A major new campaign is to be launched in January by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in a bid to improve van safety.
However, rather than using a ‘big stick’ approach of prohibition notices and fines, the DVSA is focusing on operator and driver education and encouraging a self-help attitude to improving compliance.
DVSA head of enforcement scheme Gordon MacDonald said that fleet operators and drivers could achieve much to improve compliance by copying the HGV sector and undertaking 10-minute walk round check on vehicles, with a focus on tyre, brake and bodywork condition before setting off on journeys.
“That would solve a multitude of problems,” said Macdonald, who explained that vehicle mechanical condition and overloading were key DVSA concerns alongside a 50% MoT van failure rate.
Vehicle enforcement checks carried out by DVSA staff at roadside and operators’ premises in 2013/14 on UK-registered light goods vehicles reveal that: 2,543 prohibition notices were issued following weight checks on 3,031 vehicles (83.9%), down from 89.9% in 2012/13 and 87.3% in 2011/12; and 15,122 prohibition notices were issued following mechanical checks on 25,139 vehicles (60.2%), down from 68.9% in 2012/13 and 66.2% in 2011/12.
Additionally, the DVSA says the van MoT failure rate of around 50% - compared with an HGV one of 20% - was a huge concern with brakes, suspension and lighting/signalling being among the major reasons.
MacDonald said: “We want to encourage operators not to think about the sheer volume, but the weight and distribution of the goods and materials being carried. It is easy to sort out.”
The three-month pilot campaign, part of which will see MoT stations distributing key fobs and stickers, will be launched in four cities - including Bristol and Nottingham - and will be supported by an information-packed website which operators and drivers can access for advice on ensuring vans are roadworthy.
In the spring the DVSA will assess the impact of the campaign and then roll it out further or reassess how it drives forward improvements in van roadworthiness.
Furthermore, the DVSA will continue to promote van safety and compliance through the Freight Transport Association-managed Van Excellence campaign and will also explore further opportunities with the likes of ACFO, the leading UK representative body for fleet decision-makers, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The DVSA says it has limited financial resources and manpower to manage van compliance explaining that its focus was on HGVs and unlicensed vehicles.
Nevertheless, MacDonald says the DVSA “maintains an enforcement presence” in the van sector.
However, he added: “We want van operators and drivers to recognise what the issues are and help themselves rather than DVSA come along with a big stick.
“We have always seen vans as being problematic, but it easy to detect potential issues around overloading through visible checks on front and back axles, the effect on tyres and suspension levels.”
Vehicle corrosion and scruffy vans could also be a frequent give away to DVSA enforcement officers of a non-compliant van with certain operating sectors, such as builders’ merchants because of the heavy loads carried, falling foul of regulations more frequently than some other sectors.
MacDonald concluded: “We will continue to undertake enforcement checks on a small scale, but fleets can save themselves time and money by paying attention to vehicles operated and contribute to an improvement in MoT failure rates and a reduction in roadside prohibition notices. A safe vehicle is a cost-effective vehicle to operate.”