If users of the UK’s roads thought that things were getting back to some sort of normality after two years of disruption, they should think again. For a number of reasons, British vehicle owners and motorists of all kinds will have to beware of changes being introduced in May 2022. Failure to be aware of any and all of these new measures may see unwary drivers and riders hit with fines and other penalties, often for going about their business as they always have done. As the Treasury looks for ways to replenish its coffers, motorists should try to ensure that this does not come at their personal expense.
The planned changes for UK motorists will come at a time when many are still reeling from changes to the Highway Code. These were introduced at the end of January 2022, to absolutely no publicity whatsoever. This caused a great deal of displeasure among the driving public; displeasure that was fully endorsed by motoring organizations. At the time of their introduction, surveys showed that fully 7 million drivers had no idea of the changes. No figures are available, but experts predicted that many thousands of motorists would faced fines for breaking rules they didn’t know existed.
It is against this background that a raft of new changes are to be introduced. While the government ran a publicity campaign after the event, it is hoped that changes due in May will be publicised in advance. This is especially important because, even if drivers stick to the new rules, in many cases doing so will mean added expense. Although not all drivers will be equally effected, four sets of rule changes will hit owners of everything from HGVs downwards. These changes relate to goods transported to the EU, Clean Air Zones, e-scooters and the MOT test.
For a significant number of motorists, the implementation of Brexit will have financial implications after 21st May. From this date, anyone driving a van, light goods vehicle, or anything towing a trailer will need a standard international goods vehicle operator licence if travelling to the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. This will apply to vans with nothing in the back; the fact is that these vehicles are capable of transporting goods, so owners and / or drivers of them will need the licence when driving to these countries. Owners without such a licence will need to apply for a new one, while those with licences for other vehicles can apply to add van/s etc. to them.
Staying within the UK, the rollout of Clean Air Zones CAZs) continues across many parts of Enland. 2022 has already seen CAZs introduced in Bath, Birmingham and Portsmouth. Bradford City Council is meeting national government with a view to introducing a Zone in that city, having already laid the groundwork using ANPR technology. Greater Manchester, meanwhile, had planned to introduce its own CAZ in May; this has now been postponed, probably until July. With London already having its well established congestion charge and CAZ system, the addition of these major cities will mean many drivers may have to change plans or pay to access these city centres.
Although not directly impacting the cost of using the UK’s roads, two other policy changes are being introduced of which all drivers will need to be aware. These changes are likely to be included in the Queen’s Speech to parliament, on 10th May 2022.
The first measure relates to e-scooters. Although there have been trials of these vehicles in various parts of the country, what rules apply to their use has been the subject of much discussion, especially among motorists and pedestrians. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has decided to introduce a licence scheme, which will legalize e-scooters for travelling on parts of the road network. In part, this is to ensure that only those with a valid licence use the vehicles; in which case, those licences will be subject to penalties if holders are caught riding on footpaths, without a helmet, and a number of other breaches which are reported to occur regularly.
Finally, the motoring community is being targeted by government as one that will see its cost of living crisis helped by a change in the law. This is by way of the annual MOT test, which has been announced as being possibly extended to once every two years. Whether this comes to pass has yet to be seen.
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