Britain’s van users warned they could face billions of pounds in extra costs unless they sharpen up on safety

14 April 2015 #SMMT News
  • SMMT launches safety guidance for van operators following poor safety levels.
  • Half of LGVs declared unsafe at annual MOT test, while nine in 10 are overloaded.
  • Failure to service vans properly could result in fines and vehicles taken off roads.

Tuesday 14 April, 2015 The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is today 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.1 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.2

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. To help this process SMMT is publishing an easy to follow van safety guidance at

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.3

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.4

However, this demand – and the businesses driving it – could be severely hampered if safety doesn’t improve. SMMT 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.



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