Saving grace20 September 2022

DVSA light commercial vehicle MOTs VANS maintenance and repair costs are rising in line with increased maintenance requirements, according to Mark Holland at ATS Euromaster.

With a rapidly growing number of vans on the roads, first-time MOT failures for light commercial vehicles remain stubbornly high. Dan Gilkes asks if an expanding repair and maintenance offer could turn the tide

According to DVSA statistics, in the three months from October to December 2021, 38.25% of Class 7 (3-3.5 tonne) light commercial vehicle MOTs resulted in a first-time failure. That is nearly 264,000 vans, or around 88,000 heavy LCVs, each month. Perhaps more worryingly, 11.54% of those vehicles failed their test with at least one dangerous item: 16.21% of that total were for problems with brakes, 21.46% for lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment, 11.79% for suspension and 6.59% of the failures related to body, chassis and structure.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. In the three months from July to September 2021, 37.24% heavy vans failed at the first attempt, 11.12% with at least one dangerous item. Yet, when seen historically, these figures are actually an improvement. In research last year by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, almost half of larger LCVs (45%) failed their MOT, while around one third of lighter vans didn’t manage to pass first time.

That compares poorly with the heavy truck market, which had an initial failure rate of around 14% at non-DVSA centres and closer to 25% at DVSA-run facilities, during the same quarterly periods last year. There are a number of reasons for this comparative discrepancy in pass rates. Heavy goods vehicles have an annual examination from their first year of registration, while vans, like passenger cars, wait until their third year on the road before being submitted for a first annual MOT. Trucks also undergo six-weekly inspections, while vans do not.

However, as oil quality continues to advance, we are seeing ever-more extended service intervals for vans, often stretching to two years, or more than 30,000 miles. That means that by the time the van is submitted for its first MOT at three years old, it might only have been through a dealer’s workshop for one service inspection, despite having up to 50,000 miles on the clock.

Yet vans are having to work ever harder. With some delivery businesses and supermarkets double and even triple-shifting, to meet the growing needs of the home delivery market, it is hardly surprising to find that mileages and maintenance are being stretched. With growing lead times due to component delays in manufacturing plants, operators are holding on to their vehicles for longer, with four- and five-year first life cycles now common.

“Vans have been working harder and longer since the pandemic, fuelled by the increase in the home delivery market,” says Mark Holland, operations director at tyre and service provider ATS Euromaster.

The company is calling on van operators to adopt more of a proactive attitude to maintenance. If, during a service for example, the technician has identified that the brakes will require changing in two months, ATS says don’t wait. Fleet managers should recognise the vehicle downtime cost of a further visit to the service bay and approve brake rectification during the original service. This should also pay dividends at MOT time.


While the majority of heavy trucks are leased, often with a repair and maintenance (R&M) agreement included in the monthly cost, Department for Transport (DfT) van statistics for April 2019-March 2020 show that in that period only 14% of the vans on UK roads were new and under some form of lease or hire purchase agreement. Around 26% of vans were new and owned outright, while 54% of the vans on UK roads were second-hand and owned outright.

That doesn’t mean that manufacturers and dealers aren’t offering R&M products, simply that the percentage take-up is far lower than for trucks. Market leader Ford offers commercial vehicle buyers a range of Ford Protect service plans. Customers can pay upfront, split the cost over 24 months for a two-year plan, or 36 months for a three-year deal. The service plan must be bought before the van is 12 months old or before its first service. Contracts are offered for vehicles up to four years old.

Renault has a range of maintenance packs available for its light to mid-weight vans, covering three, four and five-year durations.

Mercedes-Benz Vans, though now a separate company from the truck business, still has many connections through its dealers with the heavy haulage sector. As with other truck providers, IVECO, Renault Trucks and MAN, the company is therefore much more familiar with providing a 24/7 back-up service.

Mercedes offers two levels of service plan. ServiceCare Maintenance is only valid for new vehicles, but allows the customer to spread the cost of up to six services, at today’s rates. ServiceCare Complete, which is offered through dealers on vans up to four years old, includes all regular servicing, all MOT tests, any DVSA inspections, all friction components and the repair or replacement of factory-fitted electrical components, gearboxes, alternators, axles, bearings and mechanical components. According to a spokesperson: “Our repair and maintenance plan ServiceCare Complete offers the option of MOT cover, to help increase the likelihood of vehicles passing first time. Customers with MOT cover benefit from having an authorised Mercedes-Benz dealer prepare their vehicle for its annual DVSA MOT test. The dealer also takes responsibility for the arrangement of and submission of the vehicle for the test, including payment of the test fee.”

Having an older vehicle need not be the end of a manufacturer or dealer-backed service and maintenance package. Volkswagen Financial Services recently announced a range of spring deals, with a 25% discount for van owners with vehicles of three to six years old on its All-In plan, or 25% off a range of service plans on vans that are 1-15 years old. All-In is a one-stop aftercare package, announced last year, that can be paid upfront or in monthly instalments. It includes the next two services, two MOTs, two years’ roadside assistance and a two-year warranty. Volkswagen said that more than half of its new retail van sales currently come with some form of service plan, although not apparently in Menzies’ recent order of 100-odd Crafter CR35 MWB and LWB Startline high-roof vans, such as that pictured, right.


Given the time and mileage that is now common between large van service intervals, a growing number of manufacturers are offering free visual health checks for van customers which can be carried out between regular service visits. Mercedes-Benz has a 15-minute visual check, covering 28 critical maintenance points around the van, while Volkswagen dealers will take a look at 34 items, including wear components such as brakes and tyres, so that these can be flagged well before the next service if necessary.

Of course, driver daily checks, if conducted properly, should also raise the alarm if any electrical systems aren’t working, or if tyres and brakes require attention. There really is little excuse for arriving at an MOT station and finding that indicators or brake lights are not functioning properly, while all drivers should be reporting concerns about brakes.

Finally, it is a little early to compare electric van results, as there have been so few on the roads for more than three years. Still, recent studies of passenger car MOT test results show that electric vehicles are slightly more likely (87% versus 84.5%) to pass first time. This is in part due to EVs having fewer moving parts, but also that there is no emissions component to the test, as with petrol and diesel vehicles.

Renault, for one, offers three- to five-year maintenance packs for its Kangoo E-Tech and Master E-Tech models. A three-year/66,000-mile package is said to be 50% less expensive than for a comparable diesel model, though that difference drops to just 30% over five years.


With lack of vehicle availability impacting commercial vehicle replacement cycles, service, maintenance and repair costs are rising in line with increased maintenance requirements, according to Mark Holland at ATS Euromaster.

In line with extended lifecycles, ATS Euromaster says it has seen an uplift in the demand for consumables such as brakes, disks, pads and fluids, wheel alignment, puncture repairs and shock and suspension maintenance.

Holland adds that the other impact from longer lifecycle running was the demand for emergency repairs, with downtime adding to the rise in SMR costs. “We’re seeing an increase for emergency and same-day service. And that’s simply because fleets have not kept their vehicles in tip top condition and preventative maintenance has disappeared.”


Michael Dunkel, director, global category & product management at TMD Friction, explains how brake pads differ for 3.5t parcel delivery vans from those in cars. He says: “The market demands longer pad durability, both for cost reasons and to ensure that brake repair is not needed in the interim between service intervals. Therefore, we use more wear-resistant friction material mixes.”

Another development in both passenger car and CV sectors is the use of two-piece brake discs. In discussing these designs, Dunkel adds: “Certainly, the biggest challenge for brake discs in the commercial vehicle sector is to dissipate the resulting heat and to dissipate it effectively. There are various designs for two-part brake discs that optimise the thermal insulation between the wheel hub and the brake disc and thus reduce heat transfer. This results in more uniform temperature distribution, thus preventing excessive distortion of the brake disc. This helps avoid so-called hotspots, which in turn lead to differing levels of tension in the brake disc and thus to cracks.”


Tyre management looks set to become the focal point of service, maintenance and repair for fleets as they adopt electric vehicles over the next few years, FleetCheck is predicting. The fleet software specialist says that it is becoming clear from real-world EV cost profiles seen so far that while general maintenance costs for electric vehicles are lower than comparable petrol and diesel models, tyre costs are higher.

Peter Golding, managing director, says the most significant factors are weight and torque; EVs are heavier than ICE vehicles, and this causes increased wear, particularly in 4x2s. As a result, he adds that there is likely to be increased interest in tyre maintenance, such as ensuring tyre pressures are regularly checked, as well as other factors influencing wear such as wheel alignment. On that point, Automotive Equipment Solutions UK offers the Josam cam-aligner wheel system for the transport industry (pictured).

Continues Golding: “Also, it has long been recognised that a more measured approach to cornering and braking can contribute to increased tyre life, which again takes us back to the subject of torque. We expect fleet managers to take a greater interest in how employees are using their EVs on the road as a result, with measures introduced that are designed to ensure that drivers are mindful of their tyre use.”

Dan Gilkes

Related Companies
ATS Euromaster Ltd
Department for Transport
Mercedes-Benz Accessories Gmbh

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