According to statistics recently published by VOSA, 44.7 per cent of light commercials grossing at from 3.0 to 3.5 tonnes presented for a MoT test failed in the year 2007/2008. This compares with 35.2 per cent of cars and small vans, which is itself worryingly high.

And the top three failure items? Thirty-two per cent of 3.0- to 3.5-tonners suffered from brake problems, 29.8 per cent had lighting faults, while 14.9 per cent had suspension components that were in poor condition.

The Retail Motor Industry Federation attributes the high failure rate to a lack of expenditure on maintenance, although it remains unclear why this should be a particular problem with big light commercials. Vehicles in this weight category fall into Class 7 for MoT testing purposes.

The poor MoT pass rates for 3.0- to 3.5-tonners could fuel demands for the heavy truck O licensing regime which at present applies to vehicles grossing at over 3.5 tonnes to be applied to everything over 3.0 tonnes. Should this happen, then a poor maintenance record could result in a business losing its O licence and thus being forbidden to run large vans.