White vans slammed: Drivers urged to act on unsafe overloaded vans

Unsafe overloaded vans

Sadly, not all vans are as well looked after as this one (Picture © Iveco)

Van owners and drivers are being encouraged to take more care of their vehicles. It comes after research revealed many are unsafe or overloaded. A study showed almost two thirds have a serious mechanical defect. More than nine out of 10 stopped are overloaded. It has prompted a van maintenance and awareness scheme, launched by industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 

Unsafe overloaded vans: What is the problem?
Every year 10,800 vans are stopped at the roadside by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Of those, nearly two thirds (63 per cent) were found to have a serious mechanical defect. The DVSA inspectors also found that 93 per cent were overloaded. Around half of the vehicles stopped posed a safety risk to other road users.

Unsafe overloaded vans: Why are they so bad
Vans lead a hard life. Any time off the road is money lost by their operators. And with commercial customers demanding more for less, there’s a readymade incentive for owners to overload. Light vans (those weighing less than 3.5 tonnes) are exempt from the stringent licensing regime that applies to heavier vehicles. Consequently, when light vans take the same MOT test as cars, they fail at roughly the same rate: around 50 per cent. Heavy Goods Vehicles, whose operators are bound by strict and expensive licensing rules, have a failure rate of just 22 per cent.

Unsafe overloaded vans: Why aren’t they licensed?
Licensing schemes cost money and the people that ultimately pay for them are the end users, in this case the van operators and therefore their customers. The SMMT claims that if there was a licensing scheme similar to the one for HGVs, it would cost the van industry £2.1 billion.

Unsafe overloaded vans: Why it’s vital the industry gets itself in order
Mike Hawes, chief executive for the SMMT explained: “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.”

Unsafe overloaded vans: What can van drivers do?
Vans are essentially large cars so their roadworthiness is tested in exactly the same way. We’ve already looked at how drivers can do their own pre-MOT test here. Our expert, Nick Reid, explains how to check engine oil here and how to inspect other vital fluids here . The SMMT has also published its van safety guide .

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