19 December 2017

O-Licence exemption on alternatively fuelled vans to increase to 4.25 tonnes

The government has decided to introduce an exemption from goods vehicle operator licensing for alternatively fuelled vehicles up to 4.25 tonnes to help incentivise the use of cleaner fuel vans, while avoiding the regulatory ‘payload penalty’ associated with heavier powertrains, including battery weights.

The move follows industry lobbying and a public consultation that also sees ‘the common-sense step’ of bringing electric vans under normal roadworthiness testing rules, which means they will be subject to an MOT unless first registered before 1st March, 2015.

Operator licences, known as O-Licences, are required by businesses when operating vehicles above 3.5 tonnes. But the government has decided to:

  • Remove the current exemption for all electrically-propelled vehicles, except for those first registered before 1st March, 2015; and
  • To introduce a new exemption for alternatively-fuelled vehicles up to 4.25 tonnes, that are not used internationally.

The MOT exemption is being removed because, said the government, it ‘would correct an anomalous and historical exemption, which dated from a time when electric goods vehicles were not of normal vehicle construction standards or capable of travelling at normal speeds’.

In addition, said the government: ‘It would be important for avoiding the creation of a regulatory disincentive to the uptake of heavier electric vans, for example of around four tonnes, once the equivalent exemption from roadworthiness testing applicable to electrically-propelled heavy goods vehicles (above 3.5 tonnes) was removed’. The latter change was announced in September, with effect from 20th May, 2018.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman said amending legislation to bring the changes into effect would be introduced. However, no date has been given for when the new rules will apply.

The National Franchised Dealers’ Association (NFDA) Commercial Vehicle sector welcomed the move.

Sue Robinson, director of the NFDA Truck and Van division, said: ‘Echoing the NFDA’s consultation response, the government has recognised that for alternatively fuelled vans to be commercially viable, vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 4.25 tonnes must be treated in exactly the same manner as a 3.5 tonne GVW vehicle.

‘We welcome this decision and acknowledge that is a step in the right direction in encouraging alternatively fuelled vans to become part of van fleets.’