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Rules that apply to UK van drivers

We outline the crucial rules and regulations that apply when driving a van. Knowing them could help you avoid a fine and penalty points...

Volkswagen Transporter 6.1 2020 RHD dashboard

Driving a van in the UK - either for domestic or business use - means you have to follow certain rules. Failing to do so could result in a hefty fine and penalty points on your licence.

Most of these rules are in place because vans tend to be heavier than passenger cars, so their use needs to be regulated to make sure that our roads are kept safe.

If you’re new to van driving, knowing where to start when it comes to these regulations can be confusing. So we’ve put together this guide outlining the main things you need to be aware of.

Driving licence

Driving licence

You can drive any van up to a weight of 3500kg on a standard driving licence. For anything bigger up to 7500kg, you may need to pass additional tests to have higher categories added to your licence if you got it after 1 January 1997. This is also true if you need to tow a trailer with your van.

If you’re caught driving a van without the correct licence, you could be fined up to £1000 and be endorsed with 3-6 penalty points.

Van interior

Weight limits

All vans have a design gross weight, sometimes referred to as the gross vehicle weight or laden weight: this is the maximum a van can weigh inclusive of the driver, passengers, fuel and any cargo it may be carrying. You can find this on the van’s VIN plate.

It’s also important that any weight in the payload area is spread evenly throughout the payload area, with the heaviest items or goods kept as low as possible. Everything should be firmly secured to stop it moving around while you’re driving.

You could end up with a £300 fine and a court summons if you’re found to be in breach of these rules.

Renault Master ZE interior

Driving restrictions

This is perhaps the most confusing aspect of driving a van.

For vans weighing less than 3.5 tonnes, domestic rules state that you must not drive for more than 10 hours over a 24-hour period. You also can’t exceed the maximum of 11 hours’ duty in a single day: this is the total time you spend driving and working for an employer, but doesn’t include rest or breaks.

If you drive for less than four hours on each day, duty rules don’t apply. But if you drive for more than four hours on a single day, duty rules apply for the entire week. There are some exemptions to duty rules for certain professionals, such as doctors, midwives and vets, among others.

For vehicles exceeding 3.5 tonnes, EU rules apply. You may only drive these for nine hours per day, although you may push this up to ten hours in a day twice per week. You can also only drive a maximum of 56 hours in a week, or 90 hours in a fortnight.

As for breaks, you must rest for 45 minutes for every four-and-a-half hours of driving: this can be split into two stops, as long as the first is at least 15 minutes long. You must also log 11 consecutive hours of rest between shifts (or as little as nine hours, three times per week), with at least 45 hours of continuous ‘weekly rest’ six days after your previous weekly rest.

Again, there are many more caveats here. It’s worth reading the official guidance in full so that you understand the small print before setting off on any journey.

Ford Transit Custom front

Speed limits

On single carriageways vans are not allowed to exceed 50mph, while on dual carriageways the figure is 60mph. In built up areas and on motorways, the standard limits of 30mph and 70mph apply respectively.

Any Car-Derived Van (CVD; the Renault ZOE van is one such vehicle) can stick to the posted limits, just like an ordinary car. More details on van speed limits are here.


Look out for vertical double yellow lines on street kerbs: these indicate that loading and unloading is not permitted at any time. Single vertical yellow lines show that there are time restrictions in place, usually indicated by nearby signs.

Some roads have designated areas marked ‘loading’, with a painted white box outlining where it is safe to do this.

2019 vauxhall vivaro life red front

Tax, insurance and maintenance

Just like any car, your van must be taxed and MOT’d annually, the latter after the vehicle is three years old. You also need insurance: commercial cover is required to protect any goods or equipment you leave in your van.

You are responsible for ensuring that your van is safe to drive, and it’s recommended that you check your vehicle daily for any deficiencies. The police and the DVSA have the power to carry out spot checks and stop you from driving until any problem is fixed. You can also be levied with three penalty points and a fine of up to £2500.

EV grants

Interested in driving a low- or zero-emissions - van? The government’s plug-in vehicle grant will cover 20% of the purchase price (up to a value of £8000) of any van that emits less than 75g/km of CO2 and can travel at least 10 miles without any emissions whatsoever.

This includes the Ford Transit Custom PHEV, Peugeot ePartner, Renault Kangoo ZE and several other models. You can read all our van reviews here.

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