Almost 90% of Britons bought something online in 2019. And with lockdown restrictions eating into valuable shopping time in recent weeks, many of us will once again be relying on a van to safely deliver Christmas to our front door this year. But how safe are these vehicles that are deployed onto the roads in their thousands to fulfil our orders? The answer is sobering – not only for the couriers themselves, but also for the motorists and vulnerable road users that share the roads with vans.
Nineteen of the UK’s favourite vans – representing 98% of new van sales in 2019 – have been independently tested as part of the world’s first Commercial Van Safety Rating. Vehicle safety experts Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research assessed the fitment rate and performance of the vans’ active safety, anti-collision technology.
The Renault Master, Nissan NV400, Renault Trafic, Vauxhall Movano and Fiat Talento all performed so badly that they were handed a ‘Not Recommended’ rating. Only Volkswagen’s Transporter, the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz’s Vito scored a ‘Gold’ rating, while five others were ‘Silver’ and another six ‘Bronze’.
Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research Director of Research, said: “This first batch of test results show the fitment of crucial safety technology on vans in woefully low.
“It’s a serious issue that needs addressing urgently, particularly with van numbers increasing and the continued surge in demand for home deliveries during the pandemic and before Christmas.”
Accident data highlights tech shortcomings
Vans are involved in more accidents that result in fatal injuries to other road users, per mile travelled, than any other type of vehicle on the UK’s roads. In the five years up to 2018, collisions involving vans were responsible for a 14% increase in the number of serious injuries to pedestrians, car occupants, and van occupants. Cyclist casualties also rose by 22%. Injured car occupants are 40% more likely to be killed or seriously injured when involved in a head-on incident with a van compared to another car.
Vans lag behind cars
Vans are almost completely devoid of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that have been proven to reduce accidents when fitted to cars. For example, only 12.8% of new vans were fitted with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) technology as standard in 2019, compared to 62% of new cars.
“There is a definite lack of parity between the levels of collision avoidance technology on vans compared to cars,” Avery explained. “Modern cars have lots as standard, but vans have barely any. Brands are making a clear decision not to fit this important technology as standard and van operators are not even buying it as a cost option.
“The lack of parity even exists within the same manufacturers. Take Renault, for example. Its five-star-rated Clio has lots of standard fit Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technology that can save lives. But its Trafic van has practically nothing, not even as an option.”
Tried and tested
To highlight the extent of the problem and encourage wider fitment of ADAS technology, Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research have launched a new Commercial Van Safety Rating that assesses the performance and fitment of emergency braking, speed limiter, and lane support systems, as well as seat belt reminder technology. Safety tests will be conducted annually. In the first batch of tests, only VW’s Transporter – with a performance score of 65%, Ford’s Transit (63%) and Mercedes-Benz’s Vito (61%) earned a ‘Gold’ rating. Both the VW and Mercedes models are fitted with AEB as standard in the UK, proving lifesaving tech doesn’t always have to be a cost option.
Five other vans were rated ‘Silver’, and six were ‘Bronze’. The Renault Master (16%), Nissan NV400 (12%), Renault Trafic (11%), Vauxhall Movano (7%) and Fiat Talento (5%) performed so badly they were given a ‘Not Recommended’ rating.
Insurance Industry Welcome
The introduction of the new Commercial Van Safety Rating has been welcomed by two leading motor vehicle insurers along with Driving for Better Business. Martin Smith, Technical Claims Manager, Motor, Aviva, said: “Over the last few years great strides have been made in the development and fitment of ADAS safety features to passenger cars. These features help protect drivers, occupants and other road users by alerting drivers, and taking active steps to avoid or reduce the severity of a collision.
“Unfortunately, the adoption of ADAS safety features in the light commercial vehicle (LCV) van market has not been mirrored. Therefore, we welcome the launch of the new Commercial Van Safety Rating by Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research.
“We are confident the new Euro NCAP assessments of LCV’s will provide users and businesses with important safety information to assist them in buying safer vehicles and encourage commercial van manufacturers to fit more ADAS technology to their products. Ultimately, this can only be a good thing for the safety of all road users.”
Jon Dye, Director of Underwriting for Motor at QBE Europe, said: “We welcome the results of this study and Thatcham Research’s call to increase use of safety technology on vans. Making sure vehicles on the road meet certain standards and better utilise Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technology will help reduce accidents and improve road safety.
IE Comment; Given that online shopping is an integral part of life now, van manufacturers need to do more than simply launch a range of electric powered vans for city centre use, where politicians seek to ban all petrol/diesel vehicles.
However all those ADAS systems add extra weight, on top of a load full of packages and the heavy battery pack. Somehow physics has to square that circle, not politicians.