WORSENING van driver shortages could prevent businesses operating successfully over the next year, according to a 2018-19 report, which identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the vans market.

Research by Van Excellence, administered by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the annual report was supported by Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, Bott, Brigade, Hertz, Lex Autolease and Quartix.

Mark Cartwright, FTA’s head of vans and light commercial vehicles said: ‘The vans market has grown consistently since the 2008 recession, thanks in part to its versatility and flexibility. While there are many opportunities for further growth, such as booming online delivery services, there are also challenges ahead, most notably, the increasing shortage of van drivers.

‘One in five van drivers, operators or owners believes a van driver shortage could prevent their businesses operating successfully over the next year. These fears are exacerbated by the large proportion of EU nationals currently working across the vans sector in the UK, but early indicators suggest fewer are choosing to move here in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the ongoing uncertainty about their future employment prospects.’

The proportion of van drivers which are EU nationals fell to 7.3% in 2017, compared with 12.9% in 2015.

Mark Cartwright continued: ‘Many van drivers are struggling with their mental and physical health, but are unsure of where or how to obtain help. In fact, as detailed in the report, more than half of van drivers and owners believe there is a stigma attached to discussing mental health at work. Van Excellence is committed to addressing this issue and recently launched a campaign with the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to raise awareness of the resources available to those struggling with poor mental health.’

Van Excellence was created in 2010 to promote the safe operation of vans and celebrate operators demonstrating excellent standards. Central to the scheme is the Van Excellence Code; a set of minimum best practice standards all van operators should aspire to achieve, covering safety, efficiency and sustainability.