Experts speaking at last weeks ACFO spring national seminar entitled ‘A Van for all Reasons’ said that the police and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) enforcement officers will increasingly target unroadworthy vehicles, although HGV-like regulation of the van sector is thought unlikely.
Simultaneously, van operators have been urged to ensure compliance with regulations governing vehicle condition and health and safety at work legislation to ensure vans are operated legally and safeguard their employers from hugely impactful reputational damage and significant fines in the event of court action resulting from a serious crash.
Mark Cartwright, head of vans and light commercial vehicles at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), told the seminar, held last Thursday 5 May at the De Vere Harben, Newport Pagnell, that: “Vans have had a charmed life from an enforcement viewpoint.”
He added that DVSA data suggested that keeping vans in a roadworthy condition was proving difficult for many operators. There are a record four million vans on the UK’s roads – with industry predictions suggesting the total could reach six million by 2040 driven in part by strong growth in the construction and home delivery markets – but Cartwright said there were “challenges” with van replacement cycles extending and the average life of a model now being 8.5 years.
He calculated that there could be as many as 1.65 million unroadworthy vans in operation with DVSA figures revealing a 49.7% first-time MoT failure rate, notably due to tyre and light failures; and 88.5% of almost 11,000 vans stopped at the roadside annually being overloaded and 63% having serious mechanical defects.
Such figures were “a red flag to legislators”, said Cartwright, who called on more organisations to join the FTA-managed Van Excellence programme, which provides training, guidance and a comprehensive audit of van fleet compliance to ensure operators meet all legislation.
There are currently more than 100 Van Excellence accredited companies collectively operating some 125,000 vehicles and a further 120-plus fleets running 200,000 vans awaiting accreditation.
Cartwright added: “Fleets must lead, adopt and maintain good operational procedures. Vans power the UK economy and with great power comes great responsibility. If fleet operators don’t do it properly they will have legislation imposed on them.”
Stephen Turner, sales director of seminar supporter Bott, said enforcement authorities when undertaking roadside vehicle checks were asking for vehicle type approval documentation and that any conversion work was undertaken by an approved company.
He told delegates: “Van fleets need to be able to prove to the enforcement authorities that they have done everything possible in terms of operating a vehicle in a compliant manner.”
Mark Cartwright added: “Fleet operators must become more professional. The benefits of best practice operation are huge: reduced risk, reduced cost and improved driver relations. Fleet operators must recognise the role drivers’ play and the risks they are exposed to.”
He called on fleet operators to “give van drivers the right vehicle for the job and empower them. Start treating drivers as professionals” and added: “Fleet operators who get van operations right run them like truck operations. Those who don’t treat vans as funny shaped cars!”