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Do Recovery Trucks Need an Operator Licence?

The recovery industry plays a critical role in assisting broken-down vehicles and ensuring they reach their intended destinations for repair or scrappage. However, the legal requirements surrounding the operation of recovery vehicles have long been a source of confusion for operators. Various classifications of recovery vehicles, along with their different uses, have contributed to the ambiguity in the legislation.
In this blog post, we aim to shed light on the legal requirements concerning recovery vehicles, operator licences, maintenance, and safety inspections. While many recovery vehicles may not require an operator’s licence, routine maintenance and safety inspections should remain a priority to ensure the safety and efficiency of operations.


Defining Recovery Vehicles for Vehicle Excise and Registration


According to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, a recovery vehicle is “a vehicle which is constructed or permanently adapted primarily for any one or more of the purposes of lifting, towing, and transporting a disabled vehicle.” This definition encompasses a wide range of vehicles, from heavy recovery trucks to flatbeds with ramps and winches, to even transit vans with tow dollies.


To be considered a recovery vehicle, it must be used for one of the following purposes:

1. Recovery of a broken-down (disabled) vehicle.
2. Removal of a broken-down vehicle to a repair or scrap yard.
3. Transporting fuel, liquids, and tools required for its operation.
4. Removing a vehicle from the road at the request of law enforcement or local authorities
It’s important to note that a broken-down vehicle is one that cannot reasonably be driven due to mechanical failure or dangerous components. Deliberately disabling a vehicle, such as disconnecting the battery, does not qualify it as disabled for recovery purposes. Recovery of broken-down vehicles typically applies to roadside scenarios or vehicles located within private premises.


Understanding the 100km Radius Threshold


One of the complexities in determining the applicability of EU drivers’ hours and tachograph rules to recovery operations is the 100km radius threshold. If a driver operates within 100km of their base, they are exempt from certain EU rules. However, if the driver needs to travel outside this radius, the rules come into effect.
For instance, if a driver is out of scope for most of the day due to operating within the 100km radius but is then required to travel beyond the threshold, they become subject to EU drivers’ hours and tachograph rules. In such cases, drivers must keep a tachograph record and manually record their work until the point of using the tachograph.


Operator Licensing and Exemptions


Recovery operators may find themselves in a complex situation, as some operations fall within the scope of operator licensing, while others do not. Vehicles used by the police for recovery purposes, for example, are exempt from operator licensing. However, if a non-police recovery operator transports vehicles outside the definition of recovery, even for a short period, they require an operator’s licence.
Dual-purpose vehicles, such as 4×4 all-terrain vehicles or estate cars used for both goods and passenger transportation, are also exempt from operator licensing.


Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs


Recovery vehicle drivers must comply with drivers’ hours and tachograph rules, which govern driving hours, breaks, and rest periods for commercial goods vehicles. Vehicles with a maximum permitted gross vehicle weight (GVW) over 3,500kg or vehicle and trailer combinations exceeding 3,500kg GVW are generally required to have tachographs fitted.
However, there are exemptions for certain operations, such as drivers of specialised breakdown vehicles operating within 100km of their base. These drivers are subject to GB domestic drivers’ hours rules.


Working Time Rules


Drivers subject to EU drivers’ hours rules are also required to comply with the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005, while drivers under GB domestic drivers’ hours rules are governed by the Working Time Regulations 1998. These regulations outline working time, rest periods, and other provisions to ensure the safety and well-being of drivers.


Importance of Roadworthiness and Maintenance


While recovery vehicles may enjoy exemptions from certain legislative aspects, maintaining their roadworthiness remains crucial. Regular basic checks should be conducted before each operation to ensure vehicles are safe to use and comply with legal requirements. Ensuring proper maintenance will not only prevent legal issues but also contribute to efficient and reliable recovery operations.
In conclusion, the recovery industry operates in a unique regulatory environment with various exemptions and complexities. While not all recovery vehicles require an operator’s licence, adherence to maintenance, safety inspections, and compliance with relevant rules and regulations should remain a top priority for operators to uphold safety standards and the smooth functioning of recovery operations.

Thinking about running your own recovery business? you will need to know the legal requirements surrounding the operation of recovery vehicles and the rules around drivers hours.

NTP provide the UKs leading drivers hours course. Find out more about this course and how it can help you by clicking here 

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