Sector trends

Why safety should come first in the new van market

With few new vans meeting safety standards set for 2022, should companies be purchasing now?

As many fleet owners are aware, the push hasn’t stopped. Thanks to proposals for new EU-wide safety standards expected in 2022, firms now have another reason to ponder before they invest.

For those unfamiliar with the details, the EU is proposing that all new cars and vans sold from 2022 come equipped with a swathe of key safety features. These include driver drowsiness and distraction alerts; intelligent speed assistance; reversing cameras or sensors; a data recorder (black box) in the event of an accident; lane-keep assistance; advanced emergency braking; and crash-test improved safety belts.

While these regulations undoubtedly represent the biggest step in road safety for more than a decade – and they are still due to be adopted in the UK regardless of the outcome of Brexit – research by What Car? Vans suggests 88% of models on sale in the UK today lack equipment that would see them meet any of the proposed standards.

Thinking ahead

As part of its research, What Car? Vans looked at every van derivative on sale in the UK and found that while many top-of-the-range models have multiple safety features as standard, lower-spec models typically do without these potentially life-saving technologies.

The EU is proposing that all new cars and vans sold from 2022 come equipped with a swathe of key safety features. These include driver drowsiness and distraction alerts; intelligent speed assistance; and a data recorder (black box) in the event of an accident

But in an age when van fatalities have dropped by 38% since 2007, despite a 24% increase in the volume of registered vans on the road, there is an obvious short answer about whether the technology will really make a difference. But this should be resisted.

In terms of operating a business, it’s easy to list the benefits of the new technology. First, one would hope there would be fewer accidents on the roads owing to better adherence to speed limits, meaning clearer roads and faster delivery times; lower risks for fleet operators; and lower fuel costs. Businesses can reasonably expect lower insurance premiums as a result, as well as fewer speeding tickets, and possibly a more efficient fleet. And if an accident does occur, fewer serious injuries would mean lower compensation payments.

But perhaps the most compelling argument to invest in this technology now is to consider what will happen to the resale price of a van that lacks these safety features, especially if purchased in 2020. In 2022, new standard models will be fitted with the equipment seen only at the high end of current models, and it is reasonable to expect resale prices of current standard models to drop dramatically.

It’s important to stress that the proposals are not fully agreed on, and sardonic minds may ask whether Germany would accept speed limiters at all. But given the likelihood that the proposals will succeed, there is at least one financing option that may mitigate some of the risks: contract hire. With the option to upgrade vehicles every two or four years baked into the finance agreement, it should imbue companies with more confidence in their purchasing decisions, whether it’s a new van with safety features included, or one that lacks them altogether.

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