Thousands more vans on West Sussex’s roads as online shopping increases

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Thousands more vans have flooded West Sussex’s roads in recent years, as campaigners warn of the environmental impact of online shopping.

Retailers have been urged to reduce the number of diesel vans they use to make deliveries, and make more effort to switch their fleets of vehicles to cleaner sources of fuel.

Since 2012, 8,517 more vans have been registered in West Sussex - nearly all of them powered by diesel.

In total, 51,187 vans are registered in the area, an increase of 20%.

The increase in vans has vastly outpaced the growth in the number of cars in West Sussex since 2012, as people increasingly shop from the comfort of their sofas. There are 9% more cars on the road.

In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, vans covered a distance of 49.1 billion miles on Britain’s roads - an increase of 19% on 2012. Car miles increased by just 5% in the same period.

But the convenience comes at a cost, with increasingly poor air quality having an impact on public health and the environment. This week, a new clean air strategy published by government was branded “hugely disappointing” by the Labour party, which said it did little to tackle diesel pollution.

Oliver Hayes, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Only a very small proportion of vans on our roads are low emission models, with the vast majority releasing clouds of toxic diesel fumes onto streets across the UK.

“The online shopping world is largely dominated by a few e-commerce giants, the rise of which has been at the expense of our air quality as well as high street businesses.

“The convenience of shopping online is obviously hard to argue against, but it’s time that more e-commerce and delivery companies properly considered the environmental impact of their business.

“We need to see more deliveries being consolidated into a lower number of vans, as well as more effort made to switch to fleets of cleaner vehicles.”

Across the South East, there are 650,041 vans registered, an increase of 23% on 2012. In the same period, the growth in cars was just 10%. Across the UK, 96% of all vans are diesel, amounting to over 3.8 million vehicles.

Data: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/all-vehicles-veh01, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/tra01-traffic-by-road-class-and-region-miles