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Fieldwork research identifies improvements in commercial van design – GfK Automotive (Quant/Qual)

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Protel Fieldwork worked in collaboration with GfK Automotive to assess and identify how drivers of light commercial vehicles use their vans on a day to day basis. The study was carried out for a global ‘volume brand’ and manufacturing company. The key objective of the study was to examine how design of light commercial vehicles could be improved to enhance the ‘driver experience’.


Two main studies were conducted – a quantitative study and ‘observation studies’. The objectives of the quantitative study were to understand the driver’s usage of light commercial vans and looked at measurable factors such as:

  • Mileage driven / time spent in vehicle
  • Expected vehicle lifetime
  • Start/stop cycle (number of trips, number of deliveries per days)
  • Loading conditions
  • Door operating cycles

The observation studies were conducted in the UK and in the Netherlands. The key objectives were to gain a greater understanding of the van driver behaviour and experience in using their vehicles in their day-to-day work environment including observation of:

  • The types of loads
  • Behaviour when delivering goods
  • Use of the rear doors and if fitted, the side sliding doors
  • Behaviour when they park (where they park, how often, do they stop, is the engine on or off?)


The research was carried out by conducting 300 face to face 15 min interviews with drivers of light commercial vehicles. A key requirement was to obtain representation from key industry sectors including – Couriers, builders, haulage, freight and removal, utilities, public sector, postal and passenger transport. The type of vehicle driven was also important in targeting respondents and drivers of three specific Low Carbon Vehicle (LCV) types were targeted including – Combi/Minibus, Panel Vans and Double Cabs (companies with a fleet of more than 30 similar vehicles).

A key challenge of the research was gaining agreement from drivers to participate in the survey in their own time when they were not working. Protel was able to address this challenge by adopting the following approach.

  • The companies that met the criteria identified were approached to gain permission to interview drivers on site once they had finished their shifts and during their breaks at key Motorway and Transport service stations.
  • PDAs linked to a web-based solution were used to collect data. This meant that if a driver did not have time to complete the survey at the time of interview, it could be completed later in the driver’s own time through a web link that was provided.
  • A nationwide network of interviewers was used to complete interviews. This provided maximum opportunity to ensure that the target group of drivers could be engaged.


The research conducted by Protel has generated data of a good quality and is now being utilised by the end client as a key input to future light commercial vehicle design and process.

“Protel were very good at contacting a difficult target audience and at completing the interviews to a high standard.” Anarkali Check, Director, GfK Automotive