A growth in van traffic in UK cities is creating is contributing to poor air quality in urban areas, a report from the Urban Transport Group has suggested.
The report White van cities: Questions, challenges and options on the growth of urban van traffic, published this week, claims that the number of vans – goods vehicles below 3.5 tonnes in weight – operating on UK roads has risen ‘significantly’ since 1996.
According to the Group, 3.8 million vans are now registered in the UK, an increase of 74% since 1996. Vans now represent 15% of all motor vehicle traffic, compared to 10% two decades ago.
Of these, 96% of registered vans in the UK are diesel fuelled – with vans thought to contribute around 30% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from road transport, and up to 16% of carbon dioxide emissions.
UTG adds that some possible explanations for the increase include the rise of online shopping deliveries and lighter regulation for vans when compared to HGVs.
According to the Group, further research is needed to better understand the van sector, including who owns and operates the vehicles in city regions, and what kinds of activities are being supported by van use.
Laura Shoaf, Managing Director of Transport for West Midlands, and lead Board member for the Urban Transport Group on freight, said: “Van traffic is the fastest growing element of road traffic in the UK and this growth is set to continue. This presents considerable challenges for cities as they seek to reduce emissions and air pollution, cut congestion and provide delivery access for vehicles whilst designing places that prioritise people.
“But there are still a great deal of unknowns surrounding this growth. Gaining a better understanding of how and why van traffic is growing, who owns, manages and uses these vehicles and what their journey purpose is, would allow policy makers to better grasp the issues and develop responses. Technology and data may offer opportunities to further improve our understanding.”
Jonathan Bray, Director of the Urban Transport Group, added: “White van cities are now a reality. The challenge we face is to reduce the negative impacts from the growth of vans, whilst still allowing them to play their vital role in underpinning wider city region economies.”