The confidence and optimism of Britain’s van drivers, owners and operators has taken a knock since the EU referendum and General Election, according to the new Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer.

The phased study – begun in April and featuring benchmarked quarterly data for the first time – shows a dip in both business confidence and career optimism levels since the June election.

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 to growth that they face.

Though the majority (87%) of the van driving and owning community canvassed in the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer are confident their business will grow rather than shrink over the next year, the figure represents a three percentage fall between April and August, with both a General Election and Brexit negotiations casting uncertainty over the wider economy in between.

Confidence peaks amongst London’s van drivers, owners and operators – where 92% are forecasting growth, but this falls sharply across the UK to 82% in the East of England.

In the first phase of Business Barometer, growth confidence peaked in the North East region with 97% of van drivers, owners and operators feeling confident about business growth – but this falls to just 83% in this second phase.

The outlook is by no means gloomy however – 47% are looking to up-staff, more than half say they will be investing in more vans over the next year and 44% say their organisation will become more reliant on vans in the next 12 months as the trend towards online shopping, quicker delivery windows and a shift away from heavier goods vehicles continues.

But congestion is a key cause for concern – 30% of van drivers, owners and operators say it could prevent growth and delivery businesses say they are losing 15% of their working hours to gridlock.

Steve Bridge, Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, said: “I’m delighted to be launching the Business Barometer to regularly track the views of a vital yet often forgotten lynchpin of British business, both big and small – the van drivers, owners and operators who keep the wheels of business turning.

“This study represents an independent and unique look at this diverse and hard-working community who keep British businesses moving – the delivery drivers, van owners, tradespeople, service engineers and businesses both large and small across the nation who rely on vans to ply their trade, reach customers, deliver goods and services or serve new markets.

“It is therefore deeply concerning that business optimism has taken a dip, with congestion cited as a key barrier to growth; quite simply, it is unacceptable that businesses are losing six hours a week to gridlock. These hard working van users should not have to worry about whether or not they can fulfil their business needs because of bottlenecks and traffic chaos.”