Industry reacts to driving licence reform plans for clean van technology

A proposal to allow category B (car) driving licence holders to drive heavier vans, provided they run on an alternative fuel, has been welcomed by Gasrec.

The fuel supplier last year pushed the DfT to consider an additional 1-tonne allowance on the category B driving licence for drivers of low-emission vans, after the DfT revealed plans to allow an additional tonne of weight to accommodate alternative fuel technology.

Alternative fuel equipment is sometimes heavier than conventional diesel vehicle technology, and the plans will allow such vehicles to carry the same payload as a diesel van.

Gasrec CEO Rob Wood said: “Gasrec is pleased that the government is planning to remove barriers that are preventing the wider use of alternative-fuelled vehicles.

“The current driving licensing regime reduces the driver pool available for alternative-fuelled light goods vehicles as they often marginally exceed the 3.5 tonne licence limit for Category B licence holders. This places a cost and operational burden on the adoption of new technology despite the wide availability of suitable vehicles.

He added: “These vehicles have the potential to make a significant contribution to improving air quality in our urban areas and we fully support the introduction of an appropriate licence derogation to remove this adoption hurdle.”

However, van leasing provider Arval questioned whether it would place more responsibility on van 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,” said Arval LCV consultant Eddie Parker.

“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.”

In order to relax driver licensing rules, the UK would need to seek a temporary derogation from the EU Third Driving Licence Directive. Some EU states have already done this to allow category B licence holders to drive heavier vans.