Speed limits for vans – are the DfT even more confused than the rest of us?

For many years there’s been confusion among some van drivers over the speed limits that apply to their vans. This has led to many prosecutions of drivers of medium and large vans for exceeding the speed limit.

Many van drivers just assume that the speed limits for their vans are the same as for a private car. In many cases, particularly for smaller vans, they may be right, but for anything bigger than a small van they’re wrong.

The maximum speed limits for all goods vehicles of 3500kg and less, unless lower limits are indicated by signs, is 70mph for motorways, 60mph for dual-carriageways and 50mph for single-carriageway roads. The only exemption is for ‘car-derived vans’ with a maximum loaded weight (GVW) of 2000kg or less, to which the speed limits for cars apply (70, 70, 60).

For many years it seems that the police have interpreted ‘car-derived van’ as meaning any small van with a GVW of 2,000kg or less. This would include many of the vans typically driven by same day couriers, vans like the Escort, Courier, Berlingo/Partner, some Doblos, Combo, Nemo/Bipper/Fiorino, Kangoo, as well as some of the more obvious ‘car shaped’ vans like the Astravan, Fiesta, Corsa and Punto.

In December 2007 the Department for Transport (DfT) issued a document Clarification of national speed limits for vans‘ which I actually ignored at the time because I could only find paraphrased reports of the document rather than the actual document itself. Anyway, I forgot all about it until I stumbled on it this morning while googling for something else. I have to say I’m astonished at how unclear the clarification is and even more astonished at the way they seem to be interpreting the law. Here’s the important bit:

“Q.  Are there any exemptions from these lower speed limits for vans?

A. There is one (small) group of vans which have the same speed limits are cars by virtue of the definitions in Schedule 6 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act of 1984.  These are vans that are both derived from a car chassis and also have a maximum laden weight of no more than 2 tonnes.  This means that the weight of the vehicle and the payload it is designed to be able to carry when added together do not exceed 2 tonnes.  The van design must be a derivative of a car body, it is not sufficient that it looks similar to a particular car.

Q.  Which vans meet the criteria to be considered car derived vans for speed limit purposes?

A. Very few vans will meet the criteria to benefit from the same speed limits as a car.  Those that do are likely to be similar to a Ford Fiesta van, Vauxhall Corsa or Renault Clio van in having maximum payloads of around 500kgs so that when combined with the weight of the vehicle unladen (normally around 1.4 tonnes) the maximum laden weight of the whole vehicle will not exceed 2 tonnes.

What this means is that vans such as the Ford Transit and (and of course the larger panel vans) will not meet the definition of car derived vans set out set out in part IV section 2 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.  Therefore these vehicles will be subject to speed limits of 50mph on single carriageways and 60 mph on dual carriageways.

This guidance seems to ignore the very type of vehicle over which there is the most confusion, namely the type of van with a ‘car’ front end and a ‘box’ grafted onto the back. Vans in this class would include the Vauxhall Combo, Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Renault Kangoo, Citroen Nemo etc., all of which have a maximum laden weight of under 2 tonnes.

Part IV Section 2 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 states defines a car-derived van as “a goods vehicle which is constructed or adapted as a derivative of a passenger vehicle and which has a maximum laden weight not exceeding 2 tonnes;”. This definition makes no mention of the chassis or the body shape.

To use my examples of vans above; the Vauxhall Combo is clearly a derivative of the Vauxhall Corsa car, albeit with a different chassis and body shape, and could also be said to be ‘based on’ the Vauxhall Combo Kombi – a version of the Vauxhall Combo with rear seats and windows. Arguably the Kombi is based on the van rather than vice versa, but the fact remains that Kombi is a passenger car and shares its body shape and chassis with the van. Similarly the other vans mentioned, although not based on any passenger car, all have an ‘estate car’ (or ‘window van’ if you prefer) version – the Citroen Berlingo Multispace, Peugeot Partner Combi, Renault Kangoo MPV – with the exception of the Citroen Nemo which is the lightest, newest and most car-like to drive of the vans mentioned but does not yet have a ‘windowed’ version.

According to the DfT guidance the Combo, Berlingo, Partner and Kangoo, may possibly be classed as car-derived vans, depending on the importance placed on there being a near-identical passenger version available, while the smaller Citroen Nemo is subject to same speed limits as a 3,500kg Mercedes Sprinter, at least until a ‘car’ version of it becomes available.

This situation is clearly extremely confusing, particularly as the clarification neatly ducks the issue of classifying this particular type of vehicle, instead only mentioning larger and smaller sizes. More confusion is added because these vehicles are actually classified as car-derived vans on their V5 ‘log books’.

I’ve emailed the DfT for some clarification on this and if I don’t receive confirmation that ‘car-derived van’ on the log book means that car speed limits apply I’ll be contacting our local police and maybe ACPO for confirmation of how they interpret the law.

Posted under Courier Basics, Speeding, Vans

Posted by Alec at 7:48 pm, October 4, 2008

Tags: ,

32 Comments so far

  1. Good article – you’re right that a great many drivers don’t realise that speed limits are different to those for cars.

    However, I’m not sure things are as confused as you say. The DfT page you link to also states that “the van design must be a derivative of a car body”. This clearly rules out all but car->van conversions, like the Astravan.

    The DfT also says that taxation class is unrelated to speed limits. Speed limits (it says) are related to the load capacities of the vehicle and whether or not it is used for carrying passengers.

    I do agree that it seems bizaare that a Nemo is subject to lower speed limits than an Astravan, however. I think it is a case of vehicle designs overtaking the law – these small vans with big payloads didn’t really exist in 1984, when the van speed limits were introduced, did they?

    Thanks for taking the time to highlight this, look forward to seeing your response from the DfT…


  2. Well I’ve had my reply:

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you for your enquiry (copied below) and request that we list car-derived vans: Because of the limited definition in law of a car-derived van, the only test of whether an individual vehicle falls into that category is via a court of law. Government departments cannot make that judgement and so do not issue lists of car-derived vans.

    When asked to comment on a specific vehicle this department has applied a rule of thumb that;
    – vans sharing the same chassis and body shell with a car but with some of the window apertures filled with metal, appear to satisfy the definition of car-derived van.
    – vans comprising a car chassis throughout and the car body-shell from front bumper to “B” post (the door-post behind the front-doors ;with, say, a box body behind), appear to satisfy the definition of car-derived van.

    Using those criteria, this Division recently advised an enquirer that the Vauxhall Combo did not appear to be a car-derived van since its wheel-base and track are different from those of the Corsa car. However, we added the caveat that our advice was subject to any decision made in a court of law. In the case of the Vauxhall Combo Kombi; this vehicle appears to be derived from the Combo van not the other way about. And therefore the Combo cannot be described as car-derived.

    To answer your last point, about the police application of the law: As the law stands at present the only recourse for a motorist is to challenge the speeding prosecution in court.

    I regret that I cannot advise you further.

    Malcolm Burch
    Senior Policy Advisor
    LRI 2
    Department for Transport

  3. I can’t see really this ever coming up in court to provide a definitive answer. For once the police seem to apply the law in the way any reasonable person would expect it to be applied – if the vehicle is registered as a car-derived van and has a GVW of 2000kg or less then (as far as I’m aware) they treat it as being subject to the same speed limits as a car.

    As far as I can tell all small vans with a GVW of 2000kg or less are automatically registered with the DVLA as ‘car-derived vans’, while all small vans with a GVW of over 2000kg are registered as ‘panel vans’. It seems to me that the police use the vehicle definition that’s returned when they search the DVLA database to determine the vehicle classification and therefore the applicable speed limits.

    Despite the assertion of the Senior Policy Advisor from the DfT I’ve never heard of a Berlingo or Combo driver being prosecuted for doing 70 on a dual carriageway – Caddy drivers, Transit Connect drivers and Doblo drivers, yes; but I’ve never heard of a driver of a vehicle with ‘car-derived van’ on its V5 Vehicle Registration Document being prosecuted for doing 70 on a dual-carriageway, or 60 on a single-carriageway. If anyone knows different then please let me know.

  4. Alec added on  October 2nd, 2008 at 10:29

    It turns out that not all vans under 2000kg GVW are described as CDVs on their V5. I’ve seen examples of a Doblo and a Kangoo both described as ‘panel van’, so it seems that the V5 description can’t be used to define the vehicle type.

  5. christopher inman added on  October 19th, 2008 at 20:42

    I have a ticket for a Vauxhall Combo for 69mph on the A27 dual-carriageway at Holmbush (Hove/Portslade) dated 23/08/2008. It is a hire van (long-term) and I do not have the registration document. Sussex police, by the way.

  6. I am so confused now . I have just bought a vauxhall combo and start a new contract same day delivery tomorrow. What the hell speed am I spose to be doing ! Surely if your V5 states its a car derived van then thats your answer…. it is a govenment document after all ??????? isnt it ????
    I cant take a day off to argue it in court everytime I get flashed by a stuffing camera. They need to get their heads out their backsides and sort it out !

  7. great web site, please could you help me,i have just got a notice of intended prosecution, in a v.w. caddy,tdi.reg 02.it tell me recorded speed was 76mph,speed limit 70 mph,vehichle limit 60 mph. the registration certificate says its a panel van,light goods vehicle,2270kg cross revenue weight,wheelplan 2 axle-rigid body,vehicle category N1.is this a fine i should pay? or is the law wrong here? greatful for any help thankyou dave

  8. Alec added on  January 20th, 2009 at 15:58

    The important thing in the case of the Caddy is the weight – it’s firmly in the ‘goods vehicle’ class, rather than being a car-derived van, and it’s subject to the lower limits. Sorry about that.

  9. david added on  February 1st, 2009 at 16:25

    thanks alec for reply, but i have look at manufacturers plate,it says 1770 kg then 2770 kg, (1)-890kg,(2)-950kg,typ 9kvf,looking at this plate,i think it means 1770kg is the g.v.w.is the vehicle weight?and the 2770kg is the revenue weight for taxin of the van? i could be wrong,i have been in touch with v,w, an they tell me that my van is on the volkswagen germany data system as a caddy derived van 66 tdi 5 speed. any more advice thanks david

  10. dear alec,any comment on david (9)posted february 1 st 2009?

  11. Alec added on  February 4th, 2009 at 13:10

    I missed the ’02 plate’ of your original message – that’s an old shape Caddy, the same as the SEAT Inca? If so it’s under 2000 GVW so it would pass as a CDV on that point but may fail on another point. I don’t think that the front end is identical to a Polo or an Ibiza, in which case it would probably fail on the DfT’s ridiculous definition of a CDV – if you pay any attention to their opinion.

  12. hi Alec,yes it is the old shape caddy,and i do feel the police are wrong,because they told me my van,was not a car derived van,but on the log book it is,but then they told me it gos on the weight of my van,and the only weight on the log book was 2770 kg under revenue weight,there seem to be alot of confused people about a cdv van? i am not to sure what to do at the moment,pay the fine,or go to court?at this moment of time i think i should try the courts,what do you think? thanks Alec

  13. Alec added on  February 5th, 2009 at 14:03

    As far as I’m aware the revenue weight on the log book is always the same as the GVW, and 1770kg is about right for the old Caddy – it’s definitely under the 2000kg anyway. The 2770 is the Gross Train Weight, which has no bearing at all on the issue, it just shows you how much weight you can tow. Have you got an error on your log book maybe?

    So if they’re JUST basing their prosecution on the weight issue then you’ll be OK, as long as you can convince the court that the actual GVW of the van is less than 2000kg. If there’s an error on your log book then you probably just need to contact the DVLA to get it corrected.

    If the police decide to argue that the van’s not car-derived because of the shape then you’re back in that grey area I’m afraid. Personally I think you could maybe convince a court that it was similar enough to the Inca or Polo to be classed as car-derived. Even if that was to fail then the argument that it clearly has filled in rear window panels, holes for the fitting of rear seatbelt anchorages and a filled in rear passenger footwell area may be enough to show that the van is based on the car (windowed version of the van) rather than the other way round.

  14. What I don’t understand is that the Renault Kangoo is actually a van derived car. Until some time after the car version was released, people were advised that the speed limit for vans applied to the car – because I know someone who had one from new and was advised of this by the local plod.

  15. Stevie added on  September 22nd, 2010 at 14:29

    It’s a nasty area that should really be changed in law. People carriers and SUV’s are more of a risk, yet they dont fall foul of the GVW law.
    Could van makers be lobbied to state that all car derived vans have a GVW of 1999kg or less ?
    I’d think owners of most small vans could care less about their ability on paper to carry an extra 10-30kg or so, then being put at risk driving a half empty van of getting done for speeding for no reason.
    Like really, who on earth fills a small van to its maximum weight capacity on a regular basis ?

  16. Stevie added on  September 22nd, 2010 at 14:35

    To add…they claim vans carry heavier loads, so require longer to stop etc.

    Take a new Land/Range Rover. UL weight is circa 2.7ton, fully laden could easily be 3.2 ton or more.

    Which is harder to stop ? a Small van at 2 ton, or a tank at over 3 ton legally travelling faster ?

    This law ( and many others ) is a total farce. Very few small vans now are under GVW of 2 ton. Likes of a Doblo is 2010kg !! that’s mental. I was thinking of buying one, but this has put me off. 11kg means I cant drive at the same speeds as much heavier and more dangerous vehicles.

  17. steve added on  February 16th, 2011 at 20:19

    good news for berlingo & kangoo drivers my son received a notice of intent to prosecute having been caught on camera doing 71mph on a dual carriageway in kent in his berlingo van.having read previous comments on this website i got my daughter who is a police officer in thames valley to speak to a traffic officer colleague who advised her that the key factor regarding class of vehicle is the gvw.i then rang the kent police ticket bureau & spoke to the camera operator who had recorded the “offence”.he admitted that a mistake had been made & that both berlingo vans & the renault equivalent i.e the kangoo did not fall into the goods vehicle category that resricted speed limits.he advised that no further action would be taken & that a letter confirming this was being issued today.thats what i call a result & my son owes me several pints

  18. Hi

    I am having the same problem getting clarification of what bracket a Vito Dualiner fits in to, which is to replace my aging Sprinter van. Yes the Dualiner is over 2 tonnes, but it is built on a car chassis, it will have rear windows, but it is not a full van it’s a half way house, half car half van. Mercedes have advised me, if it does not have rear window it is a van, if you have a rear window it’s a car ?

  19. Ken Veitch added on  April 26th, 2011 at 10:56

    My company has just changed from Astravans to the Citroen Nemo, I am now being charged by Grampian police with exceeding the 60mph limit on the A90 dual carriageway. When I challenged it their response was “vehicle is registered as a light goods vehicle”. I’ll try to take it further but I’m not hopeful.

  20. ian shepherd added on  June 7th, 2011 at 20:07

    Ive just bought a vw t5 t32 transporter widow van eg full windows but no seats this taxation class is diesel car description on v5 9 seater ,is it a car or is it a van Ive no idea.Loads of vw t5 calafornias have been miss regitered in this class when they should be 11 plg.It seemes the beaurocrats have no real idea !

  21. Dougie Murray added on  March 11th, 2013 at 19:25

    Hi i have just been issued with a notice of doing 74 on a dual cariageway.The alleged offence took place on dual cariageway near Kirckaldy in Scotland. i was driving a citroen berlingo 62 plate. can you tell me if this is still classed as a ‘car derived van’?? And will it be worth contesting.Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  22. Alec added on  March 11th, 2013 at 19:38

    No idea – that’s what this whole post is about. They’re free to prosecute you just for doing the 4mph over the car limit if they want to anyway though so I can’t see there’s anything to be gained from fighting it.

  23. kevin added on  April 22nd, 2013 at 15:40

    I work for British Gas and for the past 2yrs have driven my 09 plate VW Caddy on the A9 Stirling to Perth road at the 70mph limit but this week I receved a notice of procedings as it says that I was above 60mph. I was overtaking a lorry at the time I was going past the fixed camera when it flashes but I thought it was for the lorry. And when talking to the rest of the guys at work they say they have never been done on that road with same van as me so whats the next step. Do I fight it ?

  24. Alec added on  April 22nd, 2013 at 15:46

    I’m afraid there are no grounds to fight it at all if you’re driving a Caddy – the GVW is over 2,000kg so the exemption for car-derived vans wouldn’t apply even if it was considered to be a car-derived van.

  25. Alastair added on  October 29th, 2013 at 13:38

    I got done doing 73mph in a bipper. Got told its only allowed to do 60but the gvw is under 2,000kg. Is this worth it or not as I hear so many different stories about it

  26. Alec added on  October 29th, 2013 at 13:56

    Personally, being an argumentative sort of person, I think I’d argue that the Bipper and the Bipper Tepee (car/MPV) bear exactly the same relationship as the Fiesta van does to the Fiesta car and therefore the Bipper qualifies as a car-derived van.

    If you’d have been doing 70 then I’d say it was worth fighting it. You were doing over the 70 mph limit for a CDV anyway though so you’ve committed an offence whether the Bipper qualifies as a CDV or not. They’re allowed to use their discretion and let you off at 73 but are they likely to use discretion if you manage to prove them wrong on the car/van thing?

    If your van’s V5 happens to say ‘car-derived van’ then it might help your case. Otherwise I don’t know – and that’s the whole point.

  27. tim withington added on  November 20th, 2014 at 17:56

    Just had a notice of intended prosecution against me for doing 69mph in a 70 mph area in my combi van. Surely this cannot be right has it falls in to the van exemption of car derived vans under 2t.

  28. According to the DfT definition it’s not a car-derived van. But according to the latest government guidance at https://www.gov.uk/speed-limits it depends on what it says on the V5 (log book) – which is clearly rubbish because identical vehicles are sometimes listed as panel vans and sometimes as car derived vans.

    Personally I’d fight it in court, particularly if your V5 happens to show the body type as ‘Car Derived Van’ – since the latest guidance claims that’s the deciding factor.

    The whole thing’s a mess and the law needs rewriting to exempt all vans under 2,000kg.

  29. Arran added on  December 23rd, 2014 at 01:30


    hi alec would appreciate your input on this one, have been done on the a180 in grimsby for doing 68mph in my vauxhall combo and been told i should only be doing 60mph which is rubbish as v5 log book clearly states car-derived van with with of 1805kg gross, so challenged police saying i should be able to do 70mph and even 2 vosa guys at side of road agreed with me, they then claimed to contact vosa/dvsa and check this who confirmed i couldnt travel at 70mph so i challenged vosa/dvsa who said they cannot confirm this and it would be dft department for transport, so the police have lied about their enquires, and are in the wrong anyway as i can travel at 70mph have challenged to go to court with this anyway, but whats ur input

  30. Kate Pascoe added on  July 20th, 2015 at 17:51

    Help! My husbands received a notification of intended prosecution for doing 72mph on a dual carriageway in a Citreon Nemo by Wrexham in Wales. His vehicle is tracked, and the company has provided evidence it was doing 65mph maximum. We believed the van to be CDV as the weight is under 2,000kg and it certainly looks tiny like a car, so he’s politely contested it in writing – but they’re passing it to the courts, they were empathetic but stated they’re doing him for not being a CDV. This seems crazy, and reading other forums and comments we’re not alone. What can we do?

    He has requested the V5 from his employer (which he did not have sight of before), and the dam thing says it’s a heavy goods vehicle – after we stopped laughing, the horrid reality is what does he do if it ends up in a court hearing? Have the guidelines been clarified now, can we get the V5 classification changed at this stage to a CDV? Would it be in time and enough?

    He’s raising it with his company too, as the whole fleet drives to car speed limits, just no one else has been prosecuted yet so he’s the first. I don’t want him to lose his licence by repeat offending, but he’s adamantly driving at car speed limits still, which worries me greatly. Ironically last year he was prosecuted in Wales, for exceeding 60mph on a normal single main road and went on a speed awareness course and cleaned up hs act a bit – the interesting thing is last year, the same police treated his vehicle as a CDV. Is it safe to bring tin court if he needed too, or would it be dangerous to flag a recent offense?!

    Help. The Wife!

  31. Mike added on  August 12th, 2015 at 14:29

    I notice the most current advice from the DfT is dated 5th March 2015 and states:-

    Car-derived vans are designed to weigh no more than 2 tonnes when loaded and are based on car designs (eg Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa), or the vehicle is built from a platform which has been designed to be built as a car or a van.

    So, based on this the old shape VW caddy was built on the VW A03 Platform, same as the following list, so should be classed as a “Car Derived Van”

    SEAT Ibiza Mk2 (Typ 6K, 1993–2002)
    SEAT Córdoba Mk1 (Typ 6K/6KC/6KV, 1993–2002)
    Volkswagen Polo Mk3 (Typ 6N/6KV, 1994–2002)
    Volkswagen Polo Playa (1996–2002) – a rebadged SEAT Ibiza 6K with some cosmetic components from the Volkswagen Polo 6KV
    SEAT Inca van (Typ 6K9)
    Volkswagen Caddy van (Typ 9K, 1997–2003)

  32. Alec added on  August 12th, 2015 at 16:35

    The point is that nobody knows. The law just says ‘car derived van’, without being specific. It’s up to the courts to decide what constitutes ‘car derived’. That depends on cases actually going to court and then continuing far enough up the legal ladder that they create legal precedent – which they probably never will.

    So we’re left with the police deciding whether to prosecute on an individual basis and magistrates deciding on whether vehicles are ‘car derived’ or not on an individual basis.

    The guidance that you’ve quoted from goes on to state that it’s what appears on the log book which determines whether a vehicle’s ‘car derived’ or not. This isn’t a statement of law though, it’s the opinion of the person who wrote the guidance – and it’s clearly wrong because of the many cases of identical vehicles being described as different things on the log book.

Leave a Comment

Name (required)

Email (required)