Mechanically propelled vehicles

When should a mechanically propelled vehicle be covered for road traffic accidents in addition to public liability cover?

Many of our clients request clarification on various motor topics. In particular they seek accurate definitions and want to know when a vehicle should be covered for road traffic accidents and when public liability cover will suffice. This question has been complicated by “other public place” which was included within the Road Traffic Act in 2000.

In many cases the mechanically propelled vehicle (MPV) may not fall within the definition of the Road Traffic Act 1988 Part V11S.185. This states that a “motor vehicle” is a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads.

The golf buggy and luggage trolley are in many cases a direct derivative of the milk float, which is certainly intended for use on roads.

Private or Public?

Using the example of a shopping centre complex, we need to consider just how “private” most of these are. Welcome visitors would include deliveries and service personnel attending the site and often “service” roads are not closed off to visitors. For these reasons a “private” road or complex can be very public indeed.

In all of these situations people are exposed to MPV’s – on the access roads, car parks and, in some cases, paths.

If, for example, an adapted electric buggy was being driven on the service road to carry persons or rubbish around the site and a collision occurred with a third party then it would prove difficult to argue on legal grounds that the vehicle in question was not “intended or adapted for use on roads” or that the accident occurred somewhere other than a road or “other public place”.


An added complication is the licence scenario. The Road Traffic Act of 1988 and 1991 refer to “on a road” only when talking about a licence.

The amendment in 2000 to include “or other public place” was only inserted into the Act relating to insurance. The implication is that you do not need a licence to drive a vehicle in a public place as opposed to on a road.

In the shopping centre example, let us assume that an employee without a UK driving licence is moving the vehicle. There is every possibility that the Motor Insurers would refuse indemnity under the licence condition and this could leave the Policyholder exposed if it was decided that the claim is a Road Traffic Act claim. The public liability Insurers may well decide that it is outside the scope of the Policy due to the fact that a buggy is a mechanically propelled vehicle intended for road use and therefore requiring compulsory motor insurance.

Historically, many commercial motor insurers have waived the licence requirement in circumstances where it is not required by law and this is a legacy from before the 2000 amendment to include “other public place”, however this is not a certainty.

Clarification and guidance

Until there is further clarification from the courts, it must be assumed that if the location is within the Road Traffic Act then a licence is needed.

We would strongly recommend that you:

  1. Check whether or not these vehicles are insured under the Motor Fleet policy and if cover is required for unlicensed drivers that the policy extends to cover these also.
  2. Check that this dovetails with the Public Liability and Material Damage arrangements.
  3. Consider whether a separate “Special Types” Motor Policy might be suitable.

For more information on this and any other insurance matters please contact your representative at Darwin Clayton (UK) Ltd on Tunbridge Wells (01892 511144) or Nottingham (0115 9517030).

Darwin Clayton (UK) Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority

Golf buggy