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

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

If you're carrying loads of bags of shopping, just think how difficult it is to manoeuvre yourself around other shoppers on the high street.  Then consider the same problem, only trying to control a moving vehicle.  Do you pack the back of your van tightly until it cannot carry anything else?  If so, you are probably overloaded, and an overloaded van presents a risk to yourself and other road users.  And not only does it make the van more difficult to move safely from A to B, it could also land you with a fine of up to £5,000 per offence when stopped by the authorities.  It's very easy for the enforcement agencies to spot an overloaded van on the road – tell-tale signs like listing from side to side, sliding around corners and failing to drive in a straight line give the overloaded driver away – so it's worth taking steps to avoid a conversation with the authorities. Here are my top tips for staying load-safe: 

Firstly, it's vital to be aware of your van's maximum permitted weight overall, but also the maximum weight allowed for each axle. These limits can be found on the manufacturer's plate –  check your handbook to find it if you aren't sure. It's entirely possible to overload one axle – typically the front – while the van is within the overall limit. To avoid this, make sure the load is distributed evenly and remember it may need redistributing and re-securing as the load is delivered.  

If you're in any doubt, check your van's weight at a local weighbridge. But don't panic en route  – if you are caught with an overloaded van while driving to a weighbridge and explain your intentions, any penalty will be waived. Once there, ensure your load is secured and properly distributed to avoid overloading an axle; don’t forget the van weight includes the fuel and the weight of the driver and any passengers.  

Secondly, the load must be secure; a shifting load can damage both the interior of the van and its contents and, ultimately, could harm the driver if it shifts while driving along. Any damage to the vehicle will reduce its residual value and lead to recharge fees for rental and leased vans. An insecure load can also be dangerous for the driver; even a small package or piece of equipment can become a deadly missile in a collision. Loads falling on drivers as they open van doors can also result in injury – as they say on airplanes, take care when opening the doors! Overloading also changes the way a van handles – especially if the load is unsecured – and will increase fuel consumption. Check what you've got on board and avoid carrying any goods or requirement unnecessarily. 

Stay load-safe – know your van's maximum weight, secure your loads and utilise weighbridges if you're unsure. 

Posted: 01/02/2019 09:00:00 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments

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

As we welcome in the New Year, many of us – 60% in fact – will be making New Year’s resolutions, such as saving more money, reducing our calorie intake or taking up a new hobby. But just as we set goals for our personal life, we should also consider how we could improve our behaviour at work, and – most crucially for van drivers – ensure we keep ourselves and other road users safe. Here are my top suggestions for New Year’s resolutions: 

  1. Remember daily pre-use checks 

While daily pre-use van checks are not required by law, this is no reason to believe they are not an essential activity. The safety of the driver and other road users is reliant upon all of us operating a vehicle that’s roadworthy and fit to drive. Tyres, lights, steering, brakes and mirrors – among many other features – should be checked before departure.  

Van Excellence developed a pre-use defect check app to help drivers. For more information, including how to download the app, please visit   

  1. Seek help if you are struggling  

Combine tight deadlines with long isolating hours spent on your own in a cab every day, and you have a recipe for stress, tension and more. But van drivers should not suffer in silence – poor mental health is a very common illness and resources are available to help. Van Excellence is working with the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to help tackle the stigma around mental health and raise awareness of the support available. Find out more here  

  1. Understand the importance of hydration  

A recent survey by Mercedes-Benz Vans found 20% of van drivers avoid drinking fluids during the day so they do not have to stop for a relief break. While the pressures of the job often mean relief breaks are not always possible, proper hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining good health and staying safe; motorists who are dehydrated make twice as many mistakes, according to research by Loughborough University. Dehydration can have a significant effect on the way we work – in fact a 1% dehydration level causes a 10% drop in performance:  something we should all bear in mind when operating on Britain’s busy roads. 

  1. Strive for higher standards of safety and compliance  

All van drivers and operators should try to achieve the highest standards of compliance and safety at all times. While this is easier said than done, Van Excellence is here to help. Whether it’s by aspiring to achieve its Van Excellence Code, attending its briefings, or taking part in a training course, there are plenty of resources available to ensure that your van fleet is operated to the highest possible standards.  

Find out more about the Van Excellence code by visiting 

Posted: 07/01/2019 16:49:58 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments