There are 408,000 trucks registered in the UK and four million vans. Vocational drivers with heavy goods vehicle (HGV) licences are monitored, tightly regulated and regularly trained. Van drivers are… not. Yet work related road risk (WRRR) – i.e. risk of collision – is as great for them and their employers as it is for trucks.
There are a number of reasons why vans and their drivers are often not managed with the same attention and rigour as HGV fleets. Here are a few of them:
- HGVs are mostly used in or by specialist logistics operations. Fewer than 10% of vans are used by parcel and courier companies. The rest belong in non-transport operations whose core expertise is not related to fleet management and where the vehicles are often considered as a necessary, but incidental, tool.
- Van drivers are typically non-vocational. Like their companies, they have expertise in other areas – as electricians, roofers, civil engineers, landscapers – and do not see driving as a professional skill.
- Where regulation insists that HGVs return to a registered operating centre as their base, van fleets are typically as dispersed as the workers themselves.
- Non-transport companies often do not have the same level of professional transport management as logistics companies. Often therefore the line managers do not have the same range of skills and focus as transport professionals. They may be very good at managing their core activities – less so at understanding how to manage drivers and fleets.
- There is a disconnect between health and safety, which is rigorously managed in terms of the business’s core activity and on-site, and WRRR. Many companies don’t realise that their workers’ greatest risk occurs, statistically, while driving.
- Van drivers are covered by domestic driving hours regulations, limiting their driving and their work time – but this isn’t monitored by tachograph, and too few know there are any limits at all.
Where does this leave van drivers?
Often those who drive vans are very effectively trained, managed and supported for all their core activities, whether they are tradespeople, railway workers, civil engineers or electrical engineers. They are often not supported in their driving.
Van fleets still have to be roadworthy, legally compliant and used safely. Best practice includes:
- drivers checking their vehicles at the start of every shift
- knowing how to drive safely and defensively
- understanding the risks of driver fatigue and distraction
- understanding how to share the road safely with pedestrians, cyclists, horses and other road users.
In the most recent government figures, vans have a collision rate of 247 per billion vehicle miles, not far behind trucks. And that rate isn’t reducing nearly as fast as for trucks, where safety interventions are more commonplace. In 2017 there were some 12,500 collisions involving vans which caused injury or death compared to 5,000 for HGVs.
Clearly companies using vans need to protect their employees and the public, but this is easier said than done if they lack in-house expertise and/or their non-vocational drivers are dispersed across the country. Training is part of the solution – but skills-based training which is not followed up or constantly reinforced tends not to create a lasting improvement in safety and reduction in collisions.
That’s why many van fleets are starting to use systems such as SmartDrive’s video-based safety programme. It allows managers to see risky behaviours with full context and provide them with coaching insights which can help them to effect better driving – no matter how far away the driver is, or how little personal experience they have in managing work related road risk.
To discover the full benefits to van fleets of using this kind of approach see our document Five Great Reasons to Add a Video-based Safety Management Programme.
- Posted by Nicola Burgess
- On October 19, 2018