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Lack of safety tech in new vans ‘alarming’, tests reveal

New tests that assess van safety have revealed an “alarming” lack of collision avoidance technology being fitted to commercial vehicles on sale in Ireland and Europe.

Vehicle safety experts Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research independently assessed the fitment rate and performance of 19 vans’ active safety, anti-collision technology, as part of what they say is the world’s first Commercial Van Safety Rating.

The testers say the Renault Master, Nissan NV400, Renault Trafic, Opel/Vauxhall Movano and Fiat Talento all performed so badly that they were handed a ‘Not Recommended’ rating.

Only Mercedes-Benz’s Vito, the Ford Transit and Volkswagen’s Transporter scored a ‘Gold’ rating.

The Ford Transit Custom, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro, Peugeot Expert and the VW Crafter are awarded Silver.

Six more vans are given the Bronze award: the Citroen Jumper and the Jumpy, Fiat Ducato, Iveco Daily, Peugeot Boxer and the Toyota Proace.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research director of research, says: “This first batch of test results show the fitment of crucial safety technology on vans in woefully low.

“It’s a serious issue that needs addressing urgently, particularly with van numbers increasing and the continued surge in demand for home deliveries during the pandemic and before Christmas.”

The driver-assistance systems tested were autonomous emergency braking (AEB), with separate tests for the system’s response to other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists; lane support, which helps to prevent the vehicle drifting out of lane; speed assistance, which helps the driver maintain a safe speed, appropriate for the road the vehicle is on; and occupant state monitoring, which can detect whether or not the van’s occupants are wearing their seatbelts and are in a fit state to drive.

An overall score was given to the tested vehicles, from which their ranking was established.

Regarding fitment of safety technologies, there are regional differences: systems that are standard in one country may be optional in others. And vehicles which are identical except for the badge on the front, also differ in the safety they offer: AEB is an option on the Renault Master but is not available on the Nissan NV-400, which comes off the same production line.

Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen comments: “The first thing that struck us was how poorly vehicles in this segment are generally equipped with safety systems. Technology that is now standard on passenger cars is, almost without exception, an option on vans.

“Not only that but there is a huge lack of clarity about what is available in individual countries, and what functionalities the systems offer. Manufacturers really don’t make it easy for people to buy these options and we struggled hard to get hold of vans equipped with the systems we wanted to test.

“So, the results you see represent the absolute best that the vans will perform on the road. In all probability, there are very few vans actually on the road which are as well-equipped as the ones we tested, and that is part of our message today: manufacturers have to start taking the safety of this segment more seriously and fleet buyers should insist on choosing safety options to provide better protection for their drivers and for all road users.

“We want good-performing safety technology fitted as standard in this segment of the market. Gold award winners Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen are showing the way.”