Van Excellence guest blog

Posted on: Wednesday, 15 May 2013 by Debbie Attwood

By James Davis at Manheim

On Thursday I attended the first ever Freight Transport Association Van Excellence Conference at The Hilton, Sheffield. With more than 80 attendees from across Van Excellence fleets and associated industry partners, the day promised a packed and interesting agenda.

Over the course of the day we heard separately from two speakers from VOSA, including the Head of Enforcement Policy. Both had very interesting presentations. We heard that vans outnumber trucks on UK roads seven to one. There are twice as many UK van accidents per annum than truck accidents - 13,000 in total (admittedly there are more vans on the road). Whilst vans currently only account for eight per cent of all VOSA roadside checks, more than HALF had roadworthiness prohibitions. Thirty four per cent of all VOSA weighing checks are for vans and an amazing 75 per cent of these receive an immediate prohibition for overloading. More than 50 per cent of vans fail their first time MOT. All these figures are sadly rising. VOSA has been asked to focus on vans by Government for just these reasons. The economic backdrop is largely blamed - van operators are looking for increased productivity and reductions in maintenance spend. The message from VOSA is clear - Government doesn’t want to legislate van operators, certainly not in the way trucks are!

VOSA wants to engage the van industry, understand the issues facing it and ensure the highest risk sectors are targeted. It wants to be more consultative and will be undertaking more roadside van inspections and issuing more compliance advice. VOSA is very keen to work with trade associations and its members including all compliance schemes such as Van Excellence. Refreshing to hear such a clear, realistic and engaging approach from a public agency. Safety and compliance is key for all and, as we heard later in the conference, the EU has a ZERO road death target for EU roads by 2050.

Gary Whittam, quite simply an industry legend (ex head of Ford CV and much more besides) spoke about fuel economy and the future of van technology in two separate presentations. His stark conclusion was that rising fuel costs (which will clearly continue) would now NEVER be negated or offset by new manufacturer technologies. He also said that list prices will have to increase as emission control technology is developed. Fuel cost is the biggest challenge facing the margin squeezed van operations in the UK.

So what? I hear you say. Well taking a 125ps 2 tonne van from 2002 and comparing it with a similar spec van in 2012, the cost to run it per 100 miles could be up to £26.41p higher! According to my maths for a 100-van fleet whose vans individually cover 40,000 miles per van that totals over £1 million! Scary stuff when you think margins are not what they used to be back in 2002!

A full-on day, but thought provoking and great to see so many known, and new, friendly industry faces.

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