April 27, 2017
This year has seen the number of vans on UK roads surpass 4 million. You may see that as a sign of thriving business and while that may be true, badly operated and maintained vans are a source of many headaches for British businesses – costing them millions of pounds every year and putting van safety (as well as their drivers) at risk.
Some 10,800 light commercial vehicles are checked every year, with a focus on van safety. Of those 10,800 vans checked:
Those are some serious stats, with equally serious consequences. Failing to ensure that your van is roadworthy and correctly loaded means that you could face:
So, what can you do to avoid falling foul of legislation? Thankfully, it’s pretty simple. Proper maintenance and correct loading is the key. Here are some quick tips to help you stay legal, and more importantly, safe.
First things first; if you don’t know it already, find out the payload of your van so that you know what it can safely carry. If you have tie-downs or load-lasing rings, use them to keep your load secure. Overloading your van increases braking distance (and subsequently wear-and-tear on brakes and suspension) and impairs handling. If you’re towing, always make sure the electrical connections are in working order and that the towbar and trailer are properly secured.
Check your brake pedal for excessive travel and make sure that the steering is responsive. Also, your handbrake should securely hold the van when stationary and fully laden.
It’s common knowledge that unsafe or illegal tyres can land you in a whole heap of trouble. The maximum fine a court can impose for this offence is £2,500 and 3 penalty points PER TYRE. You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that four illegal tyres equals one lost licence. Ensure that your tyres have:
All lighting should be in working order, brake lights should illuminate when the brakes are applied, indicators should flash when the stalk is moved etc. These are things that most of us take for granted but it’s worth doing at least a monthly check on these to make sure everything is present and correct.
When switched on the windscreen wipers should move continuously and clear the windscreen effectively. Your washers should be working and aimed at the windscreen, and screen wash should be topped up regularly.
Legislation requires that goods vehicles have an exterior mirror fitted to the offside (right hand side of the driver) and one of the following: an exterior mirror fitted to the nearside or an interior mirror. Since some vans have unglazed rear doors (or may be fully laden) it’s not logical to enforce a requirement for an interior mirror. In any case, mirrors should be secure and properly aligned so that you view is unrestricted.
Maintaining optimum fluid levels is just common sense, after all, you wouldn’t want to break down and end up stranded in need of rescue. Brake fluid, coolant, oil, power steering fluid and screen wash levels should all be regularly monitored. And don’t forget about the fuel!
A quick check of your van’s bodywork is simple; just walk around the van checking for damage, sharp edges and loose panelling. Also, ensure that doors open and close properly, and are secure when shut.