We’ve all been guilty of it: throwing our weekly shopping into the back of the car and then forgetting about it until journey’s end – only to wonder why the contents of the boot resembles the aftermath of a chimps’ tea party.

The consequences for a poorly loaded van, however, can be far more serious, and it’s why FORS, the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme, provides dedicated training, eLearning and guidance on the very important issue of loading and unloading. Damage to expensive tools and equipment notwithstanding, it is the risk of injury to the driver and other road users that is the primary concern.

Research carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory compared two vans loaded with building equipment typical of any small contractor: a generator, bricks, road cones, tools, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Van one was fitted with a ‘cheap’ bulkhead and racking, and was poorly loaded. A crash at 30mph resulted, unsurprisingly, in severe damage to the structural integrity of the van and, worryingly, significant ingress through the bulkhead that would have almost certainly seriously injured or, quite possibly, killed the driver. Van two, on the other hand, was fitted with racking, as well as a bulkhead, that were both properly fitted and sourced from reputable suppliers.

The contents were also correctly loaded and restrained. The same crash conditions were employed and the result, save for slightly bent racking, would have left the driver and his load unscathed.

Loading, as evidenced, is a crucial aspect of any van operation, and it is an area highlighted by FORS in much of its training and guidance. The FORS Standard – under the ‘V5 Safe Loading and Load Restraints’ requirement – provides comprehensive details of the many resources available to both operators and drivers, including Van Smart training and eLearning, HSE load-safety advice, and a DfT load-securing guide for vehicle operators. Further guidance is provided by toolkits and a specific FORS Toolbox Talk.

Further details and guidance can be found at www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/new-standard, www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/toolkits, and www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/toolboxtalks.

The Standard is produced in association with