Despite the increasing importance of vans in the UK economy and a recently emerging focus of governmental bodies on work-related road safety, there is little systematic knowledge of how van drivers and managers of companies with van fleets operate or what their attitudes towards occupational road risk are. To investigate prevalent attitudes and knowledge as well as current practice regarding work-related road risk a total of 22 in-depth interviews were carried out with van drivers and managers of (professional or occasional) van drivers from predominantly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Driver interviews encompassed four driver subgroups: 1) employed dedicated; 2) employed non-dedicated; 3) self-employed dedicated, and; 4) self-employed non-dedicated van drivers. Managers’ statements were compared with their drivers’ statements to investigate how well knowledge of work-related road risk and safety messages permeated different hierarchy levels of organisations. Drivers and managers were also asked their preferences for particular van features.
The interviews demonstrated limited awareness across all groups of what effective management of work-related road risk entails, particularly in the areas of: 1) medical driver fitness; 2) driver training and assessment, and; 3) safety culture and communication. None of the companies had driving related medical fitness checks in place. Even though some of the participants reported long induction procedures, training in the majority of cases did not include important issues such as loading, effects of load on vehicle handling, driving in different weather conditions or human factors such as stress. Frequent uncertainty between employed van drivers when asked about standard procedures and documents in their company indicated that the communication of safety issues and procedures through management was either unsuccessful or absent. Self-employed van users often felt that working on their own absolved them from managing occupational road risk and felt that they were safe drivers, even if their behaviour indicated otherwise.
All participants chose ‘fit for purpose’ as their main determinant for van purchase decisions, thus confirming that vans are predominantly used as work vehicles. Interviewees who drove the same van on a fixed basis expressed more satisfaction with their vans and took better care of them compared to those participants driving different vans from a vehicle fleet. To identify robust trends, a larger sample and a quantitative approach is needed.

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