Surge in van traffic is 'ticking accident time bomb'

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Van drivers are almost twice as likely as car drivers to use hand-held mobile phones – 2.7% compared to 1.4% of car drivers – according to figures from the Department for Transport.

Of these van drivers, the majority were using a phone in their hand rather than holding it to their ear; 1.9% of van drivers in England and Scotland were observed holding a phone in their hand compared with 0.7% observed holding the phone to their ear.

And this trend comes at a time when van traffic is growing rapidly, reaching the highest ever level at 45 billion vehicle miles last year, according to Road Use Statistics Great Britain 2016.

This increase in van traffic is thought to be closely related to the 10% year-on-year growth of online and home shopping. This increase has shown a natural increase in employment within the road freight industry, up 6% in 2014, to 222,000.

But whereas van traffic has shown an increase of 12% from January 2013, the opposite trend is true of HGVs. Research suggests that increased van use may be substituting for HGVs. Factors include the lower wages of van drivers, the rise in home deliveries and lastly, the fact that both the fleet management and drivers of vans are less regulated than HGVs.

IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, Neil Greig, said: “There is no additional test or qualification required to drive a van, over the basic car licence. This compares directly to drivers of HGVs, who must undertake a test in the vehicle they drive and continued professional development through the driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). As more and more orders are made online, it is very likely that the increased growth in the number of van drivers will continue.

“But whether your fleet is made up of vans or HGVs, the same corporate manslaughter laws apply and as an employer it is not enough to assume that just holding a driving licence will keep your drivers safe. With additional pressures on them, including often overly optimistic delivery schedules, van drivers face challenges car drivers rarely will.

“With the Christmas delivery surge fast approaching be stringent in your risk assessment process and ensure every individual you have on the road receives the training they need to get their valuable cargo and themselves delivered on time and in one piece.”

While companies may feel that managing driver risk is difficult and perhaps costly, the reality is very different. The essential tasks of checking licences and risk assessing drivers are both done online, meaning costs are low and fulfilment is easy and quick. By completing these tasks, companies identify those most at-risk and can prioritise further training.

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