HGV driving in France – what you need to know


If you are a UK haulage contractor, a valuable part of your business may entail driving in or through France. This need not present insurmountable difficulties, but there are a number of things you need to know:

Before you go

  • ensure you have the necessary documentation;
  • vehicle registration certificate (V5C) or the plating or replating certificate if relevant;
  • a valid tax disc;
  • valid insurance certificate – so ensure that your haulage insurance is up to date;
  • valid MOT;
  • valid reduction pollution certificate (RPC) – only if you plan to use the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy;

Finding your way

  • the roads you are likely to be using in France are “A” (for Autoroute) motorways and “N” (for Routes Nationales), the major trunk roads;
  • although “A” and “N” roads are numbered in the usual way, changes in responsibility for signposting means that continuity is something to be desired – your better bet is to follow signposted destinations;
  • destinations on motorways are shown by white lettering on a blue background and those on trunk roads by white on green;

Tolls

  • with a few exceptions, motorways are toll roads, requiring you to pick up an automatically dispensed ticket when you enter the motorway, for payment at your point of exit or when the motorway ends;
  • tolls vary but are based on the distance travelled and the class of the HGV you are driving (class 3 tolls for vehicles with two axles and class 4 tolls for vehicles with more than two axles – namely artics and semi-trailers);
  • by way of example, the cost of tolls for motorway routes between Paris and Strasbourg – some 480 km – is around €86 for a class 3 toll and €114 for class 4);

Restrictions

  • there are restrictions on the driving of heavy goods vehicles of more than 7.5 tonnes on the road network in France;
  • the restrictions may have a severe impact on your itineraries and the timing of the restrictions may prove extremely confusing – you need to plan well ahead;
  • essentially, most HGVs over 7.5 tonnes are banned from the roads (including motorways) every weekend between 10 p.m. on Saturday until 10 p.m. on Sunday;
  • the situation is complicated during the summer months (early July to mid-August) when the ban runs from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday and again from 10 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Sunday;
  • the situation is complicated still further during public holidays when the ban usually comes into effect from 10 p.m. the night before until 10 p.m. on the actual day of the holiday;
  • the final straw comes on the country’s two major holidays – 14 July and 15 August – when HGVs are banned for the whole 24 hours;
  • you may want to avoid Paris altogether if at all possible, since still more bans are imposed on local roads, including the inner ring-road;

Speed limits

  • clearly, you will want to stay within the prescribed speed limits for your HGV;
  • as an incentive to do so, you are almost certain to drive through automatic speed detectors which show the speed at which you are travelling;
  • where fixed speed cameras are in place, there is generally an accompanying warning sign; but
  • French police are increasingly using mobile speed cameras in unmarked cars.

With the possible exception of some pretty complicated rules banning the movement of HGVs on some French roads at certain times, there is probably nothing wildly different to driving anywhere else in Europe. Nonetheless, it is sensible to be aware of the differences when planning your routes at the outset.

 

Further reading: http://www.autoroutes.fr/index.htm and http://about-france.com/hgv.htm