Confusion over the licensing requirements for electric vans shows the need for a more considered fleet driver training policy to ensure road safety standards are maintained as vehicle weights spiral upwards.
RED’s comments come as the Government looks to make further changes to the sector in a bid to drive up adoption of electric vans by doing away with the need for drivers to undertake five hours of training before operating electric vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, and aligning the towing capacity for an electric van driver with the new car and trailer regulations.
The result is drivers will be allowed to drive a vehicle combination of up to seven tonnes, and several metres in length, without mandated training. However, the changes raise several questions which have so far gone unanswered, including:
– Do these vehicles need a tachograph and 60mph speed limiter?
– What is the rule on driver hours?
– Do drivers need a CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) if they are travelling more than 100km from their depot?
Commenting on the move, RED Corporate Driver Training CEO, Seb Goldin, said: “This is yet another example of Government taking away established safety protocols to suit a particular agenda, in this case driving demand for EVs.
“Safety should not be something that can be dropped when it doesn’t suit – the thought of a newly qualified car driver being handed the keys to a big electric van with a large trailer on the back is frightening. It’s not just about being eligible – the question should be are they experienced and knowledgeable enough to drive it.”
Goldin believes that businesses should assess what vehicles their employees will be driving over the next few years and take action to ensure the risk to their fleet and other road users is managed as electric commercial vehicles go beyond 4.25 tonnes.
He added: “These EV panel vans are heavy already and it won’t be long before electric vans weigh more than 4.25 tonnes because they will need extra battery packs to make them commercially viable to businesses.
“The best solution is for businesses to assess their drivers and put those eligible forward for the more encompassing C1 training, which allows employees to drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes GVW.
Seb added: “Putting drivers through C1 training opens up a host of new options for businesses and also future-proofs its operations and commercial vehicle procurement rangefor that extra investment. “It will give them a fleet of drivers qualified to safely and economically d rive a fleet of vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.
“This will allow businesses to be more flexible in their operations, countering driver absences and being prepared to adapt working practices if a new contract demands it.”
Seb added: “Businesses are looking at a period of huge change in the years ahead as we transition to more EVs on fleet, so it makes sense to get ahead of the game and future-proof as much of your operation as you can.”