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Have manufacturers created a situation where the productivity of 3.5 tonners has nose-dived?

Reviewing the latest trends in van buying and selling, George Alexander, chief editor of Glass’s guide, says in the September editorial, that manufacturers of large panel vans have created a situation where the productivity of most 3.5 tonners has nose-dived.

In many instances the space a 2.8 tonner offers is more than adequate, as typically few 3.5 tonners will be “cubed-out” in a working week

Developing new models boasting the latest safety features has increased the weight but reduced payload.

This has been exacerbated by the physical size of such panel vans having increased considerably with the weight of all that extra steel falling within the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 3.5 tonnes.

“Try as they might, despite the use of lighter materials and adopting ingenious design techniques, engineers could not find sufficient weight savings to ensure that payload was not sacrificed,” writes Mr Alexander.

“Within certain marques, this has become such an issue on some larger panel vans that their smaller stable mates are now able to carry heavy payloads at a lower GVM.

Whilst this admittedly comes at the expense of cubic capacity, in many instances the space a 2.8 tonner offers is more than adequate, as typically few 3.5 tonners will be “cubed-out” in a working week.”

The first solution for those operators wanting the flexibility of having up to 17 cubic metres of space on tap might be to go for vans that are plated at a higher weight.

For larger, well-run fleets these heavyweights can deliver higher productivity which could prove attractive; the main drawback is that they are caught within O-licensing regulations which entail higher operational costs.

Unfortunately, due to not everyone being licensed to drive vans above 3.5 tonnes and the additional requirement for tachographs, this creates uncertainty as to where RVs will sit at the point of disposal.

Another, more radical solution might be to run a greater number of smaller vans to make up for any shortfall in overall payload and capacity.

For every three 3.5 tonners previously operated, a fleet manager might opt to substitute them with four 2.7t GVM panel vans.

Here, a fleet’s net payload and flexibility would increase, yet so too would driver costs and fuel used.

However, if the productivity of these medium sized LCVs were to be maximised, the returns generated should more than offset the higher operational costs.

When the not dissimilar initial cost of acquiring such different fleet solutions and the stronger residual values delivered by smaller vans are taken into account, the total cost of ownership might even favour going for more lighter panel vans and, at worst, be broadly similar.

Therefore, with the wider UK economy continuing to grow strongly, for those that intend to expand their businesses, this option might make sense.


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