Up to 3.5 tonnes GVW
The lightest category of up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight, (GVW) covers all panel vans that can be driven on any normal car licence in the UK, without the need to conform to the extra rules and regulations that larger vans or truck need, such as Operator’s licences or regular inspections. In the UK we would describe this as ‘up to a Transit van size’ (However you can now buy a Transit over 3.5 tonnes, but not a lot of people know that). Note that GVW is the weight of the commercial vehicle AND the load, not the amount of load you can put on it.
3.51 to 7.5 tonnes GVW
There are an increasing number of van manufacturers making heavy vans – these now fall into this category, but the majority of this segment is made up of 7.5 tonnes GVW trucks. It is this weight level that was the maximum that any person with a full driving licence could get in and drive. Therefore there were lots of drivers available who did not have to take another test for a licence to drive a truck.
The government changed the rules for new drivers that means that anyone under 30 will have to take an additional test to drive anything bigger than 3.5 tonnes GVW. The people over this age are still allowed to drive 7.5 tonners, but the number of people willing and able to drive these vehicles has shrunk.
This is one of the reasons that this sector is a quarter of what it once was – at one time there were more 7.5 tonners sold in the UK than any other type of truck. Annual registrations averaged just under 14,000 units in the four years to 2000 and falling to just over 5,000 units in 2009. Go back even further to the 1980’s and annual registrations of 19,000 units were not unheard of.
It isn’t just the lack of drivers that is causing the shrinkage, no tachographs, no 6-weekly inspections, no operators licence for 3.5 tonners make the shift to smaller vehicles inevitable.
There is a double-whammy, however, since any operators who cannot manage with 3.5 tonners decide that they will go for a heavier truck still – the payload of a bodied 7.5 tonner can be as low as three tonnes, whereas go to 12 tonnes and payloads of seven tonnes are not impossible. You have the same rules and regulations and issues with drivers, but you can carry more than twice as much in a similar looking vehicle with similar maneuverability.
7.51 to 18 Tonnes GVW
A category on the increase, thanks to the demise of the 7.5 tonner, the middle weight rigids below 18 tonnes GVW (the maximum weight permitted on two axles) has always been the territory of the local authority – 12 tonne tippers and traffic management vehicles. More and more operators are now buying trucks in this weight range, which is dominated in the UK by DAF – taking more than 70% of the UK market for some weights.
At the full 18 tonnes, DAF are by far and away the market leader once more with twice as many truck registered in the UK as second placed Mercedes-Benz. The 18-tonne market is important for the distribution sector – especially the refrigerated market, delivering to local food stores.
18.1 to 32 Tonnes GVW
There will be some lightweight tractor units for urban deliveries falling onto this category, but the majority will be multi axle rigids. 6x2 rigids take the maximum GVW to 26 tonnes, whilst the ‘8-wheelers’ go to 32 tonnes GVW.
Trucks running at 26 tonnes will typically be on heavier distribution work, sometimes with high-powered engines and a towing eye for drawbar operation. 8x4 trucks on the other hand are almost exclusively used for tipping operation with a few exceptions such as hookloaders.
32.01 Tonnes GVW and Above
In this weight range we are looking at articulated vehicle – the vast majority being tractor units, although drawbar cobinations can run at 40 or 44 tonnes GVW.
Most tractor units in the UK are running at 44 tonnes operation with 3 axles (6x2 tractor units are now the largest market segment led in the UK by DAF in 2012) . The market for tractor units is a lot closer than for rigids where DAF reigns supreme only 5% of the market separated the top five manufacturers of 6x2 tractor units in 2012.
Anything over 44 tonnes falls into the specialist category of heavy haulage – special permits are required to operate a truck and trailer combination of 150 tonnes GVW.