The introduction of the Highway Code Hierarchy and enforcement of the Direct Vision Standard in London has made commercial vehicle safety top of the agenda for all business owners and local authorities.

Whether driving a single van around town, managing a substantial fleet of HGVs or operating vehicles across a network of major building sites, the importance of keeping workforces and other road users safe is vital.

Lack of attention to the safety of employees and other road users can result in significant legal and emotional costs for personal injury as well as the financial cost of vehicle and property damage.

Eliminating blind spots to prevent deaths, injuries and damage has long been a critical issue for HGVs and fleet operators. Indeed, the Direct Vision Standard stipulates that vehicles weighing more than 12 tonnes require a permit to drive in Greater London and must meet the minimum star requirements as set out by the regulations. This includes fitting commercial vehicle safety systems, such as cameras and sensors, if the vehicle does not meet the minimum one-star rating.

However, for vans, which don’t fall into the parameters of the DVS regulations, permits and vehicle safety devices are not required.

Recent research carried out by Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research, revealed that in 2018 vans were involved in more incidents that resulted in fatal injuries to other road users, per mile travelled, than any other type of vehicle on the UK’s roads. According to Thatcham Research, vans are also almost completely devoid of collision avoidance technology.

Emily Hardy, a commercial vehicle safety expert at Brigade Electronics UK, a market-leading provider of safety devices and solutions for commercial vehicles, said: ‘We have been working closely with Logistics UK and its Van Excellence Standard to highlight the need for safety technology for vans.

‘Since January 2021, changes to the Van Excellence Code have required all new vans entering fleets to be fitted with safety equipment, such as reversing alarms, sensors and cameras, to prevent collisions and protect vulnerable road users. This brings vans in line with larger commercial vehicles, particularly in the freight, haulage and construction industries that have been adhering to voluntary schemes, including Truck Excellence, FORS and CLOCS for more than a decade.’

Since these changes were implemented, Logistics UK has reported a huge rise in van safety standards with more than 100 businesses and local authorities now choosing to operate their vans to the ‘highest standards of safety, compliance and efficiency’. These include Greggs, DHL International and South East Water.

Brigade Electronics is now working to encourage other van operators to understand the need for these vital safety features.

Ms. Hardy continued: ‘The results achieved by Logistics UK following the updates to the Van Excellence Code in 2021 have made a significant impact on ensuring van fleets are the safest they have ever been, and we are delighted with how the scheme continues to go from strength to strength. However, there is still work to be done and we will be continuing to work with Logistics UK to do everything we can to promote this important issue to professional van drivers and operators.

‘Brigade recommends a combination of active systems and passive systems to assist the driver and draw their attention to hazards that are in the vehicle’s blind spot. Ultimately, if a driver is not looking in the right place at the right time, they will not see a potential problem. Not only do devices for indirect vision improve safety and efficiency but they also reduce costs associated with vehicle damage and insurance premiums.’