Van Driver Toolkit success spins off “Toolbox Talks”

National Highways’ Driving for Better Business (DfBB) programme has launched a series of “Toolbox Talks” following on from the success of its award-winning Van Driver Toolkit.

They are perfect for SME commercial fleets without a dedicated fleet manager or resources to provide guidance for drivers.

The short, easy-to-follow videos last around 8-10 minutes each, with eight individual shows giving drivers important information countering a variety of misconceptions surrounding van regulations.

These videos cover the following subjects:

  • Distractions
  • Driver’s hours
  • Fatigue
  • Roadworthiness
  • Safe loading
  • Safe towing
  • Severe weather
  • Speed limits

The video on Driver distractions explains the different types that can affect driving skill, covering visual, manual, auditory, and cognitive distractions, as well as addressing the use of mobile phones.

Driver’s hours addresses the common belief that there are no restrictions to driving a vehicle below 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. It explains that there are two sets of rules that drivers must adhere to, and that being unaware of or deliberately breaking these rules can see huge fines given, or even custodial sentences.

One of the most important of the series, the Fatigue video says that one in five incidents is caused by tiredness, and 40% of these incidents involve a commercial vehicle. With the eye-opening statistics given, it goes on to offer tips to avoid driving when drowsy or fatigued.

Roadworthiness looks at the crucial and good practice points covering daily walkarounds. Research shows that 39% of vans fail their MOT first time, and that two thirds of all vans stopped at the roadside have “serious mechanical defects” - of these, 85% should have been identified during a proper pre-driving check.

The section on Safe loading talks about the differences between gross vehicle weight, kerbside weight, and payload weights, and the impacts on each to drivers. It also covers the safest ways to secure loads - with similar topics in the Safe towing video, but tailored to towing practices.

Severe weather tips given in the video will apply to all road users, but highlight the increased impacts of poor weather on heavier and higher-sided vehicles. It addresses how other road users are impacted by LCVs, particularly larger vans, and how poor weather can affect the handling and braking distances of commercial vehicles.

The Speed limits module explains the differences between car-derived vans and other LCVs, and why they have a different legal speed limit on single and dual carriageways - something many drivers are unaware of. It also encourages drivers to see them as limits, rather than targets.

The Toolbox Talks series is intended to quickly address myths surrounding van driving, and help drivers and employers comply with not only road traffic legislation, but also Health and Safety at Work responsibilities. Each video ends with a short quiz, to help drivers reinforce their understanding of what they have just covered.

“The Toolbox Talks are aimed at the huge number of van operators who may not have the in-house expertise or resources and have a hazy understanding of the law,” says Mark Cartwright, Head of the Commercial Vehicle Incident Prevention Team at National Highways.

Lack of awareness is a major issue, he says. “When HGVs are pulled over by the DVSA, the driver is usually aware what’s gone wrong. With van drivers, they often say they simply weren’t aware of the law. But it’s worth knowing that 89% of vans stopped by DVSA are overloaded, and the average fine per overloading offence is around £972. Ignorance is no defence.

“We’re delighted with the impact our free Van Driver Toolkit resource is having in raising awareness of safety and compliance with van operators and their drivers, which was accessed 21,800 times in 2022 - and 46,009 times overall. PDFs of the Toolkit were downloaded 842 times in 2022 and 6152 overall. We’ve been listening to their feedback which is why we’re now releasing this series of ready-made toolbox talks. We’re sure operators will find this useful.”

Toolbox Talks are available at to anyone who registers for the free Van Driver Toolkit.

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