Sales of commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tonnes and under look set to escalate with the growing popularity of home shopping and the fact that some cities will impose emissions restrictions, effectively banning HGVs.
This, and a shortage of HGV drivers, could result in lorry operators switching to smaller commercial vehicles, said Michael Brown, Excel professor of logistics at the University of Westminster Transport Studies Group.
'The van market is under-researched but it is economically important and is growing in importance,' he said at the conference, organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Brown highlighted the fact that the number of vans between 1992 and 2000 grew by 13% - with 2.2 million units on the road in 2000, compared to 1.9 million in 1992. The number of heavy good vehicles over the same period grew by just 2.4%, he added.
'A lot of statistics tell us about the weight of products carried by commercial vehicles, but we should be interested in the value of products, per vehicle load,' he said. 'A small vehicle carrying a load of computer chips has a very high economic value. It's important to understand the economic importance of value flow.'