Fleet operators are being asked to join a call for the standard fitment of more advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to vans, following the launch of a new test for commercial vehicle safety technology.
Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research have put 19 of the most popular vans through a new type of test that highlights how well they can avoid collisions with other road users.
Only three vans out of 19 tested achieved a ‘Gold’ rating for the performance of their driver assistance systems, while five received a ‘Not Recommended’ rating.
Research carried out by Thatcham found that only 12.8% of new vans featured Autonomous Emergency Braking, a system that warns the driver and can apply the vehicle’s brakes if it detects an imminent collision.
The technology is estimated to reduce around 38% of rear-end collisions and also protects vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
While the fitment of AEB is commonplace on cars, only a handful of commercial vehicles feature it as standard and many brands do not offer the technology at all.
Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, said: “This first batch of test results show the fitment of crucial safety technology on vans is woefully low. It’s a serious issue that needs addressing urgently, particularly with van numbers increasing and the continued surge in demand for home deliveries during the pandemic and before Christmas.”
Data from 2018 showed vans were involved in more accidents that resulted in fatal injuries to other road users, per mile travelled, than any other type of vehicle on the UK’s roads. Between 2013 and 2018, collisions involving vans were responsible for a 14% increase in the number of serious injuries to pedestrians, car occupants, and van occupants. Cyclist casualties also rose by 22%.
Simon Turner, campaign manager for Driving for Better Business, said: “The wide fitment of AEB and other ADAS technology to vans could be a massive step forward in road safety however, with most vans being procured on cost alone, fleet operators who don’t demand this technology may well be missing out on the potentially huge associated business benefits.
"Time and time again, van fleet operators tell us their biggest concerns are the business disruption caused when vans are off the road for repairs, and the rising cost of insuring their vans – often a direct result of their collision record.
"ADAS technology fitted to cars has been proven to significantly reduce collisions, repair costs and third-party claims. Firms that purchase or lease vans should now be looking for these same benefits and specifying this technology on all their new vehicles.”
New General Safety Regulation (GSR) legislation will require all new vans to be fitted with certain ADAS technology by 2024. Thatcham Research is keen to see the UK deliver on the commitment it made to sign up to this before leaving the EU. But, together with Euro NCAP, it also wants to see a change in the van manufacturers’ approach before then.
“There is a definite lack of parity between the levels of collision avoidance technology on vans compared to cars,” Avery explained. “Modern cars have lots as standard, but vans have barely any. Brands are making a clear decision not to fit this important technology as standard and van operators are not even buying it as a cost option.
“The lack of parity even exists within the same manufacturers. Take Renault, for example. Its five-star-rated Clio has lots of standard fit Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technology that can save lives. But its Trafic van has practically nothing, not even as an option.”
How the vehicles performed
The Commercial Van Safety Rating assesses the performance and fitment of emergency braking, speed limiter, and lane support systems, as well as seat belt reminder technology. Safety tests will be conducted annually.
The vehicles used in the tests had the highest level of safety equipment specified, so the results are not necessarily indicative of every model on the road, only those that were ordered with the technology where it doesn’t come as standard.
In the first batch of tests, only VW’s Transporter – with a performance score of 65%, Ford’s Transit (63%) and Mercedes-Benz’s Vito (61%) earned a ‘Gold’ rating. Both the VW and Mercedes models are fitted with AEB as standard in the UK. Five other vans were rated ‘Silver’, and six were ‘Bronze’.
The Renault Master (16%), Nissan NV400 (12%), Renault Trafic (11%), Vauxhall Movano (7%) and Fiat Talento (5%) performed so badly they were given a ‘Not Recommended’ rating.
The introduction of the new Commercial Van Safety Rating has been welcomed by two leading motor vehicle insurers.
Martin Smith, technical claims manager, Motor, at Aviva, said: “Over the last few years great strides have been made in the development and fitment of ADAS safety features to passenger cars. These features help protect drivers, occupants and other road users by alerting drivers, and taking active steps to avoid or reduce the severity of a collision.
“Unfortunately, the adoption of ADAS safety features in the light commercial vehicle (LCV) van market has not been mirrored. We are confident the new Euro NCAP assessments of LCV’s will provide users and businesses with important safety information to assist them in buying safer vehicles and encourage commercial van manufacturers to fit more ADAS technology to their products. Ultimately, this can only be a good thing for the safety of all road users.”
Jon Dye, director of Underwriting for Motor at QBE Europe, added: “Making sure vehicles on the road meet certain standards and better utilise Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technology will help reduce accidents and improve road safety.
“As well as safer roads, this may also lead to a reduction in those insured and uninsured losses resulting from accidents, helping to reduce the overall cost to drivers and businesses as well as controlling insurance premiums in the long term.
“We would encourage our customers to take a close look at the safety of their vehicles in relation to this study and carefully consider areas of improvement, some of which could have significant benefits."