The White Van Man is a Blind Spot in Transport Research

The White Van Man is a Blind Spot in Transport Research


Jan Francke, KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis, Mathijs Jacobs, Statistics Netherland (CBS), Johan Visser, Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis (KiM)


People are concerned about the increasing number of delivery vans in residential areas. Results of an extended survey on van activity in the Netherlands. Comparison with the scarce available statistics from other European countries.


The white van man (WVM) is a stereotype used in the United Kingdom (UK) for a commercial van driver, quite often an independent tradesperson for whom driving a commercial vehicle is not the main line of business. Not all light commercial vehicles (LCV) or light goods vehicles (LGV) are white and not all drivers behave as “aggressive” as the WVM is often described in the media.

In transport research little is known on the owners and use of these LGV. On a macro level we know that in 2015 in the Netherlands the total amount of vans is approximately 7,5% of all motorised road vehicles and approximately 12,5% of all motorised road vehicle kilometres on Dutch territory. We have however hardly any clue who uses these vans and where, when and why they are used. This blind spot in transport research is already known for decades but from a transport economic or traffic engineering point of view there was never a huge urge to study this phenomenon.

Due to the fast growth of home delivery services with LGV’s (Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) less than 3.5 tonnes), people are concerned on the number of delivery vans in residential areas and the related safety and health risks. For this reason there is a growing need for statistical information on LCV’s, like delivery vans. What are the implications of the Internet economy, where do these delivery vans drive (more that 800 thousand in the Netherlands), what do they carry and how many deliveries do they daily? These are some of the questions that have been raised.

Available statistics do not provide the right insight into the use of light freight vehicles to answer these questions. For this reason the Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis (KiM) requested Statistics Netherlands (CBS) to conduct a comprehensive survey among owners of Dutch LGV’s and LCV’s in 2016 and 2018. In the past these survey’s had a very small sample and on a detailed level reliable data could not be produced. In the 2016 survey the sample size has been increased to nearly 40.000. This survey will provide reliable and detailed information on the use of light freight vehicles, such as for home delivery and building and construction work. In this paper we will present the first results of this survey and describe the available dataset to be used in transport research. We will draw some conclusions amongst others on the extensive use of delivery vans within residential areas. A comparison will be made with the scarce available statistics on the use of LGV in other European countries.

The 2016 survey has just been completed and it is not yet possible to include the outcome of the survey in this abstract. The analyses on the survey data will be performed in the first months of 2017 and the results can be included in the final paper for the ETC. The official statistical results of the 2016 survey will be published by Statistics Netherlands before the ETC Conference.


Association for European Transport