5 new driving laws that fleet operators need to know in 2020

2020 has a lot in store for the automotive world, and by extension, the logistics industry too. From city-wide initiatives to nationwide laws, there are lots of new rules and regulations coming into force this year, so if you’re a fleet manager you’ll need to make sure you’re fully up to speed on all of them. That’s where we can help here at Vision Techniques – as well as the wide range of vehicle safety products available on our site, this week you’ll also find a quick lowdown on the five most critical laws you’ll need to know.

The Direct Vision Standard

We’ve been talking quite a lot about the Direct Vision Standard on our blog recently, so you may well already know all about it – but we’ll give you a quick rundown just in case. From October 2020, the Direct Vision Standard applies to all vehicles entering London, and just like the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, it’ll apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Essentially, the Direct Vision Standard assesses how much a driver can see directly from his cab without the use of aids like mirrors or cameras, and awards the vehicle with a star rating accordingly. Those with a high enough star rating are provided with a Safety Permit, which allows the vehicle to freely travel within London’s boundaries. Vehicles found to be travelling without one will be severely fined – it’ll cost the operator £550 per offence, with a £150 for the driver individually. (Vehicles without the requisite star rating can earn their permit by proving a ‘safe system’ with the use of cameras and other vehicle safety products – so there’s no excuse!)

Clean Air Zones set to expand across the UK

London was the first UK city to adopt a clean air zone, in a bid to clear up its air quality. Today, that’s evolved into the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which has replaced the previous T-charge scheme. On a basic level, it works in a very similar way to the Direct Vision Standard, by setting minimum emissions standards which vehicles have to abide by, or face heavy fines.

residential road lorry

Currently, this scheme only applies to Central London, but it’ll expand to inner London by 2021, so it’s something to take note of if any of your fleet makes regular journeys through or around the city. Crucially, Birmingham plans to introduce its own similar scheme in July of this year. Leeds was actually due to introduce its own last month, but this has been delayed. Other cities rumoured to be considering similar schemes include Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Newcastle, Derby, Edinburgh and Manchester – making fuel efficiency a wise priority for fleet managers.

EU driving permits

The UK formally left the European Union in January, marking the start of a transition period, in which all existing rules still apply for the moment. After December 2020 though, it’s likely that drivers will require EU driving permits to take their vehicles abroad. This will cost £5.50, and will be available to purchase from the Post Office. You’ll generally need one of the following:

  • 1949 IDP – If you’re driving abroad in Ireland, Spain, Malta or Cyprus, you may well need a 1949 IDP. These are valid for 12 months.
  • 1968 IDP – For those travelling to other EU states, you’ll require a 1968 IDP. This is valid for three years, or expires alongside the driver’s licence if the latter needs renewal before this date.
  • 1926 IDP – This isn’t required for any EU state, but will be if you’re going away to Mexico or Somalia. You may also need one if you’re driving in Liechtenstein.

New refuge areas for smart motorways

Chances are, you’ve driven on a smart motorway already – almost certainly if you’re an HGV driver. Under development by Highways England, these use a mixture of automated technology and human operators to monitor and control the flow of traffic. They’re expected to account for almost 500 miles of road by April 2020.

Regulations are being tightened to prevent drivers from ignoring warning signals, such as the red X on over head gantries which indicate that a lane is closed. Drivers can already get a £100 fine and three penalty points, but these penalties are set to get stricter. However, Highways England are also planning and installing more refuge areas across smart motorways for drivers who crash or break down, so that they can remove themselves from the ongoing flow of traffic.

The MOT test is being updated

The MOT test is subject to semi-regular updates as a matter of course, to ensure that it’s continually meeting its objective of holding the UK’s vehicles up to a high standard, so that they can stay as safe as possible. One of the most recent main changes to the MOT test comprises the several new categories, so that vehicles can be more accurately classified. The total list of MOT categories now includes:

under carriage of hgv


The vehicle is in an acceptable condition to return to the road.


The identified issue poses no imminent danger, but could develop into a more serious problem if left unaddressed


Poses no immediate threat to the environment or human safety, but must be fixed as soon as possible.


The identified issue poses a potentially serious risk to human health, safety, or the environment. Automatic fail.


The vehicle presents an immediate and serious risk to human health and safety, or the environment. Automatic fail. (And might well get you a bit of a telling-off, too.)

These are far from the only driving rules coming in this year – the government is also considering graduated driving licences, for example – but they’re certainly ones which fleet managers should take the time to stay abreast of. This is especially true for situations like Clean Air Zones and EU driving permits, which may see further laws and other developments.

And if you’re looking to get your fleet properly equipped for the Direct Vision Standard, that’s where we can help right here at Vision Techniques. We stock a wide range of vehicle safety products that can help to improve vision and awareness. If you’ve got any questions about them or you need some specialist advice, that’s where we can help! Feel free to give us a call on 01254 679 717 – we’re here to help!