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What about recovery vehicles?

Do you know the rules for recovery vehicles?

It’s been a while since we last mentioned recovery vehicles, so we thought we should give you an update on what’s going on in the world of recovery.

What is a ‘recovery vehicle’? According to Dyne Solicitors , “’Recovery vehicle’ means 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.

A vehicle is not a recovery vehicle if at any time it is used for a purpose other than
  • the recovery of a disabled vehicle
  • the removal of a disabled vehicle from the place where it became disabled to premises at which it is to be repaired or scrapped
  • the removal of a disabled vehicle from premises to which it was taken for repair to other premises at which it is to be repaired or scrapped
  • carrying fuel and other liquids required for its propulsion and tools and other articles required for the operation of, or in connection with, apparatus designed to lift, tow or transport a disabled vehicle, and
  • any purpose prescribed for the purposes of this sub-paragraph by regulations made by the Secretary of State”

What is a ‘disabled vehicle’? The term ‘disabled vehicle, according to VOSA (now DVSA), should be given its ordinary meaning: i.e. ‘rendered incapable of action or use’. A leading authority on the issue is a 1983 High Court decision, which decided that a ‘disabled vehicle’ was not only a vehicle which suffered from a significant disability but also a vehicle which had broken down, and had broken down because of that disability. The High Court has also held that a vehicle which suffers from a minor disability is not a disabled vehicle. Somebody had the idea to remove the rotor arm to disable it. The High Court decided that “[the cars] were quite obviously not disabled vehicles. Disabled vehicles are vehicles which suffer some disability other than simply having the rotor arm removed’. VOSA has expressed some views on the position. The following situations do not, in VOSA’s view, constitute recovery:-
  • Picking up cars or MOT failures from car auctions
  • Picking up cars from Scrap yards
  • Removing abandoned wheel clamped/abandoned vehicles from a road, unless that removal is under the instruction of the police or local authority. VOSA advise that their list is not exhaustive but should be considered as a good indication of what activities may or may not require an Operator’s Licence when in the recovery game. A “Recovery Vehicle” is exempt from the requirement for an operator’s license to be held.

According to the guide-for-recovery-operations, ‘you need an operator’s licence if you transport vehicles outside the definition of recovery, even if this is only for a short period such as a few weeks or even just one day.’ If the recovery vehicle will be used exclusively for the removal of a “Disabled vehicle” either from a place where it became disabled to a place where it is to be repaired or scrapped; or, from premises to which it was taken for repair to other premises at which it is to be repaired or scrapped, this would meet the criteria for recovery and an operator’s licence will not be required. A goods vehicle operator’s licence would be required if a vehicle is repaired and returned to the customer as this return journey is not classed as recovery. The number of vehicles authorised to be carried is dictated by the Department for Transport and is currently set at two including any being carried on a spectacle lift. Operators should be aware that the Government is considering removing the exemption for recovery vehicles from Operator Licences. A consultation on this law change opened at the end of 2014. If a decision is made to change the law then presumably there will be a lead in period before a licence is required but operators should be alive to this potential law change and should seek advice at an early stage.

July 2017

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