DfT Announces Planned Changes to Zero Emission Vehicle Driver Licensing Flexibility
by Josiah Deakin
Policy and Research Officer
In response to a consultation on driving licence flexibility for alternatively fuelled vehicles, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced plans for several policy adjustments to driver licence flexibility to encourage the take-up of larger Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), including minibuses. The proposed changes look to address challenges around the uptake of ZEVs, including the impact of the heavier nature of ZEVs on the weight restrictions of category B licences. CTA welcomes the changes, many of which align with what the CTA has been calling for. It is important to note that these policies have not yet been enacted, and no date for their enactment has been announced.
The changes include:
Enabling category B licence holders to drive ZEVs up to a MAM of 5 tonnes.
Removing the requirement for category B drivers to have an additional five-hour training for Large ZEVs.
Increasing the towing allowance of ZEVs to align with petrol and diesel vehicles.
Due to their heavier power train, ZEV vehicles are often much heavier than their diesel counterparts, creating issues for organisations wanting to transition to net zero that depend on volunteers with category B licences driving their vehicles. Currently, a volunteer driver with a category B licence is restricted to driving vehicles with a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of 3,500 kg or 4,250 kg when accessible. Due to their heavier nature, many ZEV minibuses exceed this MAM, meaning a category B licence volunteer driver cannot drive them. This situation is making it much harder for many organisations to shift to ZEVs.
DfT is aiming to make this process easier. They will adjust the category B licence weight restrictions to enable these drivers to drive a ZEV with a MAM of up to 5,000 kg. The changes mean that volunteer drivers with only a category B licence will be eligible to drive a wider range of ZEVs, providing more flexibility for operators looking to move the ZEVs.
However, it’s important to be aware that weight adjustment to 5,000 kg will only apply to vehicles that would have a MAM of 3,500 kg or less without the heavier ZEV powertrain. Additionally, all other restrictions for category B licence holders driving these vehicles, such as not being able to be paid to drive, will still apply.
DfT has also committed to further policy changes alongside the maximum weight adjustments. These policies include removing the requirement for category B licence holders to undertake 5 hours of training to drive a ZEV vehicle. Removing this requirement will enable organisations to get a driver behind the wheel of a ZEV and deliver services quicker.
A further change DfT has decided to make is to bring a towing allowance of ZEVs in line with petrol and diesel vehicles. Current Category B licence holders that passed their test after 1st January 1997 are not allowed to tow when driving a vehicle between 3,500 – 4,250 kg. However, through the proposed changes, DfT will allow category B licence holders operating ZEVs weighing 3,500kg – 4,250kg to operate a vehicle and trailer combination of up to a MAM of 7,000 kg.
There are some conditions attached to this policy change. These are that the ZEVs must still not exceed 4,250kg and that the change will apply only to category B licence holders who are eligible to tow a 7,000 kg MAM vehicle trailer combination without the extra powertrain weight in line with recent changes to B+E entitlements.
CTA welcomes these changes in the licence flexibility for ZEVs. For some time, we have been calling for DfT to consider increasing the weight restrictions of category B licence holders driving ZEV minibus to consider the higher weights of this vehicle. CTA are pleased to see that DfT has listened and made the necessary changes.
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