New regulations on transporting goods to EU to hit car and van operators

Operators and drivers of cars, vans and other light goods vehicles are being warned of new regulations that come into effect from 21 May 2022 on transporting goods to the EU.

The rules apply to to both cars and vans towing trailers as well as vans or other light goods vehicles used for hire and reward in the EU, such as pickup trucks Effective from this date, vehicles between 2.5 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes that cross international borders and conduct activities for ‘hire or reward’ will come in scope of operator licensing requirements and will need to obtain an International Operator’s Licence. The rules apply to those transporting goods in the EU, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

They are also being applied to both cars and vans towing trailers as well as vans or other light goods vehicles used for hire and reward in the EU, such as pickup trucks. The regulations cover the gross combination weight of the vehicle and trailer, so if the combined gross weight exceeds 2,500kg (2.5 tonnes) and the combination is used for hire and reward work in the EU, the new rules will apply; even if the vehicle without trailer has a gross vehicle weight of less than 2.5 tonnes. The law does not apply to those transporting goods on a non-commercial basis or using vans for their own purposes, i.e. an electrician using a 3.5-tonne van and carrying their own equipment for their own use would not be “in scope”.

Vehicles in the relevant weight categories operating solely in the UK will not be affected either – although the DfT has not ruled out introducing similar legislation for the UK at some point in the future. But the move could affect operators in Northern Ireland who operate across the Irish border into the Irish Republic, which is an EU member state. The new rules will also apply to international transports where goods are loaded and then unloaded in the European Union, and to driving of UK-operated cabotage in the EU.

The new requirements, which follow a consultation last year, are part of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement and includes a requirement for operators to appoint a designated transport manager with a valid Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (TM CPC) qualification when applying for a licence. Applications for an operator licence will open from March 2022. The Department for Transport has also said that anyone operating loaded goods journeys in and between European member states may also need to share information digitally about journeys in the EU from 2 February 2022.

This includes details of the operator, driver, driver employment, dates of travel, and the vehicle used. The new operator licensing rules are intended to address potential safety issues with vehicles between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes. James Firth, Logistics UK’s head of road freight regulation policy, explained: “It is thought that these vehicles are competing in the domestic haulage market without being subject to the various regulatory requirements which apply to vehicles above 3.5 tonnes.”

But he also urged the DVSA not to let up on other work to address vehicle safety concerns. “The DVSA must ensure that the administration of this new requirement does not distract from its vital work on road safety issues, such as ensuring vehicle roadworthiness and compliance with the drivers’ hours rules; Logistics UK is seeking this reassurance from the Agency.” Firth also reassured operators that it’s not just UK vehicles coming under the increased regulations, which will apply to EU member states too.

“While this new rule is a result of requirements in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) with the EU following Brexit, the same measures would have affected the UK had we remained a member of the EU, and indeed all other EU member states will be subject to these rules from 21 May 2022, and any EU vehicles will have to comply with the requirements while operating in the UK.”

Anyone regularly carrying out work which will bring them in scope of the legislation is also being urged to join either the Road Haulage Association or Logistics UK (which operates the Van Excellence scheme), if they are not already members.

For companies that regularly drive larger vans in EU countries it may also well be worth consulting a transport lawyer for advice, particularly if you’re not sure if the new rules will apply to you.

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