The rise of the van

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  • The FTA has reported in their Van Excellence Report 2016-17 that there were 4 million light commercial vehicles on the roads at the end of 2016. By comparison in 2015, vans constituted 15% of all traffic, travelling 46.9 billion miles. This increase reflects the increasing importance vans are playing in the UK economy.

    Vans are becoming essential for businesses

    Vans quickly became the principle vehicle for companies and self-employed individuals. In fact, according to the Department for Transport (DfT), van registrations in the UK increased by 4.7% between 2014 to 2015 – that’s 3.7 million vans. In comparison, car registrations only went up by 2.2% in the same period.

    While only accounting for 10% of all traffic on the road, vans are responsible for 15% of all the mileage driven. While the construction sector seems the most van-dependent, not all vans are popular; the heaviest vans – those between 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes – are the ones in demand, accounting for 62% of new registrations and selling 13% more units than in the same period in 2015.

    Moreover, van acquisition is continuing; The SMMT noted that May 2010’s rolling total came to approximately 200,000 units whereas May 2016’s rolling total was 376,000 units. Overall, that van traffic has increased 45% over the last 15 years.

    A look into van usage

    Through their 2016 report, the University of Buckingham and Fleeteye state that 52% of fleet operators replace their vans after four years, 32% after five years and 10% after six years. While the results through the Fleeteye forum includes a large number of UK leasing companies that could affect these breakdown of acquisition methods for vans, if these figures are true it will negatively affect the used van supply market.

    Equally, Fleeteye found that most fleets use more than one form of acquisition, as 70% of fleets acquire their vehicle through contract hire, 40% are brought outright and 20% through short-term rental, with 20% being fleet-managed. This indicates that the leasing and rental van market is also growing, with the BVRLA (who represent companies involved in vehicle leasing and rental) finding that its members leased 689,508 vans in 2015; 9% more than in 2014.

    Vans are becoming future-proof

    Vans are becoming greener. According to government figures, a total of 1,008 ultra-low emission vans (with tailpipe emissions of less than 75g of CO₂ per kilometre (g/km CO₂)) were registered last year; a 27% increase on the figure for 2014.

    Choosing green transport will protect your pocket as well as the environment clean vans get favourable tax rates and avoid certain payments or levies. With London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) extending from the North Circular to the South Circular coming into force on 8th April, 2019, trucks and vans running within the zone must meet Euro 6 standards or pay a daily charge. Additionally, the Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs has released a Clean Air Zones initiative that incentivises five other cities in England take up the ULEZ schemes. Of those five, Birmingham and Leeds’ ULEZ projects will include regulations for vans, with restrictions rumoured to increase.

    The biggest problem for the used van community is that while early Euro 6 vans are available now, they’ll only be 2.5 years old when the ULEZ scheme comes into effect. As most fleets replace their vehicles after 4 years, the used van market will not be able to provide vehicles that are compliant with the restriction.

    Vans are important to any fleet, but make sure that any investment now can conform to Euro 6 and ULEZ regulations. Overall, the van market is continuing to thrive, with leasing and rental vans able to cover businesses without the capability to invest in their own fleet.