If you run an independent retail business in the UK, you will be well aware of all the hoops you need to jump through and tasks to complete in your day-to-day running. It can sometimes be more than you can count which is why, more often than not, something gets forgotten. But generally, how your stock will move from one place to another is an element you remember, because it is essential to business operations. But with so many independent retailers choosing to deliver their own goods to save money, we are seeing an increase in problems where they simply don’t understand the licensing structure, or what they can and can’t do.
Did you know that HGV driving was largely unregulated until the late 1960’s? It was only when the number of un-roadworthy HGVs causing accidents started getting too high that the series of regulations we know today was brought in. Now you have to train, take tests and hold specific licences in order to drive these large, bulky vehicles. But often when buying your HGV, the dealer won’t tell you that you need a specialist licence to drive it – they will just assume you know. There are 5 categories of HGV licence, each of which allows you to drive a different type of HGV. These are:
- Category C1: A Category C1 vehicle is a rigid body vehicle that consists of 1 complete unit and is between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes in weight.
- Category C1 + E: A Category C1 + E is a small, rigid body vehicle towing a trailer that weighs more than 750 kgs. Category C1 + E vehicles will weigh somewhere between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, with a trailer of up to 750 kgs, and the total weight must not exceed 12 tonnes.
- Category C: A Category C is the entry level licence for most HGV drivers. It covers vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and typically takes the form of the smaller, more compact lorries you see in smaller towns, where larger vehicles can’t always go.
- Category C + E: This class of licence means that you can drive all of the biggest vehicles on the road, including articulated lorries. This can include vehicles with articulated trailers a well.
- Horsebox: This one is self-explanatory – it means you can legally drive a horsebox. This is a rigid body vehicle between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, or a small van towing a trailer. Anyone with a standard licence can take a course to hold this licence individually.
Even if you’re opting to hire an HGV driver, it is important that you understand these licence categories so that you can look for someone with the right kind of licence.
Restricted And Standard Operators
On top of the 5 different categories of HGV licence, you are also classified as a ‘standard’ or a ‘restricted’ operator. The difference between these is basically whose goods you can carry. A standard operator can carry goods for reward or hire, while a restricted operator can only carry their own goods – which is what many independent retailers choose to do. But problems come in when independent retailers don’t realise that they have responsibilities as a restricted operator. There are regulations you must adhere to and if you don’t you could be faced with a large fine or even jail time. Some of these regulations include:
- Keeping the vehicle taxed, insured and within MOT
- To ensure anyone driving the vehicle possesses the correct licence
- To keep the vehicle and any trailers roadworthy
- To obey driver’s hours and tachograph rules
- To do a daily walk-around check of the vehicle before driving, and record the check in writing
- To keep vehicle maintenance and driver check records for 15 months
- Not to operate more than the maximum number of vehicles on the licence
- To operate only from the operating centre(s) on the licence
- To inform the traffic commissioner within 28 days about:
- Any convictions of the operator staff
- A change in maintenance agreements
- A planned change in entity (e.g. from sole trader to limited company)
- A change in financial status (e.g. bankruptcy or administration)
So you see, it’s not as easy as just knowing how to drive. At the LGV Training Company, we work with independent retailers all across the south, helping them to understand what it means to be an HGV driver, and how to stay compliant with all of the regulations. We take them through all of their responsibilities and teach them the proper safety and driving techniques so that they can run their business properly, legally and efficiently. For more information, just get in touch with the team today.