Insurance groups are calling on Amazon, FedEx and others to use more safety technology in delivery vans

Insurance groups are calling on Amazon, FedEx and others to use more safety technology in delivery vans

Researchers point to a dangerous element in America’s booming e-commerce home delivery business: vans.

About half a million light vans are sold in the United States each year, with most going to companies like Amazon and FedEx. Used to deliver packages to people’s doorsteps across America, they’ve also been involved in their share of accidents, many of which could have been avoided with available technology.

Vans like these are involved in an average of about 935,000 police-reported crashes each year, including 98,000 resulting in injuries and 3,600 resulting in deaths, according to research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a group funded by auto insurance companies.

But there are ways to make these vans safer using technology already widely available on everyday cars and SUVs.

A light van is a van that has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 10,000 pounds. This means the van itself plus its occupants – including the driver – and all its cargo cannot exceed 10,000 pounds. Models include the Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster and Mercedes Sprinter. Because it is small and easy to handle with plenty of cargo space, it is commonly used for parcel delivery.

Research suggests many of those accidents could be avoided if these vans were equipped with a variety of crash prevention technologies, some of which are commonly found in passenger cars.

Front crash prevention technologies, such as automatic emergency braking, can help prevent or, at least, reduce, about one-fifth of fatal crashes involving light vans, according to the IIHS. Lane departure prevention technology can help prevent or, at least, reduce the seriousness of, approximately 11% of such fatal accidents.

Automatic emergency braking, which applies the vehicle’s brakes automatically if the vehicle in front stops and the driver fails to react, could stop 77,000 light van accidents each year, the Institute said. Most new passenger vehicles today are sold with automatic emergency braking thanks to an industry-wide agreement, but the technology is relatively rare in light vans, according to the IIHS.

Forward collision warning with brake assist and pedestrian detection are standard on all Ram ProMaster vans, said a spokeswoman for Stellantis, the company that owns Ram. Many of the IIHS-recommended features, including forward collision warning, automatic braking, blind-spot warning and speed-limiting control, are also available on Ford and Mercedes vans, a spokeswoman for the automakers said.

The automaker doesn’t say what percentage of vans sold to customers have optional safety features.

“Amazon-branded delivery vans are equipped with third-party technology that measures and monitors unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, distraction, and failure to wear seat belts or obey road signs,” Amazon said in a statement shared with CNN. “Since we’ve incorporated this technology into our branded vehicles, driver [dispatch] collision rates have dropped nearly 40%, and from 2022 to 2023, it’s reduced unsafe driving behavior by 62% in the U.S.

And there’s technology that can prevent things like speeding too, which is especially dangerous in a loaded van. The technology could help prevent 37% of fatal accidents involving delivery vans, the Institute said.

Pedestrians, in particular, will benefit. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, which uses cameras and sensors to detect a person in front of the vehicle and brake automatically, could prevent 1,200 light van accidents with pedestrians each year, the Institute said.

Van drivers as well as others will benefit from other types of technology, according to the IIHS. In more than 60% of accidents and more than half of fatal accidents, passengers of other vehicles or pedestrians or cyclists are killed or injured. The rest, the van driver suffered.

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