Image credits: Sven Storbeck, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mercedes_sprinter_2_v_sst.jpg
With many of the fleets we are regularly dealing with comprising mainly of light commercial vehicles, sooner or later we invariably wonder if any of them fit the classic ‘white van man’ stereotype and whether fleet managers ever wonder the same thing.
The ‘white van man’ stereotype, a term coined circa 1997, claimed, due to an article in The Sunday Times published at that time, that drivers of battered LCVs were often selfish, inconsiderate and aggressive. Even Wikipedia has a dedicated page on the ‘white van man’, which conjures up an unfortunate image of a discourteous oaf who is a menace to road safety. But is this fair—and is it really the case?
A couple of recent articles have tried to dispel the myth and show us that things have changed in step with other antisocial attitudes over the years. According to an article from The Independent in 2018, the so-called ‘white van man’ stereotype, usually associated with an overweight, junk-food lover, is actually a bit dated: your average ‘white van man’ is more likely these days to be a health conscious individual preferring salads and fruit or packing his own lunch and even keeping fit and working out at least twice a week. Another study covered by the same article actually proved that many drivers claim to be more polite, patient and understanding on the road than the old ‘white van man’ stereotype would have you believe.
Another source of information trying to debunk the stereotype comes in the form of an interesting infographic produced by LeaseVan, which actually provides data on the type of work carried out by ‘white van man’, the percentage of total traffic on the road they account for compared to other vehicle types and the, actually quite positive, record they have when it comes to insurance claims, indicating a lower accident rate on average, contrary to what the stereotype suggests!). See for yourselves:
- Vans account for 44.9% of all traffic in the UK.
- The most popular white van profession is the contractor (typically, builder, electrician, handyman) but also delivery drivers and shopkeepers.
- Vans account for 45 billion miles driven in the UK out of a total of 61 billion miles driven by commercial vehicles every year.
- 68% of white van drivers have no insurance claims.
- If all the UK’s van drivers went on strike, there would be significant delays in deliveries, important medicines would be delayed in hospitals, breakdown cover would grind to a halt and moving house would be significantly more difficult.
Whatever you may think of these drivers, vans really do own the roads. But they are no longer the outdated vans belching black smoke you were all too familiar with back in the 90s. Companies know how important it is to not only to teach their drivers how to practise safety on the road and to have well maintained vans that contribute to the image of a company; they consider their vehicles and staff to be a brilliant advertising opportunity. The era of the old ‘white man van’ is, thankfully, at an end.