‘So many professional riders are doing it wrong’: lorry driving rules to change again

  • Professional riders competing in Europe should be aware of new tachograph legislation coming into force, as calls are made for more education around “confusing” driver rules.

    Under the EU “Mobility Package I” a number of changes were announced to tachograph regulation for vehicles undertaking international journeys, including horseboxes. These changes are being implemented in stages; from 21 August 2023 newly registered goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with a “smart tachograph 2”. From 31 December 2024 goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes that have analogue or digital tachographs must replace them with a smart tachograph 2 or transitional smart tachograph. Vehicles fitted with a “smart tachograph 1” have until 19 August 2025 to retrofit a smart tachograph 2.

    A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman told H&H the department has been “engaging closely with [the] industry to increase awareness about these new rules, phasing implementation to ensure they can bed in smoothly”.

    But although the Mobility Package I was announced in 2020, gaining clarification on the rules has been difficult. The guidance on the UK Government website has still not been updated, and a spokesman for the DVLA told H&H the updates “should come soon”. A further legislation change will come into force in July 2026 whereby 2.5-3.5 tonne goods vehicles undertaking EU travel must have tachographs fitted, but confusion has arisen over whether this applies to newly registered vehicles or all vehicles, and the Department for Transport did not respond to H&H’s request for clarification on this.

    Owen Evans of Essex Driver Training Ltd told H&H that the biggest concern is the retrofitting of tachographs on older vehicles from 2024 onwards, the onus of which will fall on horsebox owners who will need to be aware of the new requirement and make the change – in new vehicles the tachograph will come fitted by the manufacturer.

    “It is confusing as there are so many different rules,” he said, adding that there needs to be more education among the equestrian community when it comes to driver rules.

    “Even when you look something up online and think ‘That’s me’, it’s not always the case in the horse world because there are different circumstances that you can come under, for example whether you’re private or not – and that doesn’t happen with normal haulage. That’s why some people pick and choose what rules they want to abide by.”

    As another example, Mr Evans cited operator licences, a topic that has come under much discussion in the horse world. H&H has reported on operator licences and the legal consequences of not complying (news, 3 September 2020), and last August the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) issued a reminder to horsebox drivers about who needs an operator licence.

    This applies when a horsebox owner driver is paid money (directly or indirectly) to transport horses or uses the horsebox for a “professional activity”. Even if a horsebox is only used for commercial purposes for a short period such as one day, an operator licence is still required. A DVSA spokesman confirmed to H&H last year that even if somebody does not charge directly for transporting a horse, but instead charges them for livery or training and offers transport as part of the service, that is considered “commercial use” – and a hire and reward operator licence is is needed if the vehicle or vehicle and trailer combination is over 3.5 tonnes.

    But despite continued coverage on the topic, Mr Evans said many professional riders continue to transport horses without an operator licence.

    “You can get stopped when driving any time, and so many people are doing it wrong,” he said.

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