Should vans be regulated like HGVs?

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A surge in the use of vans up to 3.5 tonnes for parcel deliveries and distribution has taken work traditionally done by HGVs and exploited a lack of regulation in the sector, according to a report on the Motor Transport website.

The article questions whether vans should be subject to the same enforcement regime as HGVs.

One haulier commented that up to 40% of his deliveries had been wiped out by the growth in courier firms, who aren’t subject to the same regulations as lorry-based businesses: “There’s been an erosion in our industry; there used to be 14 pallets on our trucks and now there are 10.  Four are getting delivered elsewhere – white van man is delivering them.  We are obviously regulated with tachographs, traffic commissioners and so on and it’s costing our guys a lot of money.  I think every van driver should be working to a particular standard.  They need to be regulated.”

Speaking for the GMB union, National Officer Mick Rix said that online retailers such as Amazon employed a business model that enabled them to avoid providing vehicles, paying road tax, driver insurance, vehicle maintenance and training costs.  “This is a cheap model with no risk and cost to the company,” he said.  “This creates an uneven playing field and an unfair competitive advantage.”

Trade associations contacted by Motor Transport appear decidedly lukewarm about the need for more regulation.  They said the government seemed reluctant to start requiring vans to be fitted with tachographs and that the DVSA didn’t have the resources to enforce millions of extra vehicles.  

However, the the Council of the EU, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers have agreed to legislate for vans between 2.4 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes to be fitted with tachographs for cross-border operations.  Motor Transport estimated that the numbers of UK vans affected by this would be small, although it could have an impact on operators undertaking work between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“Vans are the fastest growing form of road traffic, but we haven’t seen a corresponding increase in road accident casualties or fatalities,” Toby Poston, the BVRLA’s External Relations Director, noted.  “In fact, vans continue to have one of the lowest rates of casualties of all transport modes.  

“We know there is little appetite within central government to further legislate in the van sector and the DVSA is not resourced to enforce the millions of vans which operate on UK roads.  We don’t believe that tachograph installation is the right solution but we would urge fleets to specify safety equipment, particularly autonomous emergency braking technology.  We are hopeful that increased adoption of this and other electronic safety measures – which the European Union wants to make mandatory from 2022 – will lead to significant improvements in van safety.”