The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which bills itself as ‘the voice of the UK logistics industry’ has launched a dedicated Van Policy Working Group to provide a “mouthpiece for the industry with Government, regulators and other stakeholders and a platform to communicate and debate the issues the market is facing”.
The light commercial sector has gone through unprecedented growth in recent years with currently 4.6 million vans on the UK’s roads – more than double the figure of 25 years ago and a 59% since 2000, almost double that seen in the car sector. What’s more over the past 12 months, the number of van drivers in the UK has increased by more than 12% and together, they cover 51 billion miles a year, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the FTA.
The surge in online shopping and consequently home deliveries is largely responsible for the acceleration in the number of vans on the roads, but there is also a growing army of self-employed workers requiring such vehicles with the trend to vehicle downsizing another factor.
Elizabeth de Jong, director of UK policy at the FTA, said: “As the number of vans on the UK’s roads continues to soar, it is vital the interests of individuals and businesses operating these vehicles are represented with stakeholders and government. The creation of a Van Policy Working Group reinforces FTA’s commitment to the market. As logistics needs change, and vans become increasingly important to UK Plc, this will mean the FTA is perfectly placed to lead this sector forwards to even greater success.”
Reflecting expansion of the sector, Fleet Service Great Britain has in the past 12 months placed an emphasis on winning business with organisations that either exclusively operate light commercial vehicles or a mix of company cars, ‘grey fleet’ vehicles, and vans. That objective is based on the fact that statistics clearly identify that the light commercial vehicle sector is a growth market, while HM Revenue and Customs’ data would suggest that the company car segment is shrinking.
The FTA’s Van Policy Working Group comprises 41 leaders within the sector selected from a cross-section of the industry and represent many of the largest van fleets in the UK, although the organisation declined to name members. However, they are derived from the membership of the FTA’s Van Excellence programme, as well as from van operators across the wider FTA membership.
Mrs de Jong said: “With growth [of the van sector] comes the need to evaluate current safety, compliance and efficiency standards and drive improvements wherever necessary.
“The Van Policy Working Group provide a vital mouthpiece for the industry with Government, regulators and other stakeholders and provide a platform to communicate and debate the issues the market is facing. Van drivers and operators provide a vital service to the UK economy; their contributions must be valued and their concerns and hopes for the future heard and acted upon.”
With a particular focus on the key policy compliance issues facing van drivers and seeking to ignite change within the sector, the Van Policy Working Group represents one initiative in the FTA’s programme of activity, which already includes Operational Briefings held across the country to boost knowledge and expertise across van operators, the Van Driver of the Year Award and the Van Excellence programme.
Van Excellence is a scheme designed by some of the best van operators in the UK; facilitated and managed by the FTA to recognise excellence and improve operational standards. At its heart is the Van Excellence Code; a Code of Practice outlining ‘what good looks like’ in van operations.
Asked why there was a requirement for the new Van Policy Working Group when the Van Excellence programme already existed, an FTA spokeswoman said: “The number of vans on the UK’s roads is rising and the FTA is making these changes to reflect the growing importance of the van market.
“Van Excellence is a scheme designed to recognise excellence and help improve operational standards, and it remains at the heart of FTA’s vans strategy. It continues to be the only industry group responsible for maintaining and championing the very highest standards across the sector, something which FTA is extremely proud of.
“And, while Van Excellence is about safety and efficiency, the Van Policy Working Group will revolve around policy making and influence. Our governance structure has a number of modal councils which help us debate and form policy objectives – vans is now one of them.
“Van drivers and operators provide a vital service to the UK economy and FTA wants to ensure their contributions are valued, heard, but also acted upon. The Van Policy Working Group will discuss the key issues facing van drivers, communicate the sector’s concerns and aspirations to key stakeholders and Government and seek to ignite change.”