FTA hopes to change van 'bad boy' image

row of vans

Light commercial vehicles play a critical role in the 21st century and without them it would be difficult to imagine day-to-day living continuing as we know it.

But too often vans and their drivers are viewed as the “bad boys” of the road, which is an outlook the Freight Transport Association (FTA) aims to change through its Van Excellence programme, an industry-led initiative designed to drive up van operator compliance.

The FTA will be playing a key role in the first Commercial Fleet Summit and Exhibition taking place on Thursday, September 24 at the International Centre, Telford.

FTA policy director Karen Dee will use the Summit to launch the organisation’s annual Review of the Van Industry. Additionally, Mark Cartwright, the FTA’s head of vans and light commercial vehicles, will join forces with Dale Eynon, head of fleet services at the Environment Agency, for a workshop on van fleet optimisation.

The van market is the fastest growing in the automotive sector with more than 3.4 million vehicles on the road. Day in day out they play a key role in terms of, for example, delivering supermarket groceries to homes and parcels and packages to homes and offices; answering roadside breakdown calls and conveying workers to undertake servicing and maintenance on home and office boilers, air conditioning units and other equipment.

Dee will tell delegates: “It’s difficult to imagine a world without vans; they are intrinsic to the world we live in today. Modern life is powered by vans, but with power comes responsibility.

“Businesses that operate vans must do so in a safe and compliant manner. Businesses that don’t will find them being taken off the road by the authorities. Van Excellence members already recognise the importance of excellence in their operations, but it is now time for all in the sector to join forces and help professionalise this growing industry.”

More than 100 fleets collectively operating some 125,000 vans have so far achieved Van Excellence accreditation with a further 200 operators in charge of 200,000 vehicles working towards the goal.

Meanwhile, ‘right-sizing’ is rapidly becoming an industry buzzword and at a Fleet Summit workshop Cartwright and Eynon, will provide a theoretical and practical insight into the issue.

Vehicles should clearly be fit for purpose and the ‘right-size’ for the job, but the fleet should also be operating at maximum utilisation to deliver value for money.

Many fleets run large vans, but would cut operating costs by utilising smaller vans. For example, the Environment Agency, one of the most progressive organisations in recent years on fleet utilisation, has cut its fleet size by around 20%.

The secret? Simply speaking to team leaders across the country to establish their vehicle needs. In some cases, vehicles were being stock-piled for ‘just-in-case’ scenarios - regional teams wanted to be sure they had sufficient vehicles for unexpected situations - but it resulted in low utilisation levels with vans parked up for long periods. 

The initiative didn’t simply focus on removing vans from the fleet but also assessed the size of van that would be most suitable for each type of business operation. As a result, a number of vehicles were downsized.

The analysis has completely changed the profile of Environment Agency’s fleet. Eynon said: “We have right-sized our fleet, not under-sized.”

Limited tickets are still available for the Commercial Fleet Summit, book your place at, or by contacting Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133 or

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