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The legislative spotlight is soon to fall on the largely unregulated sector of the heavy van. Time to get your house in order!

Writer: TIM DAVIES, managing director, iFleet

During the 22 years I’ve worked in the commercial vehicle market, LCVs have always been the forgotten vehicles, ‘lost’ between the more emotive (and high volume) car sector and the more tightly governed HGV sector.

Van operators have been left to their own devices with little or no supervision from the authorities. And precious little help from the various companies that purport to provide them operational support.

Now, though, it seems that the spotlight is falling on the LCV sector (predominantly the Class 7, 3-3.5T GVW weight range) – at least from a legislative point of view.

  • Heavy vans have worst MOT failure rate

Worrying statistics such as this sector having the worst first time MOT failure rate at 50% (financial year 2009/10) of any vehicle category PLUS over 50% of the 23,000 road side checks revealing significant mechanical defects  (double that of heavier vehicles where Operator Licences are required) have led to plenty of industry talk about amendments to GVW weight limits.

Will the significant Class 7 sector become subject to Operator Licence requirements?  If so, will it be the full version currently in force for vehicles greater than 3.5T GVW?

Will there be a new weight band of 3.0–4.5T GVW to encompass the ‘heavy van’ sector with an ‘Operator Licence Light’ requirement?

As the risk of incurring the wrath of the business van manager, I hope so!

The unscrupulous van operator can drive down the motorway at 70mph – or more – with:

  • No regulation on driver hours (Operator Licence vehicles require tachographs)
  • No requirement to inspect the roadworthiness of the vehicle at regular intervals (Operator Licence vehicles are subject to 6/8/10 weekly checks)
  • No specific requirement (other than as per ‘manufacturers recommendations’) to service and maintain the vehicle
  • No proof of where the vehicle is to be maintained or whether those responsible carry the credentials to do so

Add to this heady mix the fact that of the 6,800 vans weighed last year, 73% were given prohibitions and there is indeed a dangerous cocktail of potentially under-maintained vehicles, tired drivers, overweight vans and excess speed!

The big company van news, and the big question for the business van manager is simple; are you doing enough and are you prepared for the changes that must come?

The question for those who make the rules is equally simple; when are going to address this dangerous loophole in vehicle and road safety?

And finally, when are those companies purporting to assist LCV operators in their administrative and operational support going to deliver genuine benefit to this forgotten sector?

Well, in answer to the last question, that’s beginning to change – I know of at least one!

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