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Van driver shortage flagged in new Van Excellence report

Van drivers and fleets are becoming concerned that worsening van driver shortages could prevent their businesses operating successfully over the next year.

Temporary drivers over the festive period were in high demand, according to driver hire
The number of people identifying as a professional van driver fell 5.5% last year

That’s one of the findings in the new Van Excellence report, which also shows that fleets need to respond to challenges in van technology and compliance while also ensuring the well-being of drivers.

Supported by Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, Bott, Brigade, Hertz, Lex Autolease and Quartix, the 2018-19 Van Excellence report published by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) outlines how the van market has grown consistently since the 2008 recession. In 2017 there were around four million vans on the road, accounting for one in every 10 new vehicles registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) even though, overall, HGV and van registrations fell.

Although LCV registrations fell by 3.6% in 2017 to 362,149 units – the first decline since 2012, van activity rose. Vans constituted 15.4% of all traffic in Great Britain throughout 2017 (up 0.2% since 2016) and travelled 50.5 billion miles, a rise of 2.6% since the previous year and up 21.4% compared to a decade ago.

Yet the number of people identifying as a professional van driver fell 5.5% last year while research carried out by Mercedes-Benz Vans has found one in five van drivers, operators or owners believes a van driver shortage could prevent their businesses operating successfully over the next year.

This concern is heightened by the large numbers of EU nationals currently working across the van sector in the UK, as early indicators suggest fewer are choosing to move here after the Brexit vote. The proportion of van drivers which are EU nationals fell to 7.3% in 2017, compared with 12.9% in 2015.

The report also outlined how the so-called ‘gig economy’ has become widespread amongst the van industry. Around a fifth of professional drivers are estimated to be self-employed and, similar to self-employed workers from other industry sectors, are likely to earn less than their employed colleagues. While the majority of gig workers are young, there has also been an increase in those turning to self-employment around retirement age.

The rise of the gig economy has increased the flexibility of workers’ hours and availability, and driven down costs for employers, but the relative low income and job insecurity poses a set of fresh challenges.

The Van Excellence report also puts focus on the need to focus on driver wellbeing and draws attention increasingly significant evidence that proves the value of caring for the physical and mental health of staff. Developing a happy, healthy workforce is not only a responsible thing to do, it can also offer benefits in performance, staff retention, and compliance.

Mark Cartwright, FTA’s head of vans and light commercial vehicles, said: “Many van drivers are struggling with their mental and physical health but are unsure of where or how to obtain help. In fact, as detailed in the report, more than half of van drivers and owners believe there is a stigma attached to discussing mental health at work. Van Excellence is committed to addressing this issue and recently launched a campaign with the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to raise awareness of the resources available to those struggling with poor mental health.”

The report also covers the challenges and opportunities posed by new vehicles technologies including autonomous driving, the shift to urbanisation and the rise of clean air zones – including a look at future fuels, and Brexit.

To download a copy of the report, click here.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 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. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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