Van fleets have been warned that collectively they could face more than £2 billion in additional costs if an Operator Licensing regime was introduced in the sector.

The warning came from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) as it launched a maintenance campaign for van operators in the light of poor safety levels.

Almost two thirds (63%) of the 10,800 vans stopped by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) at the roadside each year have a serious mechanical defect, while more than nine out of 10 (93%) are overloaded. Around half of all vehicles stopped posed a road safety risk and were subsequently taken off the road at a cost to their owners of some £4,000 per day.

Meanwhile, 50% of vans also failed their annual MoT test first time, compared with just 22% of HGVs, whose operators are bound by strict and costly licensing rules.

Currently, goods vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tonnes are exempt from the Operator Licensing regime that applies to heavier vehicles. Although there has been no move so far to make Operator Licensing rules apply to vans, the regulations and safety records around light goods vehicles are facing increased scrutiny, says the SMMT.

As a result it has called for a “step change” in safety improvements to ensure van owners met self-regulatory requirements and avoid the risk of fines and further legislation being imposed. To help that process the SMMT has published a new van safety guidance available at