Engineering plant consultation throws up modest consensus

Government proposals to regulate the operations of road-going engineering plant have won mixed support.


The Department for Transport (DfT) has published the summary findings of its consultation on plans to drop exemptions for certain types of engineering plant from the goods vehicle operator licencing regime.1

The DfT will now consider the responses to the consultation and is expected to decide if any changes will be made to current exemptions before the end of the year.

While only 13 respondents were in favour of wholesale removal of engineering plant exemptions, with 41 against, there was a 16 to 7 agreement that some kind of review was needed. Typically, respondents with a vested interest supported the status quo for themselves but recognised others ought to be regulated. However, the majority of trade associations are in favour of removing the exemption relating to those vehicles that carry goods.

Local authorities felt that all categories of engineering plant listed in the consultation paper should be included in the goods vehicles regulations, while the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and National Farmers Union (NFU) felt that any vehicle that is operated commercially on a HGV chassis should be included.

Some respondents recognised the anomaly of having two types of vehicles engaged in providing concrete – with drum mixers being operated under operator licensing and volumetric mixers being exempt. Road Tech Group for example stated that “volumetric concrete mixers being a very good example. There is a case to be answered that they are in direct competition with regular barrel type concrete mixers”.

DfT’s summary of responses says: “It is noted that there was a broad consensus that for vehicles that both carry and deliver a product there is little justification for these vehicle not being operated under an operator’s licence.”

While there is some discussion on the merits of bringing volumetric concrete mixers into the regulatory regime, for reasons of fair competition, there appears to have been little response on the issue mobile cranes, which are also currently exempt as engineering plant. This is despite high profile traffic accidents involving old mobile cranes that are not required to undergo independent annual roadworthiness checks (MoT tests).

The NFU was keen to assert that telehandlers should not be classified as cranes, saying: “.. if mobile cranes are to be included within the scope of operator licensing, the regulations should reflect that agricultural materials handlers are classified as agricultural motor vehicles and therefore should not be subject to operator licensing”.