Confidence Dip for British drivers

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‘Confidence dip’ for Britain’s van drivers, owners and operators.

An independent sample of 2,000 van drivers, owners, operators and fleet managers – including tradespeople and service engineers to delivery drivers and entrepreneurs – were asked about their business growth expectations, career goals, challenges and barriers, which has been tracked in phases since Mercedes-Benz Vans first began recording results in April 2017. The latest phase (Phase Three – February 2018) showed a second consecutive fall in business growth confidence, representing a dip of five percentage points since April 2017 which suggests a small but sustained confidence dip.  However, this still means that 85% of respondents feel confident their business will grow over the next 12 months.

Growth confidence remains highest amongst delivery drivers (90% – down from 92% in November 2017) but drops to 81% among tradespeople – a relatively sharp fall of five percentage points.  Greater London continues to race away in terms of growth confidence – 89% of respondents from Greater London were confident their business would experience growth over the next 12 months compared to just 79% in Wales, 81% in the East of England and 82% in Yorkshire and the West Midlands. The latest phase also indicated that while van drivers, owners and operators are still more likely to think Brexit will improve the prospects of their business (28%) rather than damage it (20%), the gap between the two is closing.  For example, in the previous phase (November 2017), 32% felt it would improve prospects and 19% felt it would damage them, demonstrating that the protracted negotiations and continued uncertainty are beginning to chip away at ‘Brexit belief’ within the van community. Around 55% of respondents said their business would increase the number of vans they own or operate in the next 12 months – a slight decline from 58% in the previous phase – and 63% of delivery drivers believed the number of vans their organisation operates would increase in the next year (just 4% thought fleet size would decrease).

Taking factors such as a growing customer base (53%), a rise in online shopping (37%), and a shift away from HGVs (28%) into account, a continuing greater reliance on vans in the future looks more than likely.  43% of respondents believed the success of their business would depend more on vans in the future, and just 4% said their business would be less reliant on vans – almost unchanged from prior phases.

“It is concerning that while confidence is high among van owners and operators, the trend is on a decline, and while uncertainty continues to circulate around ‘Brexit’ and the economy, the knock-on effect on the investment within businesses is potentially stagnant,” Steve Bridge, the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said.  “We continue to monitor the views of the van community, but our hope is that ‘normal service’ is resumed soon, as van owners and operators are a life blood to the United Kingdom, keeping our businesses, and indeed lives, moving.”