A recent study conducted by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has shed light on the increasingly challenging landscape faced by UK van drivers, as economic pressures drive longer working hours and dampen optimism for business prospects. According to the study, a staggering 60 per cent of UK van drivers are extending their work hours, a trend exacerbated by relentless cost pressures.

The survey, which polled 1,000 van drivers across the nation, revealed that a significant 68 per cent of respondents expressed no greater optimism about their business outlook compared to the previous year, with soaring material costs identified as a key hurdle. The data unveiled a notable uptick in the average daily working hours, now standing at 9 hours and 10 minutes, a considerable increase from 8 hours and 34 minutes reported in February 2023. Alarmingly, 2 in 5 van drivers are clocking in over 10 hours per day, marking a 7 per cent rise in the average working day compared to the previous year.

By law, van drivers in the United Kingdom are supposed to take breaks of at least 30 minutes after every five and a half hours of driving, incorporating a minimum 45-minute break within an eight and a half-hour drive.

Despite a slight dip in the inflation rate to 4.2 per cent in January 2024, concerns persist among van drivers regarding the escalating costs of materials essential for their trade. For instance, ready-mixed concrete and flexible pipes and fittings have seen steep hikes of 14.6 per cent and 23.8 per cent respectively since last year, further straining the construction sector.

Another study from VW Commercial Vehicles also showed a concerning trend of overloading vans among UK drivers. The survey conducted in August 2023 found that 48 per cent of van drivers admitted to overloading their vehicles, potentially risking hefty fines of up to £300. With 89 per cent of drivers claiming familiarity with weight restrictions, the nation's van drivers collectively face £703 million in penalties for overloading offenses.

Moreover, the research highlighted specific trades prone to overloading, with carpenters leading at 63 per cent, followed closely by builders (60 per cent), electricians (55 per cent), and painter decorators (55 per cent).