Do you use your van for towing? You might be breaking the law, without knowing it. Dan Powell of Honest John Vans explains the rules.
Thousands of builders could be breaking the law, because they don’t understand the rules that surround tachographs. Put simply, a tachograph is a device that’s fitted to a van or pick-up to record information about the driver’s time, speed and distance at the wheel. And while they might sound intrusive, they play a vital role in road safety by ensuring employers follow the rules when it comes to drivers’ working hours.
Hang on, I’m a builder, I don’t need a tachograph
This is where problems start, because many businesses and sole traders assume that tachograph rules don’t apply to them. And while it’s true that light vans weighing less than 3.5 tonnes don’t need a tachograph on their own, it’s easy to fall foul of the rules if you tow something behind your van – because the trailer (and its contents) are effectively added to the overall weight of the vehicle.
How can I tell what my vehicle’s weight limit is?
Builders are legally obliged to fit a tachograph if the vehicle in question weighs more than 3.5 tonnes. This is often referred to as the gross vehicle weight (GVW) or the maximum authorised mass (MAM).
You can find your vehicle’s weight limits in the owner’s manual. They are usually detailed on a plate or sticker somewhere on the vehicle itself. This might be on the body behind the driver’s door, on the back of the fuel filler cap or in the engine bay, for example. It should also be possible to find out a trailer’s weight from its owner’s manual or on the trailer itself.
What if I go over the vehicle’s weight limit by accident?
You are breaking the law. It’s the responsibility of the vehicle operator to ensure it is legally compliant so if there is any question about the weight of the vehicle and/or the trailer, check before you set off. The DVSA can prosecute drivers and companies that do not obey the rules.
Are there any exemptions to the tachograph rules?
You do not need a tachograph if you are making a personal journey and driving a vehicle up to 7.5 tonnes (though you would need an appropriate licence to drive a vehicle that size). Tachographs exist to help enforce the laws around driving for work so they don’t concern personal journeys – though you may need to prove the trip is not for commercial purposes if questioned.
A van or van and trailer combination that does not exceed 7.5 tonnes is also given an exemption for carrying materials, equipment or machinery for the course of the driver’s work if they do not travel more than 62 miles from the radius of the vehicle’s base. This is on the condition that driving the vehicles does not constitute the driver’s main activity and the goods are not carried for hire or reward. This would apply to builders carrying tools or materials for their own use, for example.
I’m still not 100 per cent sure, what should I do?
Still confused? Don’t leave it to chance. In-depth information about tachographs can be found on the DVSA’s website. You can also call them on 0300 123 9000 or email email@example.com.