More van operators feel Brexit will help their business than harm it, Mercedes-Benz research finds

More van drivers, owners and operators are still more likely to think Brexit will improve the prospects of their business (28%) than damage it (20%), research from Mercedes-Benz has found.

However, the Mercedes-Benz Business Barometer found the gap between the two is closing.

In November 2017, the research found nearly one-third (32%) felt it would improve prospects and 19% felt it would damage them, demonstrating that the protracted negotiations and continued uncertainty are beginning to chip away at ‘Brexit belief’ among van drivers, owners and operators.

The latest Business Barometer also recorded a further dip in business growth confidence, pointing towards a less optimistic outlook for the year ahead.

An independent sample of 2,000 van drivers, owners, operators and fleet managers were asked about their business growth expectations, career goals, challenges and barriers, which has been tracked in phases since Mercedes-Benz Vans first began recording results in April 2017.

This latest phase shows a second consecutive fall in business growth confidence amongst the van driving/owning/operating community, representing a dip of five percentage points from the initial Business Barometer phase which suggests a small but sustained confidence dip.

However, this still means that 85% of respondents feel confident their business will grow over the next 12 months.

Steve Bridge, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said: “It is concerning that while confidence is high among van owners and operators, the trend is on a decline, and while uncertainty continues to circulate around ‘Brexit’ and the economy, the knock-on effect on the investment within businesses is potentially stagnant.

“We continue to monitor the views of the van community, but our hope is that ‘normal service’ is resumed soon, as van owners and operators are a life blood to the United Kingdom, keeping our businesses, and indeed lives, moving.”

Growth confidence remains highest among delivery drivers (90% – a slight fall from 92% in the previous phase) but drops to 81% among tradespeople – a relatively sharp fall of five percentage points.

Greater London continues to race away from the rest of the nation in terms of growth confidence – 89% of respondents from Greater London are confident their business will experience growth over the next 12 months compared to just 79% in Wales, 81% in the East of England and 82% in Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

More than half of all respondents (55%) say their business will be increasing the number of vans they own or operate in the next 12 months – a slight decline from 58% in the previous phase and 63% of delivery drivers believe the number of vans their organisation operates will increase in the next year (just 4% think fleet size will decrease).

Taking factors such as a growing customer base (53%), a rise in online shopping (37%), and a shift away from heavy goods vehicles (28%) into account, a continuing greater reliance on vans in the future looks more than likely.

Forty-three percent of respondents believe the success of their business will depend more on vans in the future, and just 4% say their business will be less reliant on vans – almost unchanged from prior phases.