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The FTA’s Van Excellence scheme – what’s it all about?

Aug 02, 2018
FTA’s Van Excellence scheme is now seven years old. Deputy Editor David Jordan went along to the scheme’s annual Operational Briefing to learn what it has to offer.

Every year FTA Van Excellence runs Operational Briefings at locations around the UK.  I attended the event in Oxford at the Kassam Stadium, which was sandwiched between similar meetings in Derby and Glasgow during April. The aim of the Briefings is to encourage best practice by those operating vans, whether they manage a single vehicle or a large fleet. Each year has its own theme and this time it was driver wellbeing that came under the spotlight with expert speakers from a range of organisations involved in driver training, telematics, mental health and driver behaviour.Mark Cartwright

An impressive audience of around 180 people from organisations large and small were welcomed to the event by FTA’s Head of Vans, Mark Cartwright who went on to introduce the speakers, which included Paul Ripley, a world authority on driver behaviour and education; Martin Clark, a former Traffic Police Officer; and Andy Price, one of Europe’s leading specialists in work-related road risk management. Subjects included the on-going menace of using mobile phones - even when hands-free - driver fatigue and the need for regular driver assessments. Later there were group discussions on how to recognise stress and other mental issues among drivers, which could affect their ability to drive safely.

Throughout the day the buzz around the room was very positive and everyone I talked to said the day had been worthwhile and beneficial to their business.

I was keen to find out more about Van Excellence, so I arranged to meet Mark Cartwright a couple of weeks later at the CV Show to see what was involved in becoming a member - or to use the official FTA terminology - an Accredited Operator and what businesses could expect to get out of it.

I asked Mark if Van Excellence was only available to FTA members. “No absolutely not, it’s nice if companies are FTA members, but this is a separate scheme and it’s open to everyone whether they operate one van or thousands.”

So, what’s the point of joining the scheme? “It’s all about professionalising the driving and operation of vans,” said Mark. “In the truck world companies need an operator’s licence with all that that entails.  With vans they don’t - although the legislation in terms of health and safety is pretty much the same - so it’s important for van operators to have standards and records in place to prove their vehicles and drivers are managed in a safe and professional manner.  Apart from anything else, if something does go wrong they will be able to demonstrate that they did all they could to reduce the risks.”

Mark says vans can be divided into two categories, doing vans and carrying vans; doing vans being used by people such as plumbers and service engineers, while carrying vans are used for delivering goods.  “It’s unlikely that a plumber, for example, would consider himself to be a professional driver, but as he’s driving as part of his job the rules apply just the same,” said Mark.  FTA estimates that around 80% of vans are ‘doing’ vans.

FTA made a video last year that graphically illustrates the nightmare of a van driver being involved in an accident and the penalties that could result for both the driver and his employer as a result of substandard maintenance and careless driving.  The video, One Fateful Day, can be downloaded free at

To join the Van Excellence scheme applicants must undergo an audit by FTA covering three main categories: Vehicles, Drivers and Organisation.  “The joining process is very supportive,” said Mark. “Our aim is to raise standards, so if some areas of the business fall short we’ll help the applicant make improvements before the audit takes place, we’re not in the business of telling people they’ve failed and then walking away.”

Prospective applicants can view The Van Excellence Code of Practice on the FTA website to check how their company measures up and if necessary make changes before applying to become an Accredited Operator.

More information about the Van Excellence scheme can be found at

Photo: Mark Cartwright

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