Van drivers face an enforcement crackdown after industry insiders estimated more than 1.5 million light goods vehicles operating in the UK could be 'unroadworthy'.
Mark Cartwright, head of vans and light commercial vehicles at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said that vans have so far lead 'a charmed life from an enforcement viewpoint'.
The FTA said there were a record four million vans currently on the UK’s roads and that number could reach six million by 2040, driven by a resurgent construction industry and ever-increasing home delivery market. However Mr Cartwright calculated up to 1.65 million of them could be 'unroadworthy'.
The FTA highlighted figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) that show a 49.7% first-time MoT failure rate, notably due to tyre and light failures; 88.5% of the almost 11,000 vans stopped at the roadside annually were overloaded and 63% had serious mechanical defects.
While experts in the sector suggested that greater UK regulation is unlikely, an enforcement crackdown was possible. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders also said that the European Commission was planning to evaluate how current, relevant HGV legislation could be applied to light commercial vehicles.
Mr Cartwright said: 'I think greater regulation of the van sector is unlikely; but the police and DVSA will become more active in enforcing existing legislation.'
There was also a new emphasis on responsible procurement insiders said, which meant fleet operators were advised to join van accreditation schemes like the FTA’s Van Excellence programme or the national Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) to demonstrate best practice.
Graham Short, in charge of 126 vehicles of which 66 are vans at Norfolk-based Zip Water UK said tenders were increasingly asking for evidence that suppliers were meeting light commercial vehicle best practice.
Mr Cartwright said: 'There is a lot of misunderstanding and fear about how companies will fare in the audit to meet the FORS standard. We look at 32 areas of operation and there is a 78% first time pass rate so a FORS audit reinforces what fleets are already doing. The FORS standard is very achievable and shows a safe, effective and efficient operator.'
Ian Vincent, principal consultant and compliance manager at FORS highlighted that accreditation to the FORS standard had seen members reporting a 17% reduction in collisions, a 34.5% reduction in slight injury collisions, a 9.7% cut in damage-only incidents and a 4.3% MPG improvement last year versus 2014.