Motor homes are categorised as motor caravans by the DVLA and for MOT purposes are subject to class4 MOT test or Class V depending on seating capacity. (more than 13 passenger seats).
However if the vehicle is classed as a "Living Van" (a vehicle, whether mechanically propelled or not, which is used for living accommodation by one or more persons and which is also used for the carriage of goods or burden which are not needed by such one or more persons for the purpose of their residence in the vehicle. If the vehicle can or does carry bikes or cars then the have to be regarded as living vans and not motor caravans and if over 3000kg and up to 3500kg it would require a class VII test.)
All living vans are regarded as goods vehicles. This is because such vehicles are used primarily for living accommodation but are also able to carry goods which are not needed for the purpose of residence in the vehicle. Section 192 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 defines "goods" as "goods or burden of any description". As such, "goods" is not a term restricted solely to items
carried for gain or reward.
The DVLA States: We take your point that a "living van" looks just like a motor caravan but the important difference is that it is used to carry goods and is therefore classified as a goods vehicle. The consequence is that if the living van is above 3500kg gross vehicle weight it falls under the goods vehicle plating & testing regime and will need to have an annual roadworthiness test, once the vehicle is a year old, carried out at a VOSA test site. The view of my colleagues is that whether a motorhome has a locker of a particular size is not really relevant to this issue because all motorhomes have room that could be utilised to carry goods. The question is whether or not the vehicles are used for carrying goods rather than items that are needed for the purpose of their residence in the vehicle. It is up to the vehicle owner to declare whether the vehicle is used for carrying goods or not. VOSA would not be in a position to determine this at the time the vehicle is presented for test as they will not know the use to which the vehicle is being put. If the owner tells the test station that the vehicle is a motorhome and has it tested as such and then subsequently a Police check reveals that the vehicle is being used to carry goods then it would seem to us that an offence would have been committed.
However, the interpretation of what constitutes an offence is of course down to the Police and then ultimately the courts to determine. In our replies to you we have tried to indicate what we thought the intention was in introducing the legislation. In fact though we have no remit to say what effect the legislation, as drafted, actually has - or indeed whether or not an offence is actually committed under the different scenarios you have described. Our main function needs to be limited to pointing people to the relevant sections of the legislation.
We have not seen any evidence that there is a problem at present with people having motorhomes which they then use to carry goods and are subsequently prosecuted on that basis. So perhaps your interpretation of "goods" as being "items not in the possession of the vehicle occupant" is closer to the way that the enforcement authorities are currently choosing to interpret the carriage of mopeds and bikes owned by the drivers of motorhomes.
However if you are aware that there have been cases of the Police prosecuting any of your members for carrying items which the Police deem to be goods and therefore require the vehicle to be tested as a class VII vehicle or even a goods vehicle required to be tested under the plating and testing regime then certainly you could put a warning on your website to cover the issues that have been raised in your correspondence with us.
It really is quite difficult for us to see how the definition of items "needed for the purpose of their residence in the vehicle" could be stretched to include small cars. Nevertheless interpretation by the enforcement authorities is a matter of both fact and degree and we can offer no further advice on the specific point of what would or would not be treated as "goods".
To amend the definitions in legislation may seem straightforward to you but would in fact require changes to primary legislation and there are no plans to do this. Partly this is due to the other priorities that exist with a busy Parliamentary schedule, but in any case there appears at this stage to be no evidence that the Police have found a problem with people having vehicles tested as motorhomes which are really being used to carry goods. It would therefore be difficult to justify the need for these changes which would inevitably be time consuming and costly.
To conclude we would suggest that the best advice to give your members is that if they are carrying goods on a vehicle that is over 3.5 tonnes it is very likely to need a goods vehicle test carried out annually at a VOSA test station once the vehicle is a year old. Beyond that if you need advice on the effect of carrying a small car or any other specific items we suggest that you seek independent legal advice.