Be More Truck! Why van operators need to embrace fleet management
By Mark Cartwright, Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles, FTA
The use of vans in business has grown substantially over recent years, with more than 4.2 million of them now on the UK’s roads. From a means to transport a tradesman’s tools to delivering a consumer’s online shopping, vans provide a vital and varied service to the UK economy. And as the vans market continues to grow rapidly, the team at Van Excellence – a scheme to promote their safe and efficient operation – believes that all businesses should implement an effective van fleet management policy. After all, truck operators have implemented such procedures for a long time; there is no reason why van operators should not be doing the same.
The consequences of poor fleet management can be severe; these include threats to safety, finance, and even the removal of personal freedom if a custodial sentence is given as a result. Informal research by FTA found that an unexpected Vehicle Off Road (VOR) will cost a business between £2,000 to £3,000; vehicle collisions are both costly and disruptive. By following the example set by the truck sector, van operators are less likely to be involved in a collision or other incident, saving money as well as life and limb.
THE RIGHT MINDSET
Firstly, van drivers should adopt the mindset of a truck driver. Their driving credentials are a source of great pride and for many, the central part of their role. While many people may view van driving as their secondary job – they are engineers, florists or plumbers first, for example, and simply use their vehicle to travel to and from their place of employment, with the tools of their trade – the driving element of their role must be taken just as seriously. After all, truck operators recognise the benefits of a fleet management strategy; they must run their vehicles in a cost-effective and efficient manner for their company to remain profitable and will take all steps to avoid Vehicle off Roads (VORs) or breakdowns, as these can compromise their company’s reputation, in addition to impacting profit margins.
THE RIGHT PLANNING
Planning and preparation are key to an effective fleet management strategy. Van operators should know when their vehicles are due for maintenance and should plan accordingly; this may involve sourcing temporary replacements, rescheduling work or, when appropriate, rearranging maintenance.
Van drivers should also check their vehicles thoroughly at the start of every working day, as this will help to prevent breakdowns and unscheduled VORs. By taking a few minutes to check their vehicle – including tyres, lights, steering, brakes and mirrors – drivers can spot any obvious defects before it is too late. 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. Pre-use vehicle checks are a mandatory requirement of the Operator Licencing System for truck operators; it should also be adopted by conscientious and responsible van operators.
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 colleagues, including photographs of any identified defect.
By adopting a comprehensive van fleet management policy, businesses can be confident they are operating roadworthy and legally-compliant vehicles, while minimising the risk of breakdowns or unplanned VORs. And Van Excellence is here to help; membership of the scheme helps employers to adopt suitable fleet management policies and share lessons learned with others in the industry. Central to the scheme is the Van Excellence Code, a set of minimum best practice standards all van operators should aspire to achieve. Operators reaching this standard can apply for certification from the Van Excellence Operator Accreditation Scheme – following a satisfactory audit – to publicly showcase their commitment to safety, efficiency and sustainability.
By joining the Van Excellence Scheme and achieving certification, operators are less likely to be involved in a collision or other incident. For more information on Van Excellence, including how to join, please visit vanexcellence.co.uk