The Department for Transport (DfT) is to launch a van training scheme across the industry, as well as commissioning research into the market in a bid to better understand driver behaviour and accident rates.
The scheme will run along the lines of the SAFED (Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving) programme already successfully in operation in the lorry industry, where more than 6,500 drivers have been trained.
The DfT has earmarked £40,000 for the pilot and research programme, before increasing its spending when the scheme goes live next year.
A pilot scheme involving the training of 200 drivers is already in place. The study will continue until December, followed by recommendations, with the size and scope of the training programme announced by March next year. Within the Government, there is a concern that very little is actually known about the van market, with little understanding of just how dangerous driving a van for work is.
The training is likely to be free to smaller fleets, with a small contribution for larger firms. There are fears in the van industry however, that the adoption of an initiative from the HGV sector could be the first step towards regulation for light commercials in the same way as heavier vehicles, such as tachographs and licensing.
Research firm Momenta, which is compiling the report and charged with running the training programme, is asking for information from fleets on their van operations.
Stakeholders in the scheme include the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, Driving Standards Agency, and Health and Safety Executive.