The Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) is encouraging van drivers to ensure safe and efficient driving is at the forefront of their minds, as the seasonal boom in eCommerce makes roads busier.

The combination of Christmas and the national lockdown means online shopping is expected to be particularly popular this year, which means more vans than ever will be completing urban deliveries.

FORS, a voluntary accreditation scheme which caters for all commercial vehicles, is reminding fleet operators that it provides a ‘robust’ best practice model offering specific guidance for van operators and van drivers.

Paul Wilkes, FORS business services manager, commented: ‘The ongoing shift to online retail has been amplified by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, meaning more deliveries, many of which are completed by vans.

‘What is more, SMMT figures show a 13.3% increase in new van registrations in October - the highest October on record with 28,753 units registered. As we enter the busy winter season, the emphasis on safety for van drivers becomes even more important.

‘FORS offers van operators and drivers a clear best practice model. This includes training and online toolkits, starting at the Bronze entry-level and moving progressively through our programme, to ensure van drivers are working as safely and efficiently as possible.’

FORS Professional Van Smart eLearning training at FORS Bronze aims to reduce work related road risk and improve safety, for both van drivers and vulnerable road users.

FORS Silver Van Smart training includes a classroom-based module, and on-cycle training, encouraging drivers to learn how vulnerable road users view the road. Van Smart training also helps van drivers learn anti-idling techniques and understand the importance of route planning and correct vehicle loading to help lower emissions and the costs associated with additional fuel use.

All Van Smart training is accompanied by the Van Smart Toolkit, with a driver handbook, and practical guidance that van operators can use to embed best practice across their business. The toolkit helps van operators reduce the likelihood of collisions, by developing driver skills, particularly in road safety and awareness of other road users. It shows operators how they can reduce financial costs of any collisions which do occur, including insurance premiums, insurance excess, injury claims, legal fees, repairs and loss of business.

FORS also provides a one-day Fleet Management Essentials course specifically for car and van operators who may not have had any additional fleet management training. The session covers driver competence and conduct, vehicle and load safety, and internal fleet quality management procedures, and is designed to help fleet managers understand how to raise standards within their fleets.

Mr Wilkes added: ‘During the height of the first national lockdown, delivery drivers were rightly considered keyworkers. Our reliance on our mobile workforce of van drivers is even more prevalent in this busy winter season – the contribution to the UK economy from the LCV sector is vast.

‘We must make sure this fleet of drivers, for whom the roads are their place of work, are supported with the tools they need to ensure their safety and the safety of those who share the roads.’