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“Vans have played a critical role in supporting us all during lockdown and it is vital we do more to keep them and their drivers safe on the roads”.

Greg Stansfield, Head of Sales, Autoglass® 

Light commercial vehicles (LCVs) have long played a crucial role on the UK’s roads both for transporting goods and supporting businesses. However, in recent times they have become even more essential, with the lockdowns we have all experienced driving a significant demand in home deliveries. A survey by the Royal Mail found that nearly half (45%) of UK adults have received more parcel deliveries since the first lockdown in March last year which has caused a dramatic increase in van mileage and usage on our roads.   

As we look forward to the future and continue to adapt to the current circumstances, it is essential that we think carefully about the safety features being used in vans to ensure we are keeping drivers safe on the road.  

Great strides have been made in car safety in recent years but unfortunately van safety is not quite up to speed yet. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) fitted in cars, such as Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), play a critical role in spotting and alerting the driver to risks on the road. The speed at which these technologies are being introduced to cars in the UK has continued to grow over the past few years and by 2022 every new vehicle model will have to be fitted with ELK and with AEB by 2024. 

On the other hand, tests conducted by Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP have reported major shortcomings in the UK’s most popular vans, warning that many new vans are not being fitted out with the necessary technology to mitigate risks of collision on the road.  

ADAS technology has the ability to mitigate driver risk and so it is vital that fleet managers are provided with the necessary knowledge about which vehicles are fitted with this technology when looking to purchase LCVs. It is also vital that they are equipped with the relevant expertise about how to manage these systems correctly and safely. The new Commercial Van Safety Rating launched by Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP is a great first step in encouraging wider education and information about the important role that ADAS has in keeping van fleets moving safely. 

Encouragingly, towards the end of 2020 Autoglass® saw more clients becoming aware of ADAS recalibration following the publication of Thatcham Research’s Insurance Industry Requirements (IIR), which make effective recalibration a necessity, showing just how vital the introduction of new requirements is for the industry. A number of large fleets have already begun exploring some complex ADAS systems to improve safety and take a more responsible approach to the distribution of goods. For example, Fatigue Warning Systems are being trialed by some large parcel fleet businesses, which alert drivers that their driving behaviour indicates fatigue and therefore informing them to take a break. Indeed, since 2017, Autoglass® has seen an increase of 195% in the number of vans requiring recalibration of safety sensors. We are certainly moving in the right direction but as an industry we must ensure that we educate businesses on the importance of these safety systems and accurate recalibration. 

Looking forward, fleets need to be confident that they have a supplier in place with the necessary expertise to deal with recalibrating ADAS accurately in vans. There needs to be an industry-wide objective to provide a consistent approach to repair work that follows the requirements set out by Thatcham. All technicians at Autoglass® are already required to complete the industry-leading Institute of the Motoring Industry (IMI) ADAS recalibration accreditation which ensures that all recalibration work is carried out accurately and to manufacturer standards by an accredited technician.  

As we continue to navigate through the lockdown, we must rethink our approach to van safety and ensure we pay the same attention to van safety as we do to cars. Creating awareness of these issues is just the first step.  

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