The Law

24 February

| You’re running a business and have a fleet of vehicles. No matter whether that’s 2, 200 or 200 you need to ensure you’re on the right side of the law.

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1. Speed limits

It seems obvious that your drivers need to know and stick to speed limits, but it’s worth reviewing your understanding of the different limits for different vehicle types and how weight can change those limits:

2. Smoking 

  • Businesses must display ‘no smoking’ signs in all vehicles. The signs must be at least 70mm in diameter in England and 75mm in Wales and N Ireland, and displayed in each compartment of the vehicle in which people can sit. No smoking signs in Wales must be in both Welsh and English
  • Businesses can be fined up to £200 if they don’t display a sign, reduced to £150 if paid in 15 days or up to £1,000 if convicted by a court
  • Smoking isn’t allowed in any work vehicle that more than one person uses, eg:
        - Taxis
        - Buses
        - Vans
        - Goods vehicles used by more than one driver
        - Company cars used by more than one employee
        - A worker can smoke in a company car that only they use if their employer agrees.

 What is and isn’t covered?

Covered:

  • a car shared by one or more employees but only ever used by one at a time (a pool car) is covered by the ban and must be smoke free at all times;
  • a chauffeur-driven car is covered by the ban and must be smoke free at all times;
  • a van used by two employees, one who smokes and another who doesn't, is covered by the ban and must be smoke free at all times;
  • a vehicle used by two-plus employees, all of whom smoke, is covered by the ban and must be smoke free at all times;

Exempt:

  • a company car used solely by one employee and not used by anyone else for work either as a driver or passenger;
  • a privately-owned car used occasionally for business purposes;
  • a vehicle that would otherwise be smoke free but which has a roof that can be stowed or removed will not be required to be smoke free when the roof is completely stowed or removed.

The rules vary, so businesses operating across the UK need to be aware of the differences.

3. Overloading

The police and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) have the power to stop and carry out checks to ensure your vehicle is not overloaded with weight.

If an officer checks your vehicle and finds it to be above the maximum permitted vehicle weight – otherwise known as the model’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) – you will be fined, and in the vast majority of cases, they will prevent you from driving any further.

What’s the legal limit?

Allowed weight = Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) less kerb weight

A van’s kerb weight refers to how much the van weighs on its own, with a full tank of petrol but with no additional passengers or items – find this out in the vehicle manual, or online.

How much can overloading cost?

If found to be overloaded you will receive a fixed penalty fine, the amount of which depends on how overloaded you are. 

4. Parking and unloading

 Restrictive covenants for residential parking. Asking/allowing your drivers to take their work vans home might save on travel time but they need to be aware that some housing estates have restrictive covenants preventing commercial vehicles and caravans from being parked overnight – this could be for a set number of years or indefinitely but it’s worth checking – or your employees risk legal action.

It may seem obvious but when it comes to both parking and loading/unloading commercially used vehicles, your drivers need to follow the rules. Here are a few you may not be fully aware of:

  • Loading and unloading (but not parking) is allowed on double and single yellow lines in accordance with local time limits, BUT, you must be able to prove you are acting within the rules for loading and unloading: 
       - The vehicle must be moved as soon as the process is complete
       -  Loading includes moving the goods to and from the premises, checks on goods delivered and paperwork
  • Yellow ‘blips’ or ‘markings’ on the kerb. Two blips means no unloading at any time, one blips mean unloading is restricted at certain times
  • You may enter a bus lane to load or unload where not prohibited by a clearway if you stick to the signed times

5. Driver hours

There are many rules covering driver hours, rest breaks and weekly and fortnightly driving limits.

In summary, the current limits on drivers’ hours or vehicles carrying goods (including dual purpose vehicles) where the weight exceeds 3.5 tonnes as specified by the EU rules are:

  • A break of no less than 45 minutes must be taken after no more than 4.5 hours of driving. The break can be divided into 2 periods - the first at least 15 minutes long and the second at least 30 minutes - taken over the 4.5 hours.
  • A maximum of 9 hours daily driving, extendable to 10 hours no more than twice a week.
  • A maximum of 56 hours driving per week.
  • A maximum of 90 hours in any 2 week period.
  • A minimum of 11 hours daily rest, which can be reduced to a minimum of 9 hours no more than 3 times between weekly rests. May be taken in 2 periods, the first at least 3 hours long and the second at least 9 hours long. The rest must be completed within 24 hours of the end of the last daily or weekly rest period.

 

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