Loads more vans on Northumberland roads as online shopping increases

A delivery van.
A delivery van.

Thousands more vans have flooded Northumberland’s roads in recent years, as campaigners warn of the environmental impact of online shopping, writes Joseph Hook, data reporter.

Retailers have been urged to reduce the number of diesel vans they use to make deliveries, and make more effort to switch their fleets of vehicles to cleaner sources of fuel.

Since 2012, 2,055 more vans have been registered in Northumberland – nearly all of them powered by diesel. In total, 17,356 vans are registered in the county, an increase of more than 10%.

The increase in vans has vastly outpaced the growth in the number of cars in Northumberland since 2012, as people increasingly shop from the comfort of their sofas. There are 7% more cars on the road.

In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, vans covered a distance of 49.1billion miles on Britain’s roads – an increase of 19% on 2012. Car miles increased by just 5% in the same period.

But the convenience comes at a cost, with increasingly poor air quality having an impact on public health and the environment. This week, a new clean-air strategy published by government was branded ‘hugely disappointing’ by the Labour party, which said it did little to tackle diesel pollution.

Oliver Hayes, clean-air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Only a very small proportion of vans on our roads are low emission models, with the vast majority releasing clouds of toxic diesel fumes.

“The online shopping world is largely dominated by a few e-commerce giants, the rise of which has been at the expense of our air quality as well as high-street businesses. The convenience of shopping online is obviously hard to argue against, but it’s time that more e-commerce and delivery companies consolidated into a lower number of vans, as well as more effort made to switch to fleets of cleaner vehicles.”

Across the North East, there are 156,083 vans registered, an increase of 11% on 2012. In the same period, the growth in cars was just 7%. Across the UK, 96% of all vans are diesel, amounting to over 3.8million vehicles.

Data: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/all-vehicles-veh01
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/tra01-traffic-by-road-class-and-region-miles