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Police carDriving without insurance is not only against the law, it is also risky in other ways; the offence is punishable by a £300 fixed penalty notice, six licence points and possible destruction of your vehicle. Furthermore, there is also the potential for unlimited fines and a lifetime ban, so driving while uninsured convictions can affect employment prospects.

This message is one that the UK’s 43 police forces were looking to communicate to the public during “Operation Drive Insured” (October 26 to November 1), an operation saw a large-scale police attempt to identify and seize uninsured cars, vans, trucks and motorbikes from the nation’s roads.

The campaign is run in conjunction with the National Roads Policing Operations, Intelligence and Investigation (NRPOII) committee and has seen an increased police presence on the UK’s roads as police look to apprehend anyone they find driving without suitable van insurance, car insurance or similar.

Not a victimless crime

One thing that the police are keen to do is to dispel the myth of uninsured driving as a “victimless crime”. This is because police know that uninsured drivers are not only more likely to be involved in serious road traffic accidents, but their actions also have a cost for insurance providers and policyholders.

For example, if an uninsured van driver is involved in a serious road accident that injures another driver, all related insurance settlements must be paid for by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB). This body is funded by the insurance industry, which, of course, is funded by policyholders; without uninsured van drivers on the roads, the van insurance policies of honest drivers would be cheaper.

According to the MIB, every year 130 people are killed and 26,000 injured as a result of accidents caused by uninsured or untraceable drivers.

Furthermore, according to Anna Fleming, MIB’s chief operating officer, there are concerns that although the number of uninsured drivers has fallen since 2016, the impact of Covid-19 could result in a resurgence.

How many uninsured vans on the UK’s roads

Although statistical evidence detailing the numbers of commercial vehicles that take to the UK’s roads without suitable van insurance is not readily available, newspaper reports paint a rather damning picture.

For example, in just one week, officers from OPU (Operational Patrol Unit) Warwickshire stopped a van on the A45 near Wolston and found that it did not have van insurance and had a number of serious safety defects; Northamptonshire Police spotted a blue Vauxhall Vivaro parked illegally and found that it was uninsured; police in Bournemouth stopped a van driver who had cancelled his van insurance just weeks after purchasing it; and officers from Staffordshire Police Road Policing Unit in Derby stopped a Ford Transit driver for using a mobile phone while driving only to find that he was also driving without van insurance.

Electric vehicle chargingDuring the summer of 2019 legislation requiring a 100% net reduction of 1990’s greenhouse gas levels by 2050 passed through parliament, and with more than one-quarter of the UKs carbon emissions caused by transport, it immediately became clear that electric vehicles would form part of the solution.

Although there has been a certain amount of resistance to the idea among van fleet managers, there is increased acceptance that electric vehicles not only make environmental sense, they also make practical economic sense from many perspectives, including those that relate to van insurance.

For example, although many fleet managers expressed concern that electric vans would not have the necessary mileage capability to cover the territory of most fleets, figures from the Department for Transport reveal that on most days half of all UK vans don’t stray further than 15 miles from their base location.  Moreover, recent experiences of Covid-19 have further strengthened the argument for electric vans, with multiple studies indicating that pollution levels play a significant role in affecting a person’s chances of becoming seriously ill with the disease.

No surprise that electric fleets are increasing

Perhaps we should not be surprised then that electric vans are becoming increasingly popular. According to Activa Contracts electric vehicles have accounted for one in three (35%) fleet orders made in 2020, with “green conscious” businesses, fleet managers and consumers a major factor in this growth.  Furthermore, it is likely that as green technologies develop they will become both more efficient and more affordable.

For example, at the moment some fleet managers have concerns about the van insurance claim implications of costly electric parts; given time, it is likely that these will become less and less of a concern.

Lastly, as green charging points become more widespread across the country, another barrier to electric commercial vehicle fleets is rapidly being removed.

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Lockdown has had an adverse impact on the commercial vehicle market, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The figures show that the sale of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) has been hit especially hard, with a 36.4 percent drop in demand across 2020 so far and just 19,407 new vans and pickups registered over August. This is likely to have led to a significant drop in the demand for commercial vehicle insurance, although it will not be possible to establish this until insurers release figures for the same period.

Headline statistics for August from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders include the following:

  • Compared to August 2019 there was an 18.2 percent drop in demand for commercial vehicles weighing 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes.
  • Compared to August 2019 there was a 35 percent drop in demand for vehicles weighing 2.0 tonnes or less.
  • Compared to August 2019 there was, overall, a 16,1 percent drop in demand for all light vehicles (those weighing less than 3.5 tonnes).

Even quieter than usual

Historically, August tends to be a quiet month for both vehicle registrations and the uptake of new commercial vehicle insurance policies. This is partly due to the end-of-summer-lull but is mainly because of fleet managers’ tendency to wait until the arrival of the new September plates.

However, August 2020 has been unusually slow and there are concerns that it could have a negative impact for van manufacturers and commercial vehicle insurance companies alike. There are also concerns that it may hit clear air targets; many fleets are due to make the transition to electric vans and if they do not act soon there is a real risk that targets will not be met.

Despite this, it is hoped that the current situation will represent nothing more serious than a temporary slowdown. The light commercial vehicle market is perhaps the one that will be best able to adapt to new cleaner technologies.

For example, earlier last week Amazon announced it had ordered 1,800 electric vans from Mercedes-Benz to join its European delivery fleet – the move forms part of the retail giant’s plan to run a carbon-neutral business by 2040.

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Woman with white vanAs a van insurance specialist of many years experience, iVan knows better than most that “White van man” has long been an unfair term of disparagement that does little to recognise the fact that van drivers and tradespeople, in general, are made up of a broad and diverse demographic that typically is not reflective of people’s prejudices and misconceptions.

Now a new survey from the respected tradespeople vetting company Checkatrade has confirmed that an astonishing number of British people (63%) still hold on to these rather tired and misguided preconceptions about tradespeople and, by extension, van insurance customers.

The study, which questioned 2,000 British people found the following:

  • Nearly half (44%) believe that so-called “cowboys” or rogue tradespeople still make up for a large proportion of the sector.
  • 28% believe that trade services are overpriced.
  • 23% believe that tradespeople are unreliable.
  • 19% believe that tradespeople overcharge.
  • 11% believe that tradespeople are unskilled.
  • 6% believe that tradespeople are undereducated.

Perhaps most astonishingly, many people are open in their view of snobbery against and disdain for tradespeople, with 14% of the respondents confessing to knowingly negatively stereotyping tradespeople on the basis of their profession alone.

Interestingly, there is a discord between people’s perceptions of tradespeople and their actual experience of them, with nearly 85% of those who had instructed a tradesperson in the past year describing their experience as positive and 13% actually saying that their experience of instructing a tradesperson had exceeded their expectations.

As a van insurance specialist, iVan has long been a champion of the good work done by the nation’s tradespeople, so we are pleased that the survey has led Checkatrade to launch an innovative campaign under the handle “#RespectYourTrades”.

Van insurance for all the UK’s tradespeople

iVan prides itself on providing van insurance quotes for the nation’s tradespeople. Whether you are a plumber, a builder, an electrician, a plasterer, a carpenter or indeed any other professional who relies on a van, we believe that we are ideally placed to provide you with van insurance cover at a competitive price.

So whether you are a one-man band, a fleet manager or a start-up, use our online quote engine today so that we can help you achieve all your commercial vehicle insurance objectives.

As 2020 has shaped up to be one of the hottest years on record, skin cancer charity Melanoma UK has appealed to van drivers to ensure they are adequately protected from the sun when behind the wheel over the remainder of the summer.

Many van drivers do not realise that they may be suffering overexposure to harmful UVA and UVB simply by driving their vehicles during daylight hours. This is true even when van drivers keep their windows closed. Although vehicle windows are generally quite effective at blocking out UVB rays – which are thought to be the most carcinogenic – they are less effective at blocking UVA rays, which, despite being less harmful, are still implicated in skin cancers and general sun damage to the skin.

Furthermore, Melanoma UK reported that van drivers in the UK were most at risk of right-hand side sun damage. This is because of the position of the driver on the right-hand side of the vehicle and the fact that it results in drivers experiencing direct exposure to sunlight on the right-hand-side arm, face, neck, ear and shoulder.

Half of all van drivers are oblivious to the risk, incorrectly assuming that they cannot suffer sun damage through their side windows. However, the charity reported that some do know the cost; one in five van drivers who participated in the study said they had experienced sunburn as a result of sun exposure while driving.

Worryingly, some van drivers admitted actually to increasing the risk or skin cancer, with 20% saying that they wind the window down and deliberately place their right arm on the driver side door in order to foster an asymmetric skin tone known to many as “white van man tan”.

Skin and sun safety while driving your van

Like any driver, van insurance customers should always take steps to limit their exposure to the sun’s UV rays when they are behind the wheel, particularly if they have a pale complexion, numerous moles or freckles, light-coloured eyes, or skin that is vulnerable for any other reason.

Unfortunately, only one in five van drivers who participated in the Melanoma UK survey reported regularly using sunscreen to protect themselves. However, all drivers who consistently spend daylight hours behind the wheel should wear sunscreen or cover up with long-sleeved clothing. In many cases, it may also be advisable to wear a suitable hat (particularly if your van has a sunroof) as well as sun-safe sunglasses that are also suitable for driving.

It is also advisable to also carry sunscreen in the vehicle, additional clothing and some kind of sunshade, as if you break down somewhere, it may not be possible to find nearby shade.

Choosing a sunscreen

In order to ensure adequate protection from the sun, the NHS recommends that people:

  • Choose a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more
  • Choose a sunscreen that has a 4-star UVA protection rating or has the appropriate EU standard UVA mark
  • Only ever use sunscreen that is in date

How to wear sunscreen

Not only is it important to apply sunscreen, it is also essential that you apply enough. The NHS recommends that adults apply two teaspoons of sunscreen if just covering the head, arms and neck – as would be typical for most van drivers.

Furthermore, if van drivers are going to be in the sun for an extended period they should apply protection 30 minutes before they go into the sun and again immediately before they go out. It should then be reapplied as often as prescribed by the product's instructions – typically every two hours.

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