Earlier this month, motor industry umbrella body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), launched a new maintenance initiative with the aim of improving the poor safety record of the commercial van sector.
There are more than 3.2 million vans on UK roads, supporting both small and large businesses, and playing a key role in the UK economy. However, of the 10,800 vans stopped in roadside safety checks each year, over two thirds are found to have serious mechanical defects, and half of those stopped fail their MOT.
This has serious implications for the industry, costing businesses millions of pounds. As well as spot fines and lost business due to prohibition or immobilisation of vans, poor maintenance can also lead to an increased risk of accidents, pushing up your motor trade insurance premiums in the longer term.
With the above in mind, the SMMT felt that there was an urgent need to improve standards within the industry, increasing safety and helping to bring down costs for businesses.The SMMT also hope to avoid an attempt by the government to introduce any costly regulations or compulsory compliance schemes for the sector – a very real risk if the safety record of commercial vans does not improve.
Maintenance is key
Light Goods Vehicles (i.e. less than 3.5 tonnes) are currently exempt from the Operator Licensing scheme that heavier vehicles have to go through and the SMMT has been working with partners to try and ensure that this exemption stays in place.
However, the safety record of Light Goods Vehicles is under increasing scrutiny and only by significantly improving that record can the industry ensure that the current system of self regulation is maintained, avoiding costly compulsory licensing schemes.
In order to have the greatest impact, the SMMT decided to focus a campaign on maintenance, looking at what van owners and drivers can do themselves to ensure their vehicles are safe to be on the road.
Commercial vans go through a lot of wear and tear, travelling long distances and racking up the miles. To ensure they operate safely and at their best, regular maintenance and servicing are essential.
This initiative aims to promote the importance of effective van maintenance, encouraging and enabling businesses to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of their drivers and other road users, and avoiding the need for any further regulations.
To help with this, the SMMT has produced a van safety guide which includes a list of daily maintenance checks you should be making to ensure your vehicles are safe to be on the road.
The Vehicle & Operator Services Agency’s best practice guide is also a useful resource, including checklists for both operators and drivers as well as a vehicle ‘walk-around’ checklist to help you ensure all areas are covered and help you to catch any potential problems.
It is clear that poorly maintained and operated vehicles are an issue in the commercial van sector and have the potential to cause both reputational and financial damage to a business – so this campaign has a key role to play in minimising that risk.
By getting behind this initiative and following the advice of the SMMT, commercial van operators can ensure that the safety record of the industry is improved, making the roads safer for all users and improving the reputation of the industry as a whole.
Gemma Sheldrick is Head of Strategy at DNA Insurance, who provide insurance advice and cover for businesses across the UK.