If there is somebody more enthusiastic, knowledgeable and driven to improve standards in the light commercial vehicle industry, then we are yet to meet them.

Mark Cartwright has held the role of head of vans and light commercial vehicles at the Freight Transport Association since February 2012, having been with the association since 1987, and it’s fair to say he is the considerable driving force behind its programme to improve standards across van operators.

The FTA describes Van Excellence as providing “a perfect opportunity for van operators to assess their standards of operation, make improvements where called for and to receive recognition of high standards”. At present the scheme is over 100 operators, with Cartwright claiming another four or five are coming in every month, driving the total towards the next target of 130.

Black country born and bred, Wolverhampton Wanderers, cycling and curry fan Cartwright has become one of the leading authorities and certainly one of the leading voices on all things to do with light commercial vehicle safety, and is the go-to person for help and advice on improving compliance, while still defending the industry’s ability and potential to self-regulate.

He joined the FTA in 1978 as part of the Midlands regional team before moving on to become account manager and then membership project manager in 2003, before moving to the role as head of vans nine years later, having been involved with the FTA’s Van Excellence scheme since it was established.

AAH Pharmaceuticals, Enterprise and Iron Mountain UK were the first companies successfully audited in March 2011, with the current drive being to encourage smaller operators to join.

Cartwright tells a story – the names should probably remain off the record – where he was accosted at the end of a meeting of agencies and associations by someone complaining that the van of a builder they were using probably wasn’t roadworthy, moaning that no-one was doing anything about it. His answer, probably in fairly blunt terms, was that the person contracting him to do work for them should be saying they won’t use people driving unroadworthy vehicles. Which is the crux of the next potential stage of Van Excellence development, where members encourage their suppliers and contracts to sign up to improved standards.

Van Excellence was first launched after the FTA, as an association, had what Cartwright describes as a “eureka” moment. “We sat down in front of a focus group of operators and asked about the opportunity for a code of practice, and that became the Van Excellence code of conduct and has driven everything we have done since,” he explains.

The latest developments Cartwright is driving are a new certificate of driver competence and increased recognition of the importance of vans to the UK economy.

“If you want to see how important vans are to UK PLC and GDP then just look out of your window in the morning and see how many vans you see,” he told What Van? earlier this year. “Vans power the economy but with that comes responsibility – you have to make sure you do it properly.”

The inaugural FTA Van Excellence Certificate of Driver Competence course took place in October, devised to create a nationally recognized van driver qualification to demonstrate the professionalism of companies and drivers.

“Van fleet operators have called on the FTA to develop a course that is aimed at the development of training and qualifications designed to meet these needs,” reflects Cartwright. “It is essential to improve the image of the van driver in order to demonstrate a real commitment to operate in a safe, professional, considerate and compliant manner.”

And it’s fair to say that there is nobody in the industry pushing that agenda harder or more passionately than our latest Hall of Fame inductee, the FTA’s Mark Cartwright.


The What Van? Hall of Fame

This is the third year we have honoured industry leading people and products with entry into the What Van? Hall of Fame.

The current list of inductees is as follows:

Bob Sockl

Sockl was the driving force behind what is now a resurgent Commercial Vehicle Show. The CV Show was struggling to the point where it was cancelled in 2009, but is now a vibrant internationally accredited event supported by much of the LCV industry. Sockl was added to our Hall of Fame in the 2015 awards to coincide with his retirement.

Vauxhall Vivaro

The first generation of the Vivaro was our debut inductee in 2014, where we honoured the medium van that is the dominant player in terms of a British-built light commercial vehicle. Between 2001 and 2014 more than 900,000 Vivaro and its Rnault Trafic and Nissan Primastar siblings rolled off the Luton factory lines.

Volkswagen Transporter

One of the most loved commercial vehicles of all time, VW had built 11.5m Trasnporters since its 1949 debut when we honoured the legendary van a year ago, ahead of the new sixth generation model launching earlier in 2015.