Van Growth Drives UK Commercial Vehicles, Although Bus and Coach Figures Show Sustained Slump


In historic figures, commercial vehicles now account for 13.1% of all road vehicles in Britain, as compiled by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

SMMT’s Annual Automotive Census Reveals Highest Levels of Van Ownership in Britain

5.3 million commercial vehicles are now in operation in the UK, comprising 13.1% of the total sum of 40,350,714 vehicles. Vans make up 4,604,861, while there are 589,445 trucks and 73,608 buses and coaches on the road.

Truck numbers have returned to 2015 levels with a noticeable 3.1% drop, while bus and coach units have fallen far more significantly, with figures at the lowest since records began. This has been attributed to the fall in passenger numbers caused by the pandemic. Vans on the other hand have reached their eleventh consecutive year of growth, with 2021’s year-on-year a healthy 1.7%, due to home deliveries and construction stimulating demand. Likewise, vans have been integral to relief during the pandemic, supporting the NHS as well as food deliveries and goods.

A key takeout from the census is the extended shelflife of a vehicle. The average van is close to eight years, with older vehicles still in operation. Up to 725,000 trucks were first registered before or up to 2005. As the Euro VI came into play under 7 years ago, the average truck would be fined for entering the London Ultra Low Emission Zone, the Bath Clean Air Zone and, from next month would also incur penalities in Birmingham. The census also found out that buses are on average more than a decade old.

Fuel Still a Crucial Factor for Vans

Although petrol and diesel vans will no longer be sold after 2030, only 0.3% battery-electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) only account for 0.3% of vans on the road, which is lower than the proportion of BEV and PHEV vans. Slough has the title of zero-emission van capital, reaching 2.2% electrified van registrations and 2,087 units operating. Diesel still dominates the market with a significantly comprehensive 96.6%, according to SMMT figures.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said of the results: The past year has highlighted how much Britain relies on its commercial vehicle parc. With less than nine years to go until the end of new petrol and diesel vans sales, much needs to be done to avoid a long fossil fuel hangover from operators resisting the switch. Fleet renewal must be a high priority for the commercial vehicle sector and the government’s Bus Back Better strategy must be implemented immediately to reverse the decline in bus operations.

Rounding up the results, the Ford Transit and Volkswagen Caddy are the two most popular van types with 532,821 and 515,843 respectively.


About the author

Adrian, located in Madrid, is joining the editorial team as a correspondent for the Valebridge Publications Ltd Group. Before starting in 2020 for Commercial Tyre Business, Adrian graduated with an English degree before working within marketing and recruitment in the non-profit sector. Recently he changed direction, undertaking a course in Marketing and International Business as a means towards moving into the journalism field, which he counts as his lifelong ambition.


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