Van users need to sharpen up on safety – or face the costs.

That’s the warning from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), which is launching a van maintenance campaign at the CV Show in Birmingham.

The SMMT’s move follows the shock results found when vans were checked on the road by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Of 10,800 vehicles stopped by the roadside, 63 per cent have a serious mechanical defect, while remarkably more than nine out of 10 – 93 per cent – are overloaded.

Half of the vans stopped had mechanical issues so serious they were taken off the road, which the SMMT says cost their owners some £4,000. And it adds that 50 per cent of vans fail their MoT and require remedial work – this compares to 22 per cent of HGVs, the owners of which must conform to costly licensing rules.

Currently, goods vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tonnes are exempt from the Operator Licensing regime that applies to heavier vehicles. The SMMT has been working to ensure this exemption remains in place and while there has so far 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.

Therefore the SMMT is trying to ensure the current system of self-regulation remains effective by improving safety levels, and is publishing van safety guidance at smmt.co.uk/vansafety.

The SMMT believes that if licensing was applied to vans at current HGV fee levels, the collective industry bill could stretch to as much as £2.1 billion.

“Britain’s 3.2 million vans are essential for the smooth running of the economy but their recent safety record is a matter of concern,” says SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Vans rack up huge distances and endure significant wear and tear on a daily basis so regular servicing is essential,” he adds. “We’re launching a new campaign to promote maintenance so businesses can take the necessary steps to ensure their vehicles are safe, protecting their drivers and other road users without the need for further fines and regulations.”