9 new laws coming in 2020 that van drivers need to know

Driving laws are constantly evolving for all sorts of reasons – they need to keep pace with increasingly widespread technology, as well as public attitudes and culture shifts. To varying degrees, all three of these factors have been key influences in the introduction of several new driving laws which commercial van drivers and fleet managers will need to know going forward into 2020. In fact, drivers of fridge vans and other commercial drivers stand to be particularly affected, as key factors such as climate change concerns and Brexit will start to change the standards that new vehicles are required to meet, and how they can be used.

With that in mind, our team here at CoolKit have done the hard work for you, collating some of the most critical new laws coming in this year. Below, we’ve organised them into two main categories: administrative and operational.

Changes to administrative standards

Rising car tax

Business owners and private drivers alike will probably have already noticed their car tax rise by £5 this year, in line with inflation. However, as we’ve touched upon above, businesses with ageing fleets may well find that their annual tax bills can be as much as an additional £15 (or even higher), because the government is trying to encourage the phasing out of these older, more polluting vehicles.

Driving permits and green cards may become necessary

Even at the time of writing, just a week or so short of the January 31st deadline, there’s still a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding the topic of Brexit. In the event of a no-deal scenario, current UK driving licences will probably be invalid on the continent. That means if you regularly find yourself driving to the EU (or your employees do), you may have to spend £5.50 on an international permit, which will be available to purchase from the Post Office.

New MOT rules set to be enforced

To stay in line with the government’s mission of raising the general standard of vehicles on our roads, the standards for the current MOT test are also changing. Now, the test will check:

  • Under-inflated tyres
  • Brake warning lights and worn or missing pads or discs
  • Contaminated brake fluid
  • Reversing lights (for vehicles built after September 2009)
  • Daytime running lights (for vehicles newer than March 2018)

van wheel

The categories are also becoming tougher as well. Not only could your commercial vehicle fail its test, but it could also be officially classified ‘dangerous’, and won’t be permitted back on the roads until it’s repaired. The new categories now include:

  • Pass – meets minimum legal standards
  • Advisory – denotes an issue which could become more serious in future
  • Minor – no immediate threat to safety or environmental health, but should be prioritised for repair
  • Major – tangible and significant risk to safety or environmental health. Automatic fail
  • Dangerous – tangible and immediate threat to road safety or the environment. Automatic fail.

Changes to driving laws

The loophole closes in mobile phone laws

A recent high-profile court case has prompted a change in the law regarding using a mobile while behind the wheel. Now, even non-drivers know it’s illegal to use a phone to call or text someone while driving. However, this law dates back to 2003, when that was more or less everything that mobile phones could do. This obviously left a massive loophole, and that loophole is the main reason why the law is now being changed to account for using a mobile to browse the internet, film any surroundings, take pictures, or scroll through playlists. The penalty is the same: a fixed penalty notice of £200 and six points. However, it may get stricter in future.

Smart motorways tighten up penalties for reckless drivers

Smart motorways have been steadily rolled out over the UK over the last several years, which means even if you’re not a commercial refrigerated van driver, there’s a decent chance you’ve already driven on one yourself. These use a combination of automated technology and human monitors to actively control the flow of traffic, with the aim of easing congestion. At times, this involves closing lanes, signified by a large red X displayed on the gantries overhead. Drivers deemed to be ignoring these warnings can be fined £100 and given three points on their licence, but as the rollout nears completion it’s likely that these penalties will only get stricter (just as they will with mobile phones).

Meanwhile, in response to public feedback, Highways England plans to start building more emergency refuge areas across the smart motorway network. By doing this, it’s aiming to reduce physical risk for anyone who might suffer a breakdown (or a collision) too far away from a refuge area.

On a related note, a recent change in the law means that though learner drivers were previously prohibited from driving on motorways, they can now do so freely, as long as they’re accompanied by a qualified instructor in a car with dual controls. That means experienced van drivers might see a noticeable upswing in the amount of learner drivers they encounter while out on the roads.

Low Emission Zone set to expand to new cities

In April 2019, London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone came into force. As the successor to the T-charge scheme, it aims to tackle London’s notoriously poor air quality by levelling increasingly heavy charges on the most polluting vehicles passing through certain areas of London. Right now, the ULEZ affects all of central London, but will ultimately expand to Greater London too.

Now, other cities are set to follow suit. Birmingham expects its own Clean Air Zone to start in July of this year, with an extra £8 a day charged to vehicles not meeting the standards. Leeds City Council was due to have its own in place by the 6th of January, but this scheme is currently on indefinite hold. The other cities said to be considering their own plans includes Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Newcastle, Derby Edinburgh, Sheffield and Greater Manchester.

Parking surcharges

This is another London initiative that’s set to be adopted by the nation at large. For decades now, London has had strict restrictions against pavement parking. It’s annoying enough for most pedestrians, but campaigners argue that it poses a particular risk to the vulnerable, elderly and disabled, as in many cases they’re forced to make their way round the car on the other side (on the road, in other words), which puts them at unnecessary risk. Authorities expect a fair amount of pushback to the extension of this rule to other cities in the UK, though, so we’re likely to see a more gradual adoption rather than a sudden nationwide shift.

These are the laws which are likely to be the most relevant to commercial drivers and fleet managers, but our list isn’t exhaustive; there are also other incoming regulations that you might want to conduct your own research on – such as the speed limiting technology that will soon become mandatory in all UK vehicles from 2020 onwards. However, whatever the future holds in store for drivers and managers, one thing seems clear – from a business perspective, upgrading your fleet is never a bad idea.

That’s exactly what we can help with here at CoolKit – we have an extensive stock of fridge vans and freezer vans which you can browse right here on our site. Our in-depth expertise also allows us to offer a number of specialist services, such as conversions and bodywork. If you’ve got any questions or need any advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0808 252 8983. We’re here to help!

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