Light Goods Vehicles (vans or LGVs) play a significant role in road crashes in Europe, and the use of vans is on the rise. In 2018, 11% of all road deaths (2.630 people) were the result of crashes involving LGVs. The highest number of road deaths following collisions involving LGVs is recorded among pedestrians (21%), cyclists (7%), and motorcyclists (11%) making up 39% of total such deaths in Europe.
A European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) report indicates that LGV usage is increasing due to higher demand. This includes more LGVs operating during office hours in central urban areas, increased nighttime deliveries, and the surge in online shopping, leading to more deliveries to workplaces and households.
One in three collisions involving LGVs takes place in urban areas. Unfortunately, the pressure to meet market demands, fierce competition in the transport industry, and a relative lack of regulation have contributed to poor working conditions for LGV drivers, posing significant safety risks.
One key issue is that LGVs weighing less than 3.5t are subject to less stringent driver and working hours regulations than Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs). HGV regulations necessitate operators to be licensed and drivers to obtain Certificates of Professional Competence (CPCs), which must be periodically updated. However, LGV fleets can operate under lower standards, and only LGVs exceeding 2.5t and operating across EU borders will be subject to EU rules for driving and resting times by 2026. Unfortunately, the vast majority of van traffic, which operates within national borders, will not be affected by this change.
To enhance road safety, all professional LGV drivers should receive training on safe loading and unloading, cargo securing, reversing, fatigue prevention, journey planning, and adherence to traffic rules, including seatbelt usage and avoiding distractions.
A 2020 ETSC report on LGV safety has shown higher rates of seatbelt non-compliance and mobile phone distractions among drivers using vehicles for work.
The European Transport Workers Federation, the ETSC, the International Federation of Pedestrians, and the European Cyclists Federation strongly urge that the current requirements for bus and truck drivers, including the need for professional driver training (Certificates of Professional Competence – CPCs), should be extended to create a new category for van drivers; including van drivers who may be misclassified as self-employed or owner-driver. These organizations welcome the introduction of a new category in the Driving Licence Directive that mandates additional professional training for this group of drivers.
This could be accomplished as part of the European Parliament rapporteur’s proposal to establish a B+ category by creating a separate requirement for CPC-type training for N1 vehicles used for professional purposes. On a final note regarding road safety, we wish to make it clear that we do not support the European Commission’s proposal to increase the permissible mass of a ‘B’ category vehicle from 3.5 to 4.25 tonnes.
Substantial evidence (e.g., VIAS Institute, Belgium, and SWOV, the Netherlands) indicates that larger and more powerful vehicles adversely impact road safety, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.
The four organizations believe that more should be done to improve the safety standards of LGV fleets to align them with the broader freight and passenger transport sector. This would also professionalize the sector and ultimately establish a cohesive set of measures for all types of professional transport, including installing tachographs to combat fatigue.