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HGV market declines while light van use rises

12 February 2018

The new heavy goods vehicle (HGV) market declined -2.6% in 2017 following two years of strong growth, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 45,045 heavy trucks were registered last year, a result of fluctuating fleet buying cycles and ongoing economic uncertainty, mirroring similar declines in the new van market.

This is despite figures from DfT suggesting that goods lifted and goods moved by GB-registered heavy goods vehicles in the UK reached record levels for the 12 months ending March 2017.  In comparison to the pre-recession peak in the year ending March 2008, both goods lifted and goods moved increased by 7% and 11% respectively, whilst vehicle kilometres decreased by 12%. The data are derived from the Continuing Survey of Road Goods Transport Great Britain (CSRGTGB) which measures the activity of GB-registered HGVs operating in the UK.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said:’Following two years of robust growth and the long cycles involved in heavy goods fleet renewal, it’s no surprise to see deliveries fall in 2017. However, declining operator confidence is also starting to take its toll on demand. To avoid long-term disruption, government must address economic and political concerns and restore the business certainty needed for this important market to prosper.’

Light van use, however, is definitely on the up. Professor Alan Braithwaite, LCP Consulting, carried out a study for the RAC Foundation in May 2017 suggesting that vans are the fastest-growing traffic segment in the UK, with 70% growth in road miles over the last 20 years, compared to 12% for cars and 5.5% for lorries; this growth is forecast to continue under all economic scenarios (DfT, 2016a: 2). The growth in vans is contributing to traffic congestion that is both acute and chronic, costing the economy billions of pounds annually, as measured using traffic sensors and analysed using ‘big data’ methods – London is the second worst city in Europe, and Greater Manchester ranks 18th – and the UK is Europe’s third most congested country (INRIX, 2017).

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