Congestion is increasingly becoming a critical business issue, according to the latest research from the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer.

Delivery drivers who took part in the survey said that, on average, 16% of their working day was lost due to congestion.  Based on a (very conservative) eight-hour working day, this equates to more than six hours across a typical working week – or 37 working days a year lost due to congestion for the average delivery driver.

Greater London reaffirmed its place at the top of the ‘congestion league’, with respondents saying that 18% of their working day was lost to congestion – higher than anywhere else in the country.

The research, which canvassed the views of around 2,000 van owners and operators, also indicated that congestion is now the second biggest ‘barrier to growth’, with 31% believing it would be a barrier in the coming year, rising to 38% amongst fleet managers and second only to rising fuel costs.

The top six transport-related growth barriers overall were:

  1. Rising fuel costs – 57%
  2. Congestion – 31%
  3. Vehicle Expenditure – 29%
  4. Driver shortages – 21%
  5. Meeting increasing customer demand – 16%
  6. Servicing ‘down time’ – 10%

Around 43% of respondents in the North West of England said congestion would be a barrier to growth – the highest figure nationally.  The region is of course home to an emerging (and controversial) ‘smart motorway’ network roll-out on some of Britain’s busiest motorways including the M6, M56, M62 and M60, with completion dates still years away.

Further to this, 55% of owners and operators said they planned to increase the number of vans they own or operate within the next 12 months.  With the delivery economy on the rise, business operators cited growing customer bases (47%), continuing growth of online shopping (40%) and a shift away from heavy goods vehicles as the main reason they’ll be investing in larger fleets.

“Anyone who has travelled along the M6 recently will fully understand the frustrations felt by our hard working van drivers – the amount of roadworks dotted all along the motorway is causing significant congestion issues, not least the stresses it puts time-sensitive couriers and distribution drivers under,” Steve Bridge, the MD of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said.

“We know from our Business Barometer that a growing customer base ever more focused on online retail is a positive for the industry, but unless the issue of congestion is tackled these businesses will suffer.  Congestion causes delays that cost money as well as time and can damage the reputation of businesses that rely on their deliveries.

“This is a key issue for the van driving/owning community, so we hope the trade associations and Government organisations will listen to their concerns.”

The Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer is a nationwide quarterly survey of 2,000 businesses large and small, created to help us understand the economic landscape and discover what van owners and drivers need to keep their business moving.