Testing, testing… numerous types of hgv (and fast tractors) to lose exemptions

Posted 15/09/2017 : By: Tim Ridyard

If it’s grey and has a trunk then it’s probably an elephant – even if you call it a giraffe, a lion or a leopard.

And so it is with HGVs – following a consultation the Government has announced (14 September) that numerous types of vehicles which are to all intents and purposes heavy goods vehicles should be subject to the same roadworthiness testing and plating requirements as other lorries. (In a separate announcement – see below - the Government has confirmed it is to introduce testing for fast tractors used for commercial haulage only.)

This will affect certain special categories of vehicle most of which have a HGV chassis. The purpose of the change is to ensure road safety – but also to remove the unfairness that exists between operators of similar vehicles where one operator’s vehicles may be exempt but the other operator’s vehicles are not.

Businesses affected by this will be primarily in the construction, utility and recovery sectors, the fast tractor change also impacting on the agriculture sector.

New EU Directives on roadworthiness prompted consideration of these changes but the Government has made plain that the changes were necessary anyway, for road safety reasons, regardless of EU obligations and the issue of exiting the EU.

Plating certificates

The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) issues a certificate that is attached to vehicles specifying maximum weights that is referred to when vehicles are tested and for other enforcement purposes. Most of the vehicles that lose their test-exempt status will now also have to have a plating certificate.

DVSA is to have a discretion to permit testing without one where it is not possible to determine weight. An example of this will be volumetric concrete mixers (VCMs) where their maximum permitted weights have not yet been resolved – this type of engineering plant has been the subject of prolonged debate and controversy over many years. Such vehicles would normally operate at 32 tonnes and discussions with industry are still ongoing with regard to exceeding this limit. This type of vehicle will quite soon lose its operator’s licence exemption.

The individual categories under consideration are listed below and vehicles within these categories will lose their exemption status if they are based on a HGV chassis:

  • Mobile cranes
  • Breakdown vehicles
  • Engineering plant and other plant – includes volumetric concrete mixers
  • Tarmac trailers (these are trailers used to carry molten asphalt)
  • Tower wagons

Road construction vehicles

  • Electrically propelled vehicles – currently few but increase anticipated
  • Tractor units pulling exempt trailers
  • Motor tractors and heavy and light locomotives (these move goods/ loads which are not imposed on the vehicles themselves).

The following will not lose their exemption status:

  • Health/ educational vehicles
  • STGO vehicles (Special Types vehicles used for abnormal loads)
  • Showman’s vehicles.

The changes for HGVs will be implemented with effect from 20 May 2018 by amendments to the Goods Vehicles (Plating and Testing) Regulations 1988.

Fast tractors

The changes for fast tractors will take effect on the same date, with provision for them to be tested from January 2018, so that test certificates can be obtained ready for 20 May 2018.

Testing will only be for vehicles capable of more than 40kms per hour. It will apply to vehicles used more than 15 miles from their base of operation. This is intended to avoid an additional burden for those fast tractors deployed only in local use, but to also recognise that fast tractors operating beyond that limit are competing with HGVs.

Vehicles of Historical Interest

The Government has confirmed it will not change the position with regard to the exemption from MOT testing of HGVs (more than 3.5 tonnes) and PSVs (12 or more seats) where these are vehicles constructed or first registered more than 40 years ago. But there is a rider to this exemption as it will not apply to HGVs or pre-1960 buses substantially altered. (The Government has since issued guidance and advice in relation this, tax and registration of vehicles of historical interest and this can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/vehicles-of-historical-interest-substantial-change-guidance.)

For more information about this or other regulatory issues, please contact Tim Ridyard at tim.ridyard@ashtonslegal.co.uk or Tim Norris at tim.norris@ashtonslegal.co.uk.

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