VOSA has warned it will come down hard on van operators not complying with regulations in a bid to improve standards within the industry.
The organisation, which has traditionally focused on heavy goods vehicles, will increase its number of roadside inspections and other enforcement activity to target issues such as vehicle unroadworthiness, overloaded vans, and towing infringements.
A VOSA spokesman told Fleet News it will try to educate operators in the first instance, but will dish out fines of up to £200 per offence to drivers if required.
The warning comes after Gordon Macdonald, VOSA’s head of enforcement policy, addressed the issue at a Freight Transport Association (FTA) Van Excellence conference in Sheffield.
A VOSA spokesman said: “This year, we are commencing a programme to address LCV operators’ low compliance and raise the standards of the light commercial vehicle (LCV) industry.
“LCVs are involved in twice as many accidents as HGVs and have an MOT failure rate of 50%.
“Furthermore, in VOSA checks, LCVs are prohibited six out of 10 times and the vehicle is overweight three-quarters of the time.
“The majority who try to be compliant will be offered education and advice to enable them to achieve their goal of operating safe and compliant vehicles.”
A mixed approach will be used to address operators who are ignorant of the requirements, said VOSA.
They will be subject to enforcement action at compliance checks, which can result in drivers facing fixed penalties of up to £200 for each offence committed, while also being offered education to enable them to raise their standards.
The spokesman added: “The minority who have no desire to comply will be subject to enforcement action in an effort to force compliance.”
Ultimately, a business that operates HGVs as well as vans could see its O-Licence revoked as a result of failings in its van operation.
VOSA determined to raise standards
The first steps in this initiative will be a programme of checks in 20 cities throughout the year to raise VOSA’s profile with van operators in specific market sectors.
This will be combined with co-operation with trade bodies to convey the message that VOSA is determined to raise the standards of the van fleet through joint working, education, assistance, and, if required, enforcement action.
The spokesman said: “We believe that best practice in the LCV industry can be achieved through the instigation of good compliance systems.
“For example, operator licensing and Van Excellence both promote and insist on the use of good vehicle maintenance and administration systems, as well as systems which ensure vehicles are not overloaded and loads are secure.”
The action is supported by the FTA, which set up the Van Excellence scheme to raise standards in the industry. It operates a code of conduct that encourages van operators to adhere to rules and regulations and gives them advice on how to run their fleet safely and legally.
Mark Cartwright, head of LCVs at FTA, said: “A lot of vans fail MOTs through minor items such as wipers and bulbs. You don’t need to be a technician to realise that these are faulty. Van operators should be educated into checking these regularly.
“Regular maintenance of vans can save businesses a lot of money. A decorator whose van breaks down could lose a day’s wages, so it makes financial sense to keep it in good working order.
“The difference between good and bad operators is that the good ones think of their LCVs as small lorries and maintain them as such. The bad ones think of them as funny shaped cars and need to be re-educated.”