Over the last decade the UK van1 (also referred to as Light Goods Vehicles or LGVs) population has grown by around a third and van traffic by 40% (DfT, 2005). This growth in van activity has to be seen within the context of developments in the IT sector and communication technology, especially in the area of freight management and e-commerce. In addition to vans’ classic use as tradesmen’s and construction site vehicles, vans are increasingly used by courier and express services and in delivery services. In 2004 vans accounted for 9.5% of the UK’s vehicle population and for 7% (or 11 billion tonne kilometres) of Great Britain’s freight activity. Drivers of vans are predominantly occasional van users (an estimated 4 million in the UK); 187,000 van drivers refer to themselves as professional van drivers; only 6% of these are women (ONS, 2004).
Eight percent of all UK road traffic accidents involve a van, and this proportion has been stable between 1999 and 2003. With an increase in the number of vans and their higher traffic volume between these years, this in fact represents a significant reduction (43% between 1999 and 2003) in accident rates per billion kilometres. In fatal accidents, however, vans are over-represented (Smith and Knight, 2005). A comparison of STATS19 casualty numbers in van-car injury accidents found higher numbers of fatalities in cars compared to vans. This is likely to be a result of higher car occupancy numbers, but must also be considered in the light of the mass and geometric asymmetry between the vans and cars, which puts car occupants at higher risk of serious injury.
The cost of work-related road accidents of light goods vehicles to society was estimated by Health and Safety Executive economists to be around £689 million per year (HSE, 1999). The review of the literature identified fatigue, time pressure when driving for work, mobile phone use, lack of seatbelt use, incorrect loading and lack of van maintenance as problems which need urgent the attention of businesses using vans for work to comply with their duty of car requirements.

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