Statistics ‘red flag to legislators’
- Predicted 1.65 million unroadworthy vans in operation
- 49.7% first-time MOT test failure rate
- 88.5% of 11,000 vans stopped annually at roadside were overloaded
- 63% stopped at roadside had serious mechanical defects
TIME’S running out for law-breaker vans, with a major clampdown by law enforcement agencies predicted amid rising concern at the number of illegal light commercial vehicles on UK roads.
HGV-like regulation of the van sector is thought unlikely, but the police and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) enforcement officers will increasingly target unroadworthy vehicles, according to experts speaking at ACFO’s spring national seminar entitled ‘A Van for all Reasons’.
Hosted by Mercedes-Benz the seminar was supported by international in-vehicle equipment manufacturer and supplier Bott and the UK’s largest vehicle leasing and fleet management company, Lex Autolease.
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 employers from the major impact of huge reputational damage and fines running into millions of pounds in the event of court action resulting from a serious crash or other incident.
Mark Cartwright, head of vans and light commercial vehicles at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said: “Vans have had a charmed life from an enforcement viewpoint.”
He highlighted at the seminar, held at the De Vere Harben, Newport Pagnell, 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 Mr 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 Mr 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.
Highlighting that Van Excellence accreditation was an “aspirational goal” for van fleet operators, Mr Cartwright said: “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.”
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
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said that the European Commission was now planning to evaluate how current, relevant, HGV legislation could be applied to light commercial vehicles.
The FTA is in regular contact with the Department for Transport and Mr Cartwright said: “I think greater regulation of the van sector is unlikely; but the police and DVSA will become more active in enforcing existing legislation.”
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.”
Mr 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”.