SMMT warns van users to sharpen up on safety or face extra regulation

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is launching a van maintenance campaign to help van operators take better care of their vehicles, and to keep their drivers and other road users safe.

Almost two thirds (63%) of the 10,800 vans stopped by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) at the roadside each year have a serious mechanical defect, while more than nine out of 10 (93%) are overloaded.

Around half of all vehicles stopped posed a road safety risk and were subsequently taken off the road at a cost to their owners of some £4,000 per day.

Meanwhile, 50% of vans also fail their annual MOT test first time, compared with just 22% of HGVs, whose operators are bound by strict and costly licensing rules.

At this week’s Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, SMMT is urging a step change in safety improvements to ensure van owners meet self regulatory requirements and avoid the risk of fines and further legislation being imposed. Currently, goods vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tonnes are exempt from the Operator Licensing regime that applies to heavier vehicles.

SMMT has been working closely with the DVSA and other industry stakeholders to ensure this exemption remains in place.

Although there has been no move so far to make Operator Licensing rules apply to vans, the regulations and safety records around light goods vehicles are facing increased scrutiny.

Industry is keen to ensure that a system of self regulation is maintained so that costly licensing can be avoided, so long as safety records are improved. At current HGV fee levels, the collective industry bill for licensing for vans could stretch to as much as £2.1 billion.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Britain’s 3.2 million vans are essential for the smooth running of the economy but their recent safety record is a matter of concern. Vans rack up huge distances and endure significant wear and tear on a daily basis so regular servicing is essential. We’re launching a new campaign to promote maintenance so businesses can take the necessary steps to ensure their vehicles are safe, protecting their drivers and other road users without the need for further fines and regulations.”

Britain’s van sector continues to grow in importance for the distribution of the UK’s goods and services, as businesses expand and fleet operators look for greater flexibility and cost efficiencies. Demand for these vehicles continues to outstrip trucks, and with 34,007 new vans registered in March 2015 – up 23.8% on the same period last year – the sector is on track to hit a 12th consecutive month of double digit percentage growth in April.

However, this demand – and the businesses driving it – could be severely hampered if safety doesn’t improve. MT has been working closely with the DVSA and other industry stakeholders to ensure the van sector remains free from burdensome regulation, and today publishes an easy to follow van safety guidance package at

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  • Martin Parrack - 17/04/2015 16:59

    I would be pleased to give general advice and training to drivers over the dangers of overloading and it's possible effects. With over 20 years of experience weighing vehicles.

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