In Pursuit of Van Excellence - An Information Bulletin

Numbers and Words define and describe our world. Numbers measure our successes, failures and progress.

Nowhere in the world is that more true than in the business of transport, and for vans in particular. And here are some numbers to think about.

There are more than 3.2 million vans on the UK’s roads. That’s one in ten of vehicles on the road. One person in every 12 of the working population will drive a van during their career. If you want to see just how vital vans are for our economy, just take a look down your street. I bet you’ll see a good number of vans parked on your neighbour’s drives and, maybe, your own.

49.7 per cent is the number that is exercising the minds of DfT and VOSA. It’s the percentage of vans that fail their MOT first time around. The MOT test is a snap-shot of that vehicle’s condition; is it roadworthy or not? Taking that as the measure, it translates into more than one million un-roadworthy vans on the road today; vans with tyres that would warrant an MOT failure; vans with lights that aren’t working; vans with faulty brakes and suspension. To put that number into context, around 22 per cent of trucks fail their MOT first time around, along with 35 per cent of cars.

So, what makes vans different? My guess is there are a few reasons. Trucks operate in a highly regulated environment; mess up on your maintenance arrangements and risk losing your operator licence. Many van operators, especially within the SME sector, simply don’t know what they don’t know. They are blissfully unaware of the risks they are exposed to in operating vans. A simple adage put forward regularly is that “good van operators treat their vans like little trucks not like funny shaped cars”.

The enforcement agencies have a role to play. I often get asked if there should be more legislation on vans. My response is consistent “There are laws already in place, they just need enforcing”.

Vans have led a charmed life from an enforcement point of view. VOSA isn’t targeted at vans. It is funded from operator licence fees to enforce buses, trucks and coaches.

Police don’t have the resources – both in terms of numbers and expertise – to enforce. “Don’t stop anything you can’t see over the top of” is often a rule of thumb; police involvement is typically after the event following a collision or similar incident; rarely is it pre-emptive.

The Van Excellence scheme was born from a concern amongst FTA’s van-operating members to recognise excellence in van operations and to provide a platform through the Van Excellence Code to improve standards. The scheme currently has over 200 operators engaged in the scheme operating in excess of 200,000 vans. The FTA's approach with Van Excellence has unashamedly been from the top down; engagement with the large blue-chip fleets has given the scheme credibility and scale. The Van Excellence Scheme's accredited operators include some of the biggest fleets, many of whom have adopted the scheme as their own and are even more passionate about it than we are. It really is a scheme created by the industry, for the industry.

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