VAN drivers are a special breed and with more than 4 million vans on the UK’s ever more congested roads with constantly growing business pressures and regulations it’s not surprising that some can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. So here are some tips on how van drivers can keep out of trouble.
The fact is that you’re not just a driver dealing with motoring law compliance, you are also operating a machine and handling goods and so there are Health and Safety issues including Duty of Care. Accidents happen and when they do — you need good legal experts.
Under new court guidelines, breach of the Duty of Care laws can result in companies being fined up to £10 million – it all depends on the size of their turnover. Even very small operations with turnover less than £2 million can be fined up to £450,000, which could wipe them out of existence.
The incident resulting in court action and/or possibly a substantial civil claim can arise through a driving error or crime, incorrect vehicle loading methods or poor vehicle maintenance – and the driver is inevitably the one in the firing line for all of these when something goes wrong.
Below are a few ways van drivers can keep out of trouble.
Obey the laws on mobile phone use
Research shows that the use of a hand-held mobile phone can critically impair driving, which is why it is against the law for taking/making calls and texting or reading emails. If you do not have a hands-free system, keep the phone out of reach or turn it off.
The penalties are being increased, both financially and in terms of the licence penalty points that can quickly put you off the road and out of a job, because such behaviour has been proved to result in fatal accidents.
Know your driving laws
Okay you’ve passed your driving test and so you proved you had some knowledge of the motoring laws, but laws change and you need to keep abreast of them. Younger drivers will now need to have passed extra tests if they want to tow or to drive a larger van or minibus.
Speeding is one area of confusion: For cars and motorhomes the usual limit on most single carriageway rural roads is 60mph but its 50mph for vans; on dual carriageways it’s 70mph but 60mph for vans. But ignorance is no defence and the penalties stack up and raise your insurance costs for up to five years.
Talking of insurance it’s mandatory in the UK and the rest of Europe, not an option. Driving uninsured carries very high penalties. You need the right policy for your needs and so you need to talk to a specialist insurer and get the cover you need for the work that you do.
Avoid lending the vehicle
Unlike many car policies, an individual van insurance policy such as for a one-man business, generally is specific to that driver/vehicle only, and does not extend to driving other vehicles. It is therefore unwise to lend the van to a friend, say to move furniture, without 100% proof that they have appropriate insurance. Without it the van is not insured for their use and you are responsible for any claims.
Similarly there are likely to be constraints on private use of vans in larger businesses.