Gary Whittam, Ford’s director of commercial vehicles, is personally taking charge of the new campaign, which he believes is vital both for the van industry and the general public.
He will now be talking to fleets about how to tackle the issue.
Whittam said: ‘The problem of white van man, or should I say person, needs addressing and it is a matter I take very seriously.
‘This problem has largely been tackled and eradicated in the heavy truck sector and now my team will be looking at how we can improve the image of Britain’s van drivers and give them a more professional outlook.’
Whittam said there was no magic solution to the problem and he was looking at a long-term campaign, but he added: ‘We have to do something about it.
‘We still see too many people in vans driving six feet behind the vehicle in front, with the contents of half a wardrobe and a half-eaten Big Mac on the dashboard.’
Pressed on what exactly the Ford team would be doing in practical terms, Whittam said: ‘The first thing to do is start talking about the problem. By making people aware that it exists, maybe we can get the ball rolling.’
Secondly, Ford will be extending its training programme for minibus drivers to encourage a better standard of driving, while thirdly, Whittam will be talking to some of the country’s fleet operators in a bid to set up some kind of incentive scheme for drivers to act more responsibly.
He is aware that many of the worst drivers are behind the wheels of company-owned vehicles and that they drive badly because they do not feel responsible as the vehicles do not belong to them.
But Whittam said: ‘Safer driving not only means using less fuel and saving money on replacement parts for the fleet operator, but it means other road users will be safer too. If we can encourage company drivers with an incentive scheme, then everyone will benefit.
‘I do not have a magic wand I can wave to eradicate the problem, but I feel I must at least make a stand and try and help.’
Transit celebrates 40th birthday
THE Ford Transit is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2005 and to commemorate, the company is launching a range of special edition vehicles.
First launched in 1965, there were originally 78 Transit derivatives – now there are more than 500. For 2005, Ford is a launching a series of special value models including the new Transit Leader, a lead-in model complete with CD/radio, the Transit SilverBlue, with an added executive comfort pack, the Transit Hallmark, with air and executive packs, the Transit Connect LXPlus with a comfort/ convenience pack, side loading door and metallic paint and the Transit Connect Hallmark, complete with air conditioning. The new models will be available from late January and prices will be announced nearer launch.