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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 fta.co.uk/van   

  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 www.vanexcellence.co.uk 

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


We are all well aware of the dangers of drink driving, with designated drivers for nights out, and an increasing number of non-alcoholic options available to those who want to avoid a boozy session, particularly at this time of year. 

But how many of us have a big night out and then fail to consider the effect that that alcohol could still be having on us and our ability to drive safely the morning after then night before?

We are all different, and our bodies process alcohol differently – while the  blood alcohol limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland may be 80 mg/100ml and 50mg / 100ml in Scotland, there is no way of knowing how many milligrammes one unit of alcohol will produce in your bloodstream.  For this reason, sticking to the government’s “recommended units” may not always mean you are safe to drive the following day, not least because each of us processes alcohol at a different rate too.  

Sleep is not the magic solution either - research by the Institute of Advance Motorists has shown that most people do not appreciate that, just because they have been to sleep has no bearing on their level of alcohol on their bloodstream.   

A glass of water (or two) before going to bed will certainly rehydrate you, and a morning cup of coffee will give you a caffeine boost to wake up, but neither of these can speed up the rate at which alcohol leaves your system – that is down to the work of enzymes in your liver and cannot be speeded up. 

If you cannot avoid the party season completely, then charity DrinkAware has some tips to help you cut your alcohol consumption: 

  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or water 

  • Drink singles rather than doubles 

  • Choose lower strength drinks  rather than spirits or strong beers or ciders 

  • Stop drinking early enough to ensure your body has time to process the booze in your system before the morning. 

41,000 drink driving arrests were made in 2017, the majority of them the morning after a night of celebration.  Is one more beer really worth losing your licence for? 

 

Posted: 12/12/2018 11:18:03 by Els Matthews | with 0 comments


Remember, remember the fifth of November – not long now until Bonfire Night!  And while Guy Fawkes and his plotters were discovered before their barrels of gunpowder could go off underneath the Houses of Parliament, the country is gearing up for a night of bangs, crashes and whooshes which they would have been proud of. 

In the build-up to the big night, it is always worthwhile checking the regulations for the transportation of fireworks, particularly if you are planning to move larger quantities around for customers or your own displays.  How many of us have been guilty in the past of offering to transport fireworks for a friend in our working vehicles?  Your load consignment can be anything from sparklers to full pyrotechnics, which have different requirements when transported.  They are explosives, after all, which can cause significant damage to property and people, so need to be treated with respect.

Whatever quantities of fireworks you are transporting, make sure you obtain specialist advice before you do so – any product with an explosive charge must be treated with respect.  And whatever their size, there are a few basic rules to remember:  

Store them in a cool dry place before moving them and stack them carefully when inside the vehicle – do not leave room for them to slide about or crash into other boxes.

Do not pack fireworks with other items: leave them in their original packaging, as that is optimised for their transportation.

Make sure the interior of your vehicle is well ventilated, so that fireworks stay dry inside.  Condensation and moisture can ruin a celebration night if your firework becomes nothing more than a damp squib!

As with any cargo, fireworks must be loaded securely, and not left to slide around on the floor of the van, or, even worse, to fall from racking.  Remember what you are carrying when driving around: no sudden movements, overly-sharp braking or surging acceleration, all of which could dislodge your cargo and cause a potential incident.  Taking the time to drive smoothly and carefully will have another benefit too – namely, better fuel economy and less wear and tear on the vehicle.

And, of course do not leave them close to a heat source – or smoke near them!  It may seem daft to point this out but sometimes the basics are the things we forget!

It's also worth remembering that fireworks are now a year-round fixture at parties, weddings and other celebrations like New Year's Eve, so you may be called to move them at other times in the year.  If it is going to be a regular occurrence, it would be worthwhile obtaining specialist training on how to do so, and the regulations involved: gentle plug here for FTA’s associate organisation, Training Team, which provides such training – to find out more visit www.trainingteam.co.uk

Treat fireworks that you are moving for work with the same levels of respect as those you let off in your own garden – take care, and that will ensure you can enjoy every bang, whistle and flash without worrying about the safety of your vehicle!

Posted: 03/10/2018 11:06:55 by | with 0 comments


After such a glorious summer, it's sad to say we're starting to think about the autumn – it won't be long until the clocks go back, bringing darker mornings and evenings, and autumnal road conditions.  And these changing conditions can bring challenges which we all need to be aware of to ensure we keep operating safely as winter approaches. 

With the sun sitting lower in the sky during the winter months, it is vital that your field of vision is as clear as possible.  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 allow extra time to your journey if the conditions require a blast from the demister.  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. 

After long periods of dry weather, the roads can become slippery at the first dew or rainfall, thanks to deposits of rubber on the roads.  Take extra care when driving at this time of year, and allow sufficient braking distance to make sure you are completely safe. 

Visibility, both of your vehicle and of other road users, is more challenging as autumn moves into winter.  Check all your lights are working correctly, and keep all of them clean – spray from the road and other dirt can limit their effectiveness.  Always use indicators when turning, to ensure that other vehicles are aware of your intentions.  Keep alert to other road users too – more 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 manoeuvering to ensure that all road users can keep moving as safely as possible. 

Posted: 27/09/2018 12:16:25 by Victoria Marshall | with 0 comments