Standards of compliance remain a pressing problem in the light commercial vehicle sector, judging by a recent crackdown on the M4 in which more than 100 fixed penalties were issued for a range of road traffic offences.

In the four-day blitz in March involving Wiltshire Police and HM Revenue and Customs, 450 vehicles - mostly light commercials - were stopped travelling between Membury Services and junction 15 and 106 penalty notices were issued, 95 of them to van drivers and 11 to LGVs.

Of these, 56 were handed out for dangerously overloaded vans, several of which were found to be 60% overweight. In addition, four vans were seized for being driven without insurance, one for running on red diesel, and one for being in the hands of a driver without a licence. During the crackdown, officers also seized 1.5 tonnes of tobacco on which an estimated £200,000 of duty had been evaded and two vans loaded with non-duty paid alcohol, with an estimated £7,000 of duty evaded.

Mark Cartwright, head of vans and LCVs at the FTA, said he wasn’t “overly surprised” by the results of the crackdown and said overloading was a particular issue with light commercials. “We all hear tales of the guys who will keep loading the vehicle until they can’t get any more on and to whom the idea of load distribution is an alien concept,” he commented.

Although many blue chip van operators had very high standards, added Cartwright, there remained a good number who were only slowly realising there were things they could and should be doing better.

“I think the reality of it is that there is work to be done in the light CV sector. FTA’s Van Excellence scheme is starting to make inroads into the issue of improving standards… but we know there are significant issues to be addressed across the broader van operating fleet. There’s an awful lot of work to be done to reach down into the smaller fleets where we all sense the more significant issues lie.”