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Load, check, train, policy: four essential tips for van fleet safety

By Jayne Pett - Fleet Management|Tips & Advice

With the number of vans on UK roads hitting an all-time high, reaching almost 4.5 million, the importance of maintaining a safe and efficient van fleet has never been more critical.

Effective van risk management isn’t just about keeping drivers and the public safe, however. It’s also about protecting an organisation’s reputation and its bottom line.

Here, we share four top tips for keeping your drivers safe, your vans legal and your organisation compliant.

Tip 1: Don’t overload the van

Overloading a van poses a significant risk to both fleet drivers and other road users. Not only does it make the vehicle more difficult to steer, it also puts additional strain on the van’s brakes, suspension, tyres and engine.

In the UK, vans must adhere to strict weight limits, with the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) specified by the manufacturer serving as the maximum weight the vehicle can legally carry.

The GVW is calculated by adding the kerb weight – otherwise known as unladen weight – of the vehicle (the weight of the van when empty) to the payload capacity (the combined weight of the driver, any passengers, fuel and the load weight).

While public weighbridges offer a solution for vehicle weighing, their daily use may be impractical. For larger fleets, investing in their own weighbridge could prove more cost-effective and efficient.

Alternatively, portable axle weigh pads present a flexible option, allowing drivers to weigh their vans while out on the road. For continuous monitoring, on-board weighing systems can be installed via in-cab devices or remote solutions, such as telematics, with alerts when overloading occurs.

Once the vehicle is within its maximum permitted weight, careful attention should be given to axle weight limits, ensuring the load is equally distributed between axles. It should also be secured against the bulkhead using appropriate restraints, with heavier items stacked at the bottom. If the load is being delivered, remember to redistribute the weight throughout the journey.

Beyond safety concerns, overloading has financial implications for businesses too. Overloading a vehicle by up to 30% can attract fines up to £300, with more severe overloads potentially leading to a court summons, underscoring the importance of strict compliance with weight regulations.

Tip 2: Make daily vehicle inspections compulsory

Recent statistics underscore the importance of diligent vehicle maintenance and inspection routines. Between April and June 2023, almost 37 per cent of class 7 vehicles, which include goods vehicles over 3,000kg up to 3,500kg GVW failed their MOT tests. Alarmingly, more than 22,000 vehicles failed with at least one dangerous item, posing an immediate risk to safety.

Daily vehicle checks help to identify and address potential issues before they escalate into more serious safety – and costly repair – concerns. By digitising this process, fleets can eliminate the time-consuming and less traditional paper-based approach, instead utilising a more streamlined and effective solution for maintaining safety standards.

Fleet Operations’ MOVE Driver Companion App, for example, has more than 50 van safety check points available. Drivers can capture defects using their phone and upload them to the main stakeholder platform, instantly flagging issues to the maintenance team.

Uniquely, as the software allows integration with any service booking platform, repairs can then be automatically booked in, ensuring defects are dealt with quickly before they become bigger, higher risk problems.

Tip 3: Offer training and education

Driver training isn’t just for new recruits. Instead, a comprehensive programme should be devised and implemented across the company to allow all fleet drivers to continuously improve on their skills and road knowledge.

One of the key aspects of modern driver training involves the use of telematics and driving performance data. These technologies offer a wealth of information on driving behaviours, such as speeding, braking and cornering, which fleet managers can analyse to identify areas where drivers may need additional support. This data can also be used to recognise and reward safe driving, acting as an incentive for employees to adhere to best driving practices.

As the ICE ban deadline looms closer, more eLCVs are coming to market and an increasing number of fleets are starting to plan their switch to electric. However, eLCVs present unique challenges for drivers and training programmes must adapt to address these differences.

Electric vans have a quieter operation and instant torque, which means they are quicker of the mark than ICE vans. Understanding eLCV charging requirements and range capabilities is also crucial for planning and executing safe driving routes.

Tip 4: Establish a comprehensive driving for work policy

Driving for work policies serve as essential frameworks for businesses that operate van fleets, playing a crucial role in ensuring compliance and protecting the organisation’s assets and reputation in the event of an accident.

Clear expectations and guidelines should be established to demonstrate a company-wide commitment to road safety, detailing everything from high-level objectives to the expected conduct of all employees behind the wheel. Policies should also cover drivers’ hours rules to ensure van drivers do not exceed their legal driving limit, as well as employee responsibilities, such as daily vehicle inspections and regular training.

Effective communication is at the heart of promoting good driving practices. Policies should be distributed across the entire workforce, making sure everyone follows the rules and understands their legal obligations.

Team meetings and appraisals provide an excellent opportunity to remind employees of their commitments to safer driving, ensuring that high driving standards are not merely adhered to but are deeply embedded in daily operations.

A challenging economic climate can often lead to risk management slipping down the van fleet agenda in favour of instant cost-cutting measures, however this shouldn’t be the case. Instead, these two vital business objectives can work hand-in-hand – steps to mitigate van fleet risk can ultimately result in long-term cost savings and enhanced operational efficiency.


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