On the day the Office for National Statistics confirms official growth figures for the UK economy, a new report reveals the views of a vital yet often forgotten lynchpin of British business, both big and small – the van drivers, owners and operators who keep the wheels of business turning.
The phased study – begun in April and featuring benchmarked quarterly data for the first time – shows a dip in both business confidence and career optimism levels since the June election.
An independent sample of 2000 van drivers, owners, operators and fleet managers – including tradespeople and service engineers to delivery drivers and entrepreneurs – were asked about their business growth expectations, career goals, challenges and barriers to growth that they face.
Though the majority (87 per cent) of the van driving and owning community canvassed in the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer are confident their business will grow rather than shrink over the next year, the figure represents a three percentage fall between April and August, with both a General Election and Brexit negotiations casting uncertainty over the wider economy in between.
Confidence peaks amongst London’s van drivers, owners and operators – where 92 per cent are forecasting growth but this falls sharply across the UK to 82 per cent in the East of England and 83 per cent in the North East, Wales and Scotland.
The outlook is by no means gloomy however – 47 per cent are looking to up-staff, more than half say they will be investing in more vans over the next year and 44 per cent say their organisation will become more reliant on vans in the next 12 months as the trend towards online shopping, quicker delivery windows and a shift away from heavier goods vehicles continues.
But congestion is a key cause for concern – 30 per cent of van drivers, owners and operators say it could prevent growth and delivery businesses say they are losing 15 per cent of their working hours to gridlock. With Light Commercial Vehicles travelling a record 48.5 billion miles on the UK’s roads last year, according to the Department for Transport (DoT), the Business Barometer shines a light not only on the views of van drivers and owners for the first time but why they matter when businesses and consumers rely on the humble van more than ever before.