Euro NCAP, the independent crash testing and vehicle safety agency, is now testing vans for their safety level. The move comes ahead of incoming new legislation, the General Safety Regulation, which will seek to harmonise safety standards across commercial vehicle line-ups. There’s a general perception that vans make do with less advanced safety systems than their passenger car counterparts, and Euro NCAP hopes that, just as with cars, rigorous independent testing will help to encourage manufacturers to boost their van safety levels.
19 new vans tested
For this first round of testing, 19 vans — all in the 3.5-tonne N1 category, which NCAP says covers some 98 per cent of the European van market - have been tested and the news is broadly good. The driver-assistance systems tested were autonomous emergency braking (AEB), with separate tests for the system’s response to other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists; lane support, which helps to prevent the vehicle drifting out of lane; speed assistance, which helps the driver maintain a safe speed, appropriate for the road the vehicle is on; and occupant state monitoring, which can detect whether or not the van’s occupants are wearing their seatbelts and are in a fit state to drive. An overall score was given to the tested vehicles, from which their ranking was established.
Three of the vans tested were good enough to receive a Gold Award from NCAP for the safety that they offer.
Those three are the Ford Transit, the Mercedes-Benz Vito and the Volkswagen Transporter.
“We know that safety is the top priority for businesses both protecting their staff and other road users,” said Stuart Southgate, director, Safety Engineering, Ford of Europe. “We’re delighted that Euro NCAP recognised the range and effectiveness of our active safety technologies. These systems protect the occupants and either mitigate or eliminate serious incidents. By doing this the advanced technologies both reduce personal injuries and minimise time off road for repairs.”
Silver Awards too
The Ford Transit Custom, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro, Peugeot Expert and the VW Crafter all won Silver Awards for safety, while the Citroen Jumper and the Jumpy, Fiat Ducato, Iveco Daily, Peugeot Boxer and the Toyota Proace all received creditable Bronze Awards. However, some key models — Fiat Talento, Opel/Vauxhall Movano, Nissan NV400, the Renault Master and Renault Trafic — were marked down. So severely down that NCAP made the blunt comment:
“The latter vans are not recommended for their general lack of safety systems.”
NCAP also criticised the fact that safety equipment is not fitted nor offered consistently across models that share the same basic structure and technology. For instance, the Renault Trafic and Nissan NV400 are built in the same factory, using the same components, but while autonomous emergency braking is available as an option for the Renault, it’s not available at all for the Nissan. NCAP also criticised the fact that there are still market-to-market differences in the fitting of standard safety features.
Big and heavy
Euro NCAP’s Secretary General, Michiel van Ratingen, points out:
“Commercial vans are big and heavy compared to passenger cars so, if they crash, they can do a lot of damage and cause serious injuries to others. Nowadays, active safety systems exist which can greatly reduce the likelihood of a collision with other cars, or with pedestrians or cyclists. These technologies are already commonplace on passenger cars but much less widespread on vans. Given the millions of vans on Europe’s roads, increasing the active safety systems fitted to commercial vehicles is key to improving safety for all road users.
“The first thing that struck us was how poorly vehicles in this segment are generally equipped with safety systems. Technology that is now standard on passenger cars is, almost without exception, an option on vans. Not only that but there is a huge lack of clarity about what is available in individual countries, and what functionalities the systems offer. Manufacturers really don’t make it easy for people to buy these options and we struggled hard to get hold of vans equipped with the systems we wanted to test. So, the results you see represent the absolute best that the vans will perform on the road. In all probability, there are very few vans actually on the road which are as well-equipped as the ones we tested, and that is part of our message today: manufacturers have to start taking the safety of this segment more seriously and fleet buyers should insist on choosing safety options to provide better protection for their drivers and for all road users. We want good-performing safety technology fitted as standard in this segment of the market. Gold award winners Ford, Mercedes-Benz and VW are showing the way.”