By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles  

More than 400 delegates attended the 2019 edition of the Van Excellence Operational Briefings, which took place this spring in Derby, Edinburgh and London. As van driving is such a physically and mentally demanding role, drivers need the right diet, rest, support, and mindset to match. Here are some top insights and tips we picked up from two of our speakers at the event. 


Marcus de Guingand, Managing Director of the Third Pillar of Health, explained how tiredness impairs driving performance, by reducing reaction time, alertness and concentration. Ultimately, driving tired increases the chance of a collision, yet is a common problem, as the figures he shared illustrate: 

  • Fatigue accounts for approximately 20 per cent of accidents on UK roads and 30 per cent of fatal accidents  

  • Sleep deprivation affects the flow of blood to three areas of the brain which play a crucial role in decision making, attention span and the speed at which we adopt new information  

  • At any one time, 20 per cent of people in developed countries are suffering sleep problems 

Despite the connection between fatigue and vehicle collisions, too many drivers are taking risks: 40 per cent of car, van and lorry drivers said they have carried on driving when too tired and 10 per cent of people who own a vehicle for work admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the past 12 months. 

De Guingand recommends workplaces enforce a strict no tolerance rule to driving while drowsy, and foster a culture where drivers feel it is acceptable to take rest when required. 


A recent survey by Mercedes-Benz Vans UK found that 70 per cent of van drivers say work pressures severely restrict their ability to keep hydrated and stick to a healthy diet. This was the focus of the session by Susan Burry, a nutritionist at the British Dietetics Association, who explained why dehydration and poor nutrition can negatively impact driver performance.  She also offered simple and practical advice to boost health and wellbeing, for example, swapping fizzy drinks for water and preparing lunch in advance so is it less tempting to grab something unhealthy on the go.  

Posted: 05/06/2019 09:47:41 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments

A pre-use vehicle check should be an essential part of any effective roadworthiness strategy. That is why it has always been a mandatory requirement of the Operator Licensing System for truck operators and why it should be adopted by conscientious, responsible van operators. The importance of checking vehicles every day before they leave base cannot be underestimated; mistakes can be costly for everyone, so a rigorous compliance process is vital. 

FTA's Van Excellence scheme has a code of practice that specifically requires the completion of daily pre-use checks. Members of the scheme must prove they have a structure in place for drivers to record identified defects; these must then be assessed by a competent person, so they can be rectified as required. 

The team at Van Excellence recently launched a pre-use defect check app, which is available to download from the PlayStore and Apple Store. The app mimics the simplicity of a paper form, coupled with the ability of a smart device to share the results instantaneously with the operator, including photographs of any identified defect. If you are interested in trialling the app, please contact 

Key areas that require attention in a daily walk round check are the tyres, lights, steering, brakes and mirrors. These can be quickly and easily checked before setting off, giving reassurance that the vehicle is roadworthy and has no obvious defects. Employers should also put measures in place to check their staff are fit to drive. Licences should be regularly checked, and employees should be asked to declare if they are taking medication or have medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive. Both prescription and illegal drugs can impact this ability, as can alcohol, and it is the employer's responsibility to be aware of any issues. 

Membership of the Van Excellence scheme helps employers put these policies in place and share best practice with others in the industry.  Take the time before the van goes out on the road to do these checks, and you and your customers can be reassured that your operation is as safe as possible.   

Posted: 01/05/2019 09:00:00 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments

By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles  

Half a million UK drivers still use their mobile phones while driving, according to a recent study by the Department of Transport. This puts both the driver and other road users in serious danger; any type of phone use  – calls, texts, emails, social media and other internet use – is illegal and holding the phone in any way, even if it is just held between the knees, for example, is an offence.  

In a bid to curb usage, the government doubled the penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving to six penalty points and a £200 fine in March 2017. Vocational drivers may even have their entitlements suspended by the Traffic Commissioner and newly-qualified drivers will automatically lose their licence under the points system. 

Using a mobile phone with a hands free kit can also be an offence if the driver is distracted or does not have proper control of the vehicle at the time. The penalty is the same – six points and a £200 fine – so employers should carefully consider whether their staff should be expected to take calls on the move. 

Drivers who use mobile phones are now also liable to prosecution for the more serious offences of careless or dangerous driving if it can be proved that an offence was caused by failure to have proper control of the vehicle due to distraction. Penalties for careless and dangerous driving are substantially higher than for the specific mobile phone offence. 

Employers, managers, colleagues and callers may be legally implicated when a driver uses a mobile phone as causing, permitting, aiding, or abetting the infringement.  

Posted: 08/04/2019 15:38:32 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments

By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles  

After a long and arduous winter, the first signs of spring are appearing – lighter evenings, warmer temperatures and blooming flowers. But the changing season can bring challenges which we all need to be aware of to ensure we keep operating safely as spring approaches.  

With the sun sitting lower in the sky during the spring months, it is vital that your field of vision is as clear as possible. Around 3,900 people are injured in accidents caused by the blinding effects of the sun each year, according to data from the Department for Transport. Make sure your dashboard is totally clear – no coffee cups, maps, delivery notes or anything else should be on there to get in the way of your view out of the cab.  Make sure the glass is clean, inside and out, before setting off, and keep a pair of sunglasses in the cab, as the low angle of the sun can be difficult to deal with at this time of year.  

Always use indicators when turning, to ensure that other vehicles are aware of your intentions.  Keep alert to other road users too – vulnerable road users like cyclists and motorcyclists can be more difficult to spot when the light is failing, so take extra time to check before pulling out or across traffic.  And be aware that reflective road surfaces, combined with damp or wet driving conditions, can make it very difficult to see things clearly, particularly at multi-point junctions or away from main roads with good lighting.  Check and check again before manoeuvring to ensure that all road users can keep moving as safely as possible.  

Posted: 15/03/2019 09:00:00 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments

By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles  

When you picture an athlete, what comes to mind? Perhaps you conjure up images of a runner or a rugby player, but athletes come in all forms and it is easy to overlook the physical challenges more everyday jobs can bring. For example, informal research by FTA found parcel delivery operators walk nearly 40 miles and carry over 1.5 tons of parcels on average per week!  

To recognise the physical and mental demands that often come from driving professionally, the theme of FTA’s 2019 Van Excellence Operational Briefings is the industrial athlete. The three briefings, held in Edinburgh, Derby and London from 26 March to 2 April, will equip operators with the tools and techniques they need to help strengthen their drivers’ physical and mental health. 

Caring for drivers is one of the best ways for employers to improve the safety record of their businesses; operators of all fleet sizes will be able to pick up hints and tips on changing the health of their workforce at the sessions.  

The briefings will cover the following topics: 

Proper diet and hydration 

A recent survey found that more than 75% of drivers deliberately restrict fluid intake during the day, to reduce the need for stops in a busy working day. This, of course, can easily affect cognitive skills and risk perception; even mild dehydration can have the same impact on driver errors as drink driving, according to a study by Leasing Options. The British Dietetic Association will speak on the importance of proper diet and hydration. 

Fatigue prevention 

Driving while drowsy is suspected to be a primary cause in more than 20% of road fatalities, according to the Transport Accident Commission. The Third Pillar of Health will look at the impact of fatigue on the working day and share sleep management strategies.  

Positive attitude 

Stress and setbacks can wreak havoc on our mental health; successful motor racing driver and mental attitude coach, Andy Neale, will share techniques on how to become resilient and develop “bouncebackability”.  

Supportive workplace 

Organisations must embed good wellbeing practices into their day to day operations; Transport Research Laboratory will provide suggestions of supportive mental wellbeing strategies for workplaces to adopt.  

It all comes down to safety 

The police recognise the importance of effectively managing wellbeing and health issues in the workplace; representatives from the police will explain how this leads to safer driving and more comprehensive risk management. 

Ex-international rugby player and fleet manager, John Dalziel, will draw on his wide-ranging experience to explain the parallels in preparation, mindset and performance between professional drivers and top-level athletes. And finally, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) will discuss the charity’s work to raise awareness around male suicide and how Van Excellence is supporting it through its CALMVan initiative. 

The Operational Briefings are sponsored by Van Excellence Platinum Partner, Mercedes-Benz Vans, and Gold Partners Bott, Brigade Electronics, Hertz, Quartix and Lex Autolease.   

Places at FTA's Van Excellence Operational Briefings can be booked for £75 + VAT per person. To book please visit or call 03717 11 22 22  


Posted: 01/03/2019 09:00:24 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments