Vans have become an essential tool for many businesses whether it’s for transporting heavy cargo, for use as a mobile office or for carrying tools when out and about with customers. Whatever the use for many employees having a van is an essential means of transport where often tradesmen and women will spend more time out and about in the van than back at the office. Even though a van is not technically an office, employer’s still have a ‘duty-of-care’ under the UK Health and Safety at work regulations, to ensure that employees are safe at all times when using one of their vehicles. This is because a company vehicle used for work purposes is classed as part of the workplace and as such employees have to look at the risks associated with the use of such a vehicle.
If the van only carries light goods or tools and you don’t consider the driver or passenger to be at risk from such cargo in the event of an accident, you may be surprised to find that you are wrong. In a collision at 31mph something as small as a 200g screwdriver will be propelled forward with a collision weight of 8kg, a coke bottle that’s left unsecured will become a 30kg missile. If the van happens to carry a payload of 100kg then in a 30mph crash the payload weight will increase by 40 times. That’s a 4 tonne force hurtle towards the front of the van which will killing anyone in its path is there are no measures taken to prevent this from happening.
With the progression in technology safety features like airbags, ABS, ESP, EBD and EBA have made vans a lot safer over the past few years, but none of these will protect passengers from an unsecured load. To protect the drivers cab from danger there are 3 options available; lashing down the load, installing a bulkhead and fitting a vehicle storage systems. It’s not always possible to tie the load down if it comprises of multiple small items so the other two ways will be provide a safer choice.
Bulkheads are physical barriers that separate the driver and passengers from the cargo area they are available in a number of configurations and materials.
1. Solid Steel Bulkheads form a solid barrier between passenger and cargo area, they are extremely strong and have the benefit of blocking off any cargo from prying eyes. If you live in a hot climate and rely on air conditioning to keep the cab cool, they help so that the cool air stays in the cab eliminating the need to chill the entire van to keep cool.
2. Bulkheads with a window are full steel bulkhead with a solid Perspex window which provides strength and visibility through the rear window or to the cargo area.
2. Punched bulkheads usually offer a solid steel wall on the bottom half with a punched steel upper half which has a limited view to the cargo area through a grille window.
3. Metal grille bulkheads are lighter in weight, still offer a good level of protection and have the benefit of being able to see the cargo which is especially useful if you need to keep an eye on it.
4. Bulkheads with a door allow the crew easy access to and from the cargo area without having to leave the van.
5. Wooden bulkheads made from Plywood have the added benefit of being modifiable after they are installed where you can add wooden racking or shelves for storing very light weight materials. They are also a lot cheaper than steel bulkheads.
6. Plastic Bulkheads are made from Polypropylene which is a lightweight plastic that is extremely strong, you can take a sledge hammer to it and there will be no damage. The material is a lot lighter than steel and it doesn’t rust so it can also be used to line the whole of the cargo space protecting the interior of the van from rust and damage.
Once you have right bulkhead for the load you will be carrying choosing a professional racking system for securing loose items is the next step. Many businesses try and cut down the cost here by building and installing their own DIY storage units which may seem to do the job. Unfortunately they are not tested to withstand the impact of a crash and in many cases will just break free in the event of such a shock and kill anyone in the front of the van. In many countries having proper van racking to suit the materials being carried is a legal requirement. To fulfil this requirement companies like bott, Sortimo and Modul-Systems International (TEVO in the UK) have developed racking and storage solutions to meet businesses needs.
Whether you need cabinets, cupboards, shelving or even a workbench there are modular storage solutions to suit every requirement. All storage solutions are designed to be light weight yet extremely sturdy and most importantly load tested so that if the van should be involved in an accident you know that any cargo load will always be secure. Below are a range of clips highlighting just how important a bulkhead and van storage can be in the event of an accident.