The UK new van market reached record levels in May, with figures showing almost 30,000 new vehicles were registered. It’s a result that marks two record performances in a row, after April also saw the highest levels of demand ever seen for the fourth month of the year.

According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 29,354 new light commercial vehicles were registered last month. The figure, which includes sales of pick-up trucks and commercial 4x4s, was up almost 300 percent compared with last May, when the UK market was heavily impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.

More importantly, registrations were up 4.7 percent compared with the five-year pre-pandemic average, showing true growth in the sector. It’s a result the SMMT puts down to “increasing sector confidence” amid raised demand for deliveries, e-commerce and other essential services.

As usual, the lion’s share of the market was taken up by vans weighing 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes. With more than 19,500 such vehicles registered, the market share stood at more than 67 percent. The second most popular type of vehicle was vans weighing 2-2.5 tonnes, with almost 4,000 registrations.

Those lighter vans made up just under 14 percent of all light commercial vehicle sales, but they were closely followed by pick-up trucks. More than 3,500 of those were registered last month, giving the vehicles a market share of 12 percent.

2021 Ford Transit Connect

During the first five months of 2021, just over 157,000 new light commercial vehicles have been registered. That’s almost twice as many as were registered during the same period in 2020, and it’s a four-percent increase on the average for the five years before the pandemic began.

As a result, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the results were welcomed by the industry, with indications that demand experienced after the pandemic will remain. However, he also expressed a desire to increase uptake of electric and hybrid vans that could reduce the sector’s environmental impact.

"May’s figures are welcome news, suggesting Britain’s additional reliance on commercial vehicles is a long-term shift rather than a lockdown stopgap,” he said. “As the nationwide vaccination rollout continues at pace, maintaining business confidence is essential for the LCV market. However, to counter the environmental impact accompanying increased demand, we need to incentivise some 4.6 million van users and operators alike to make the switch to zero-emission-capable technologies. This starts with plans for a nationwide charging infrastructure that can support the diverse needs of the commercial vehicle sector.”