Commercial vehicles weighing less than 3.5-tonnes fall outside of the scope of a DVSA operator licence. They still need frequent, scheduled checks under law, but they are not subject to the same kind of more stringent regulation.
However, to some extent, 3.5 tonnes is an artificial line. Vehicles do not suddenly become more prone to safety issues when they hit this weight. We believe, based on what we see in working with many fleets, is that it is good practice to adopt more of a graduated regime.
Certainly, some of the elements of an O licence, such as pre-use defect inspections and more regular safety checks, should arguably be adopted for sub-3.5 tonne vans, even though they are not strictly legally necessary.
Part of the problem lies with the sheer diversity of LCVs now available. You don’t have to look back too far to a time when there were only really three or four basic types of van in the sub-3.5 tonne sector. Now there are dozens and some are designed for pretty intensive use comparable to a larger vehicle.
Also, we are seeing vans on many fleets run too much higher mileages than in the past. A few years ago, relatively few LCVs reached much more than 100,000 miles because they simply gave up mechanically and were scrapped.
With the rise of better-made vehicles and higher mileage fleets, such as home delivery operations, there are a comparatively high number of vans around that have covered 200,000 miles or much more.
All of these trends are converging to a point where we believe there is a strong argument for more checks, more thoroughly made, more often. There is unlikely to be a downwards extension of DVSA regulation but this is no excuse for fleets not to look at instances where exceeding their strict legal responsibilities might be appropriate.