Van operators contribute £56 billion to economy annually

A new report highlights the economic and social contribution made by the 3.4 million UK van users and employees of businesses that depend on them, with a combined wage bill of at least £56 billion, equating to 11% of GDP.

The report, Light Commercial Vehicles: Delivering for the UK Economy, is by the SMMT and consultancy BearingPoint. It shows that 3.4 million people – 10% of the UK’s workforce – would not be able to do their jobs without a van, with an estimated 500,000 driving one as their main role.

As well as wages, the UK is home to two major van manufacturing plants, as well as a thriving sub-economy of van conversion companies and a strong aftermarket sector. Around 900,000 used vans change hands every year, while the annual new light commercials market is estimated to be worth nearly £10 billion.

The UK van parc has experienced significant growth in recent years, up 59% since 2000 – almost double the growth seen in cars. Online shopping, in particular, has seen a surge in demand for delivery vans. The UK is now the EU’s biggest online retail market, with 83% of consumers here buying goods and services online, compared with the EU average of 60%.4 Meanwhile, the rapid rise in the number of self-employed people, up from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017, has also been a key driver of van growth, with the trend to vehicle downsizing another factor.

As well as the vehicles registered to businesses, the report suggests that the majority of privately owned vans are operated by a booming sole trader and SME sector. The van is an essential tool of the trade for these owner-operators, who depend on them for their livelihood. The report also suggests that, despite additional costs, vans operated by sole traders and SMEs tend to be at a higher specification.

The report also highlights the importance of clean diesel vans, with almost all (96%) of these vehicles are powered by diesel.

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