry. It is probably not as simple as waiving through drivers of existing 3.5 tonners into heavier vehicles without any additional thought.”
The Department for Transport consultation closes on October 18, 2017.