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Surge in van traffic not due to online shopping

By / 10 months ago / News / No Comments

Online shopping is not behind a surge in UK van numbers, the RAC Foundation says.


2.7 billion packages were delivered in the UK in 2016.

Although there are now at least 3.7 million vans on the road, fewer than one in twenty-five (4%) are involved in delivering orders to consumers and businesses, according to the organisation.

Analysis for the RAC Foundation suggests that in 2016, 2.7 billion packages were delivered in the UK.

Around 1.8 billion of these were so-called business-to-consumer (B2C) deliveries, the vast majority of which will have been the result of online shopping (e-commerce).

A further 700 million or so packages were delivered on a business-to-business (B2B) basis.

The balance will have been deliveries sent by consumers to other consumers or business: (C2X) deliveries.

But while only 4% of vans will be involved in parcel delivery, they do account for a disproportionately high number of miles travelled; some 10% of all van mileage.

This means that one in 10 of the vans people encounter on the roads are engaged in parcel and packet deliveries, much of which is the result of e-commerce.

The research by Professor Alan Braithwaite of LCP Consulting also found that online retailing has helped limit total traffic growth by keeping shoppers at home

Looking ahead, the analysis finds that B2C parcel volumes – predominantly the result of e-commerce – are growing at 9% per annum though this is expected to fall to 6% over the next four years.

The report also speculates whether widespread delivery van use is only a stepping stone to local solutions which might involve micro collection hubs, drones or even robots.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Plenty of people suggest the surge in van traffic is down to our rapidly deepening love affair with online shopping. But this research suggests that sofa surfers might be helping to ease our traffic congestion woes. E-commerce is not the only, nor even the biggest, driver of the rise in vans.

“Overall, the implications for our roads could be positive, where several car shopping trips are replaced by one van delivering to multiple households, though there is an issue where personal goods are being delivered to city centre offices through already congested streets.

“Meantime, the question of why there are so many more vans is still a puzzle. Could it be the product of more small businesses and sole traders investing in vans and then using them both as a work tool and for family transport?”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 14 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie works across the magazine portfolio and updates the company websites with daily news, interviews and road test content.