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Talking Sense: A review of the expert seminars at VAN Fleet World Live

Safety & security

Superintendent Paul Keasey, head of the National Roads Policing Intelligence Forum

Health and safety should always be a priority for fleet managers, but security must also be a major consideration. That is the opinion of Superintendent Paul Keasey, head of the National Roads Policing Intelligence Forum.

“Be aware that your vehicle and your equipment are commodities that an organised crime group will look for,” he said.

“Vans are also now a vehicle that can be used to transport people illegally.”

Superintendent Keasey is keen to create an environment where operators, law enforcement agencies and other sector partners can discuss and share knowledge, with the purpose of creating a more secure and safer environment for LCV operation.

One of the items discussed was the use of technology, both to safeguard vehicles, but also to facilitate theft. Superintendent Keasey urged fleet managers to use telematic systems to check if van drivers are leaving vehicles idling while they make deliveries, reminding them that a vehicle may not be insured if the keys are left in the ignition.

“I’m really interested in the telematic and new technology element,” he said.

However he also warned that organised crime gangs now have scanners capable of copying keyless entry codes from driver’s keys, allowing thieves to steal the vehicle without actually having the key. This may not be much of a problem for the majority of vans yet, but keyless entry is appearing on upmarket 4x4s and pick-ups and will undoubtedly filter down to vans in due course.

This also begs a question though, that if a company considers it gross misconduct to lose a van by leaving the keys in it, how do they treat theft if the driver still has the keys in their pocket? More importantly perhaps, how would your insurance company deal with such a theft?

The use of telematics goes further than theft prevention and recovery though, with the majority of companies using telematics to assess driver behaviour for fuel consumption and accident prevention. Superintendent Keasey also mentioned that insurers are increasingly pushing for the fitment of in-cab cameras, both to record accidents and driving behaviour outside the vehicle, but also driver-facing cameras to assess driver performance behind the wheel.

“I genuinely believe in today’s society that the professional van driver is critical to allow the legitimate business to operate as efficiently, effectively and productively as possible,” said Superintendent Keasey.


LCV Professionalism

Mark Cartwright, head of vans at the FTA

Increasing professionalism within the van business is the main aim of the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Van Excellence programme. In its Van Excellence Report 2015/16, the association stressed that strong leadership and professionalism are key to improving the image of the sector.

The scheme currently has more than 100 member companies, many of whom are household names. However, as the report shows, more than 50% of the 3.6m vans working within the UK are operated by sole traders and smaller companies and it is these smaller firms that the FTA is keen to reach.

“Van Excellence has been embraced by the industry as a valuable initiative to enhance standards of van operator compliance and celebrate those who demonstrate excellence,” said Mr Cartwright.

“The report reinforces this message, recording achievements so far and highlighting the economic and social value of van fleets, which are indispensible to the UK economy.”

Part of the problem, according to Mr Cartwright, is that when you ask a truck driver what they do for a living, they will say HGV driver. Ask the majority of van drivers and you will hear plumber, courier, electrician and numerous other trades. A van is for many, simply another tool that is used as part of their work.

He is keen to point out though, that when they are behind the wheel of that LCV, they are a professional van driver. One initiative that the FTA is promoting is the Van Excellence Certificate of Driver Competence course. While a Driver CPC is now mandatory for HGV drivers, there is no legislation in place for lighter goods vehicle operatives. By providing a van-related Driver CPC, Van Excellence is hoping to take a step forward for van professionalism.

Elements covered include fitness to drive, pre-use vehicle inspections, vehicle loading and safety of loads, rules of the road and the ambassadorial role of the van driver.

“Van fleet operators have called on the FTA to develop a course that is aimed at the development of training and qualifications designed to meet these needs,” said Mr Cartwright.

“It is essential to improve the image of the van driver in order to demonstrate a real commitment to operate in a safe, professional, considerate and compliant manner.

“The response to the course from attendees has been fantastic. Their enthusiasm and praise demonstrate how important professionalising the role of a van driver is to the industry.”


Tyre safety

Stuart Jackson, chairman of TyreSafe

Around one in four vehicles on the road have an illegal or borderline tyre fitted, according to research by tyre industry association TyreSafe. Chairman Stuart Jackson says that 989 of the 2,458 accidents that resulted in a kill or serious injury (KSI) last year in the UK, involved vehicles with illegal or defective tyres.

Indeed tyres accounted for 2.2m MOT failures last year, with 36% of all vehicle defects being tyre related. Research into vans in particular showed that 22% of those inspected had an illegal tyre, 41% were borderline, while just 37% has more than 2mm of tread remaining. That means that of the vans inspected an incredible 62.5% had illegal or borderline tyres fitted.

Yet fleet managers and drivers should be aware that if caught, the resulting fine can be as much as £2,500 and three points on the driver’s licence. And that is per tyre!

TyreSafe is launching a new van tyre initiative in the coming months to educate fleet operators and van drivers. The association is also however working more closely with the police to ensure that there is more enforcement of existing tyre safety legislation. There have been 15,000 convictions over the last three years in the UK for tyre-related offences.

“That number is going to grow,” warned Mr Jackson.

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Written by Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.

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