Van traffic has continued to rise over the last year, driven by increasing use of home delivery services and a downturn in HGV usage as the van sector continues to play a vital role in the economy.
The latest Department for Transport figures show that motor vehicles travelled 327.1 billion vehicle miles (bvm) in Great Britain for the year ending September 2018, up by 0.4% compared to the year ending September 2017.
Among this, car traffic remained broadly stable at 252.5 bvm while lrry traffic increased by 1.5% to 17.2 bvm and van traffic increased by 4.3% to 52.2 bvm. For the last five years, van traffic has been the fastest-growing traffic type in percentage terms.
Commenting on the van traffic figures, Barrie Wilson, regional manager – Van Excellence at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said there were several reason for the continued rise in the proportion of van traffic.
He explained: “The public’s growing dependence on home delivery and next-day service, alongside Government’s legal duty to reduce emissions and improve air quality, which will restrict the use of HGVs, are among the reasons why vans have become the vehicle of choice for businesses. With vans and LCVs covering 52.2 billion miles a year, an increase of 66.7% over the past 20 years, they are an integral part of the UK economy.
“Despite a general slowdown in retail sales as a whole, online shopping continues to grow, heightening implications for last mile movements of freight. In December 2017, online retail volumes (excluding automotive fuel) increased year-on-year by 9.5% and by 2.7% compared to the previous month, with online sales accounting for approximately 16.4% of all retail spending in 2017.
“However, an RAC Foundation report (The Implications of Internet Shopping Growth on the Van Fleet and Traffic Activity, RAC Foundation, May 2017) found that vans used by ‘package and grocery e-commerce’ operators only represent 4% of all vans on UK roads, despite the widely held assumption that the growth in van registrations is due to a rise in home deliveries. The report did note that parcel vans cover a much greater mileage than the average van, therefore attributing their road occupancy (on-the-road miles) closer to 10% of van traffic, but growth in historic registrations still correlates with the growth of service industries in the UK. This suggests a rise in services, rather than deliveries, may be an important influence on the increase in van numbers and miles travelled.”
The FTA Van Excellence Report 2018/19 also looks at the significance of the van sector to the UK economy. The report can be downloaded here.