They also need to bear in mind that if an accident does occur, and injuries are suffered, then there is every risk that civil and criminal litigation could follow if it can be shown to be their fault.
As a consequence wise operators will invest in safe products – even if it means ticking a few boxes on the options list – and wise manufacturers will make every attempt to provide them. Top of the list is Mercedes- Benz, and we are more than happy to hand the firm our 2012 Safety Award.
ABS, ASR, an anti-skid package, Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are all standard features on both the Vito and Sprinter. So is an adaptive Electronic Stability Programme – something that should, of course, be standard on all light commercials.
ESP is intended to prevent the van it is fitted to from rolling over if violent evasive action has to be taken on a slippery road surface. In adaptive guise it takes into account the position and size of any cargo that is on board as it makes its rapid calculations.
Both vehicles are fitted with a driver’s airbag – passenger, thorax and window bags are all to be found on the options list – not to mention big, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors plus a bulkhead to stop loads hurtling forwards and injuring the cab’s occupants. Cargo that is likely to shift should, of course, be secured properly, and both the Vito and Sprinter have lashing points and non-slip floors in their cargo areas.
Run your finger down the options list and, depending on which model you have selected, you can add the cost of reversing sensors, a reversing camera, cruise control including a speed limiter, a light and rain sensor, headlamps with a cornering function and a tyre pressure monitor to the final invoice. While all van buyers have to work to a budget – and often a tight one – many of these items undoubtedly represent money well spent.

Highly Commended

Also worth investing in is Telemotion’s Nempi, our Highly Commended pick. It is a telematics-based onboard device that provides the driver with instant feedback on his or her driving style on an in-cab display and to the fleet manager back at base via a secure website.
A poor driving style is usually associated with speeding, harsh braking and acceleration and cornering too quickly, practices Nempi helps to deter. As well as increasing fuel consumption and wear and tear on the vehicle’s components, such behaviour means that the van concerned is more likely to be involved in a collision – something all responsible owners and drivers will wish to avoid.
Because it can judge how much strain is being put on the engine, the Nempi can figure out when a service is likely to be due: and the gentler and more-considered driving style it promotes could result in service intervals being extended and expenditure falling.