White van man is making a comeback, according to new figures. Van rental has jumped by almost 25 per cent in the last five months and there's been a similar surge in short-term lease deals.
Industry insiders are seeing the news as a sure sign that the economy is back on track.
Peter Davenport, managing director of vehicle solutions firm Motiva Group, said: "Demand for vans has shot up massively in recent months. That part of our business was busy throughout 2013, but things really picked up around the end of last summer and there has been a noticeable difference ever since. As soon as we bring vans in, they're gone and we've boosted our fleet twice in five months just to keep pace. Businesses are taking on new trade vehicles in big numbers and I can only see the trend continuing into the second quarter and well beyond."
Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, reckons increasing demand for vans is good news for the country as a whole. He said: "Van rental serves as a useful barometer for the state of the UK economy as transport is obviously a vital tool of any growing business. There was a particularly strong demand in 2013 and a 20 per cent increase in our members' short-term van rental fleet. It's an encouraging sign and we hope it's a trend that continues."
Motiva Group, based in Stoke-on-Trent, has this week added an extra 50 small, short wheelbase and long wheelbase panel vehicles to a van fleet which now stretches to around 650. It's the second time the company has invested heavily in new stock since September and means it has spent £2.25 million just on vans since September.
Davenport added: "Those figures mean we've increased our van fleet by almost a quarter, so it shows just how much demand has picked up in a few months. In fact, we're now back to the levels of trade business we were seeing before the economy took a nosedive in around 2007/2008."
The increase in van rentals seen by Motiva is being echoed by the demand for HGVs, which more than doubled in 2013. After completing 48 contracts for HGVs in 2012, the company's M-Way truck solutions arm took 98 over the course of last year.
Davenport added: "The number of truck contract hire deals we did last year was also massively up on the previous 12 months. There was a predictable drop in the call for both vans and trucks during the midst of the economic downturn. Businesses weren't sure when the market would recover so they were keeping their vehicles much longer. But the economy has picked up and it seems like companies and even independent tradespeople are now showing much greater appetite to renew."