The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has launched its Van Excellence Report for the 2016-17 period, which was designed to analyse the sector as a whole and to illustrate its overall contribution to the UK economy. LeasePlan sponsored the report, which this year highlights the rapid growth in the UK van market. Over four million vans are now on the UK roads, which the report recognised. However, the report also explored the lack of professional transport skills found in many smaller van operations. Mark Cartwright, the FTA head of vans, said: 'We want to ensure that van operators take safety and compliance as seriously as those running HGV fleets. This requires a cultural change in order to shake off the traditional van driver image and transform the sector into a professional industry. 'All too often a company's van fleet isn't seen as part of its health and safety commitment _ yet driving is one of the most dangerous activities that most people undertake at work. FTA's Van Excellence programme can help operators to fully understand their obligations to their employees, customers and other road users, sharing good practice and helping them to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.î The FTA's aim is to try and improve safety and compliance within the sector and to help operators shake off the 'white van man' image that many UK motorists still hold. The body is planning to do this through its 'Van Excellence' programme, which was first launched in 2010 in order to help promote best practise within the industry and to promote a higher level of professionalism. Van Excellence is now operated by more than 115 accredited operators, between them managing over 125,000 vans across the UK. A number of household names use the programme, including BT, DHL, Sainsbury's and KwikFit amongst others. This year, the scheme was expanded to include a 'small van scheme' designed to enable operators running less than 15 vehicles to participate. The Van Excellence Driver of the Year contest was once again held in order for the finest drivers in the FTA to be recognised for their skills. The full report was launched at the Commercial Fleet Awards in Birmingham earlier this month, with Balfour Beatty, AAH Pharmaceuticals and Skanska UK all winning.