man checking van - The Van Operator's Checklist

The Van Operator’s Checklist

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Although cars make up the largest group of vehicles on Britain’s roads, light goods vehicles (LGVs) make up the next largest group. Over 10% of all registered vehicles is a goods van of some description – that’s 4.1 million LGVs at the end of March 2020.

Since Covid-19, that number is rising; more people shop online now, and van deliveries have exploded. In fact, by the end of March 2020, LGVs are the only category of licenced vehicle to have increased its numbers compared to the same period in 2019 (source).

What condition are Britain’s vans in?

The majority of LGVs still in use are over three years old; many are significantly older, so their roadworthiness is very much a cause for concern. Unfortunately, it’s clear from roadside safety checks carried out by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency that many Light Goods Vehicles are not as safe as they ought to be.

The top 10 prohibition defects for the year 2018/19, as a percentage of all LGV roadside inspections, were:

1 Running Gear – condition of tyres 16.7%
2 Lamps and reflectors 9.8%
3 Suspension – springs 3.7%
4 Seat belts and supplementary restraint system 3.6%
5 Brakes – warning systems 3.1%
6 Brakes – mechanical components 3.1%
7 Steering – steering linkage 3.0%
8 Brakes – parking brake operation and performance 2.8%
9 Running gear – road wheels and hubs 2.3%
10 Brakes – controls 2.2%


Those statistics don’t make for reassuring reading!

Aside from the obvious safety issues for both the van driver and other road users, every stopped vehicle that fails DVSA’s checks means lost revenue and increased running costs for its operator.

Daily walkaround checks

By law, all vehicles must be safe and roadworthy; any vehicle not meeting the minimum legal standard for road safety must not be driven on the road. A self-employed plumber has as much legal responsibility for this as the fleet manager at a larger company, which also has a wider responsibility for the health and safety of its employees.

Government guidance recommends that all van operators and drivers carry out a daily walkaround check of their vehicle as part of an overall maintenance routine, to ensure its roadworthiness.

What should be checked before you drive your van?

To help fleet operators and LGV drivers check that their vans are in good repair, we’ve put together a basic van operator’s checklist. This isn’t an exhaustive list; it’s intended to be used as part of, rather than a substitute for, a regular programme of maintenance, servicing and repair.

Depending on how you use your own vehicles, the loads they carry and the mileage they do, you may want to add other items to the checklist. The ideal time for the daily walkaround is at the start of the working day, and it should take a minimum of five minutes.

Driver or operator checklist

Outside the van

  1. Tyres and wheels
    1. Is there a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm?
    2. Are tyre pressures correct?
    3. Check for cuts and exposed cords
    4. Check that wheel-nuts are all present and tightened securely
  2. Load
    1. Is the vehicle leaning? The suspension may be faulty or the vehicle overloaded
    2. Is your load within the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) permitted for your vehicle type?
    3. Check the payload is correctly distributed within the vehicle, and secured
    4. Do your van’s door lock securely?
  3. Bodywork / doors
    1. Is bodywork in good order, e.g. no sharp edges or loose panels?
    2. Do doors close securely and without hindrance?
  4. Tow-bars and tail-lifts
    1. Check that the tow-bar is secure, any trailer is safely attached and all electrical connections are in good working order
    2. Is the tail-lift secure, in good working order, with all electrical connections working correctly?
  5. Exhaust
    1. With the engine off, check the exhaust is secure and in the correct position
    2. With the engine on, are there excessive exhaust fumes or smoke?
  6. Number plates
    1. Are number plates at front and rear clean and easy to read?
  7. Battery
    1. Is the battery held securely in place?
    2. Are there any obvious signs of leaks?
  8. Fluids, fuel and oil
    1. Check for levels on brake fluid, screen-wash, oil, water, engine coolant and power-steering fluid
    2. Ensure the fuel cap is securely closed
    3. Check under the van for puddles that could indicate a fluid or fuel leak, with the engine on and off. Trace potential leaks to their source.

Insure the van

  1. Brakes
    1. Check that foot brake works correctly, without excessive travel
    2. Check the hand brake or parking brake works correctly, without excessive travel
  2. Lights
    1. Are all external lights and indicators working?
    2. Are light lenses undamaged, clean and the correct colour?
    3. Do brake lights come on and go off when the brake pedal is pressed and released?
    4. Are marker lights present and working?
    5. Check dashboard warning lights are working, especially lights for Automated Braking System (ABS), Electronic Positioning System (EPS), Airbags, Full Beam indicator light and parking brake warning light
  3. For the driver
    1. Are the driver controls, driver seat and seatbelt correctly adjusted for optimum safety, comfort and accessibility?
    2. Is there a hi-visibility vest or jacket accessible for the driver?
    3. Check the cab for cleanliness and for unsecured objects that could be a hazard
    4. Are insurance, tax or other vehicle related documentation present and correct?
  4. Seats and seatbelts
    1. Are seats secure?
    2. Check for damage or wear to seatbelts, and that they operate correctly
  5. Steering and horn
    1. Check for excessive play in the steering system
    2. Is the driver’s horn easily accessible and working?
  6. Mirrors and glass
    1. Are all mirrors secured and aligned for the best viewing position?
    2. Is the driver’s view in any direction obscured by damaged or discoloured glass, stickers or other obstructions?
  7. Wipers, washers and demister
    1. Is washer fluid topped up?
    2. Check for wear to wiper blades
    3. Do washers point at the windscreen and are they working properly?
    4. Check that wipers are operational and move correctly at the different speed settings
    5. Check that internal windscreen demister is working

Keep in mind this vehicle check is intended for light commercial vehicles in the United Kingdom, with a Gross Vehicle Weight up to 3.5 tonnes, for example light box vans and transit vans. There are different regulations for HGV drivers who rely on an operator licence, or vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes.

How long should a vehicle walkaround take?

There’s no minimum time, but it’s recommended that you set aside at least five to ten minutes at the start of each day to carry out a thorough vehicle walkaround.

Reporting vehicle defects

If any hazards or serious defects are noticed during the daily check, the vehicle must be repaired and made safe before it’s driven on the road.

The driver or operator’s walkaround checklist should include an area for any defects, or symptoms of defects, to be reported. This process is important for reporting faults and hazards, and could help to prevent an accident on the road. A robust reporting procedure can also help employers to meet their obligations towards the safety of their employees.

Following up on defect reports is a critical part of the maintenance, servicing and repair process, for which each LGV operator, driver or fleet manager has a responsibility.

How long should vehicle defect reports be kept?

Unlike HGVs, which must keep defect reports for 15 months, there’s no specific time required for Light Goods Vehicles. However, keeping defect reports, maintenance and repair records for the same period would demonstrate that you have an effective system in place, should it ever be examined.

How well do you know your van?

Daily vehicle checks don’t need a qualified mechanic, but they do allow a driver to become closely attuned to their van. This in-depth awareness of every aspect of the van’s condition enables faults to be spotted and dealt with before they become hazardous.

Get into the habit – start using your checklist today.

You can download a PDF version of the checklist here.


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