Maintaining a vehicle to roadworthy standards should be a priority for anyone operating commercial vehicles. But while HGV operations are governed by O Licencing, there is far less legislation for vans and often they aren't the main focus of the business. The importance of checking vehicles every day before they leave base can't be underestimated - for the benefit of the driver, vehicle and employer. Mistakes can be costly for everyone so putting effective compliance processes in place 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, and these must be assessed by a competent person so they can be rectified as required. 

Key areas that require attention in a daily walk round check are 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. 

Make sure that policies around the use of mobile phones, eating in the vehicle and keeping the interior clean and tidy are all built into driver policies – they are vitally important for the health and safety of drivers and other road users. 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: 03/07/2018 15:07:44 by Victoria Marshall | with 0 comments

We all know someone who thinks they’re Lewis Hamilton, driving too fast every time they get behind the wheel.  Can you honestly say that you’ve never exceeded the speed limit to get somewhere on time, to make that extra delivery or ensure that you get to an important meeting?     

Excessive speed is often a major factor in road traffic collisions.  It’s sobering to realise that the chance of survival for a pedestrian hit by a car increases from 10% if the vehicle is travelling at 40mph to 90% if it's doing 20mph.  But what are the implications for transport operators if their drivers regularly speed or cause an accident while breaking the speed limit?    

Cost is one area to explore - travelling at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph.  Speeding due to the pressure of work causes driving stress and this can lead to employees being off work, either through illness or because of a road accident, let alone because of damaged vehicles, so effective driver management is important.  Prior planning of routes and delivery patterns can go a long way to ensuring that speed can be controlled – don’t make excessive demands of your staff.   

Technology can play a big part.  Vans can be limited so that exceeding the speed limit is not possible, and telematics can be used to monitor and manage a driver's performance.  And perhaps there's an argument for vehicles to be limited by default when they come off the production line?  After all, what other piece of industrial equipment is sold equipped to break the law?    

Financial penalties for speeding have recently increased and drivers could find themselves with big fines relating to their weekly earnings as a consequence.  Business owners who turn a blind eye to speeding are also at risk under Health and Safety at Work legislation.  New sentencing guidelines put greater emphasis on the culpability of senior managers and owners.  An evidence of speed can be gathered from management systems on modern vans, even when no telematics are fitted.     

Driving at speed can have a significant effect on the way a vehicle handles on the road, making accidents more likely to occur.  And it is worth pointing out the effect that constant acceleration and deceleration can have on the life of a vehicle – much better to drive at a steady, controlled pace, keeping within the speed limit.  All in all, driving in a proactive manner, at an appropriate speed, is something that we should all be doing, week in, week out – that extra 5mph really isn’t worth the potential problems it can cause.   

Posted: 09/05/2018 10:49:11 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments

With most of us rushed off our feet, juggling work and family, the idea of doing a big ‘spring clean’ at home seems like an old-fashioned idea. But what about your van? Professional drivers often spend as much time in the cab as they do in their living room, so making sure your vehicle interior is safe and well organised is a worthwhile job. If you’re an employer, it’s even more important. Legally, a van is viewed as a ‘workplace’ and you have professional obligations to keep it safe. So here are some simple measures you can take to spring clean your vehicle:

Start by clearing out the cab. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be using your phone while driving, but what about other items that can cause a distraction or block your vision? Check the radio and the cab controls all function properly. Tidy away food and snacks. It’s not illegal to eat and drive at the same time. However, if you present a significant danger the police could prosecute you for careless driving, if they think you’re not in proper control of the vehicle. The same goes for cigarettes. It’s not illegal to smoke while you’re driving, but opening a packet and lighting-up takes your attention off the road.

Look at the windscreen and side windows. Is there anything that’s blocking your vision? Sat navs should be in a fixed position, either on the windscreen or dashboard, but the dashboard is far better because that doesn’t block your view. Don’t pile-up delivery notes, directions, maps and other bits of paper on the dashboard, where they can also block vision or slide off and distract you. You can’t read them while you’re driving, so it’s better to keep them in the door pockets or even better the glove compartment.

Now take a look in the back of your vehicle. Do you and everyone who drives the van know its safe maximum load? Driving an overloaded van is not only extremely dangerous, but if stopped, the driver is risking a fine or in the worst cases a prosecution for dangerous driving. Badly loaded vans can also be unstable, meaning steering and braking are less effective.

In an accident, loose items from the back of your vehicle have the potential to move sharply hurting the driver, passengers and other road users. There are a variety of ways to safely secure a cargo in the back of a van including, partitioning systems, racking and shelving, lashing, netting and anchor points. If you’re not currently using any of these then frankly you’re being reckless with your life and other people’s. Ideally everything in the back of a van should be securely fixed, at the very least with rope or bungee cords.

Even with the right storage equipment, it’s easy to get lax about securing everything safely. It’s estimated in a 50 mile per hour crash, a single loose bottle of water can strike a driver with the force of a 21-pound object – that’s the same as a small suitcase being thrown at the back of your head. Imagine the damage tools such as spanners and hammers can do.

So, tidy up the back of your van. Make sure all your packages and tools can be secured safely and however busy you are, don’t ever leave those last few bits and pieces on the floor.

Posted: 21/03/2018 10:21:42 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments

As van operators, the health of our vehicle is always of primary concern – daily checks and regular services keep operators on the road and working at their peak. But how much attention do we pay to our own health, and those of drivers across our fleets?

Official figures show that men continue to die, on average, six years earlier than women, for physical reasons that are largely preventable. And the impact of mental health problems on both men and women are even more profound, with startling figures showing that people with severe mental problems die up to 20 years earlier than the general population – an equivalent or greater impact on life expectancy than heavy smoking.

Most operators will say that they have active, busy lives – but how much of their time is actually spent sitting down, in a van, driving from customer to customer, only grabbing an unhealthy snack “on the go”? Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans has some tips that can help you and your drivers get into better shape without the need for a personal trainer (although they can also be beneficial!):

  • Keeping physically active is proven to help reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boosts self-esteem, helps concentration and sleeping. Try to do at least two hours of moderate intensity activity a week – take a half hour walk over lunchtime, or after work, to destress, as well as improving your circulation and general well-being.
  • It is always easy to grab a snack on the go – but make sure it isn’t full of hidden salt and sugar. Try to get into the habit of making lunch for yourself before you leave the house, and instead of picking up a bar of chocolate for an energy hit mid-afternoon, try a banana, which releases sugars into the bloodstream steadily after eating.
  • Caffeine is something that many of us rely on to keep alert during the day – but drink too much of it and it creates a vicious circle which can ruin your sleep patterns and make you increasingly reliant on it during the day. Try not to drink coffee from mid-afternoon onwards, and replace caffeinated energy drinks with squash or water to ensure you get a good night’s sleep: your body will thank you.
  • One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, and many will keep the problem hidden for fear of being stigmatised. Encourage your team to talk about their issues, with colleagues or management, and continue to support them as they seek help from professionals. Sometimes the offer of help is all the safety net that they will require.

This year’s Van Excellence Operational Briefings, taking place in April in Glasgow, Oxford and Derby, will focus on driver wellbeing and the effect that it can have on safety, compliance and performance. Find out more: Van Excellence Operational Briefings and book your place at one of the events.

Posted: 15/02/2018 14:56:57 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments

December is the busiest time of year for many van operators and even with a festive playlist on the stereo to keep your spirits up, the sheer volume of work can seem overwhelming.  But as FTA’s Head of Vans Mark Cartwright reminds us, it’s important to remember other road users when you’re rushing from drop to drop.

Van drivers don’t need reminding how hard it can be working in wet and cold weather, but the dark nights and winter temperatures have a big impact on other road users too.   Being a great van driver is all about adapting your driving to the road conditions and considering those around you.

Temperatures on the ground can be much lower than air temperatures, so even if you haven’t had to scrape the van in the morning there can still be ice on the road.  Leave a bigger stopping distance in winter weather and consider other drivers who may not be as experienced or sensible as you.

Van drivers don’t need reminding how hard it can be working in wet and cold weather, but the dark nights and winter temperatures have a big impact on other road users too.   Being a great van driver is all about adapting your driving to the road conditions and considering those around you.

Temperatures on the ground can be much lower than air temperatures, so even if you haven’t had to scrape the van in the morning there can still be ice on the road.  Leave a bigger stopping distance in winter weather and consider other drivers who may not be as experienced or sensible as you.

Well-maintained headlights are particularly important at this time of year.   A missing lamp is illegal for a reason – in the dark a single light can be very confusing, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who might assume you’re a two-wheeled vehicle and completely misjudge your size.  Make sure you test your lights on a daily basis.  The easiest way to do this is to build them into a regular walk-round check.  FTA has a great video: Youtube - theftachannel - Walk Round Check

Speaking of cyclists and motorcyclists, they are particularly badly affected by headlights left on high-beam.  The dazzling light is made far worse by a helmet visor or glasses, making it almost impossible for them to see.   Failing to dip your lights might be irritating for car drivers, but it can be deadly for those on two wheels.

We all like a good moan about the state of the roads, but cyclists are particularly badly affected by puddles and potholes.  Defects near the kerb can fill with water and turn into mini skating rinks in cold weather.  So, give them a bit of extra room and be understanding if they pull out to avoid a hazard you might not be able to see. 

Finally, if you’re drinking over the holiday make sure you understand the ‘next day’ risks.  According to the Department for Transport, one in five people caught drink-driving are arrested the morning after they went out.  If you drink five pints of beer and head home at midnight, the alcohol will still be in your bloodstream at ten o’clock the next morning.   Having a cooked breakfast, cold shower or big glass of water won’t make any difference.

Posted: 15/12/2017 14:13:30 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments