In recent years we've seen a whole new range of vans with Euro style roof systems enter the market. These vans are typically more stylish (rounded in shape) and have no gutters. Instead they often have channels on the roof and factory supplied roofbar fixing points (like a rivnut set into the roof to allow a roofbar fixing to be threaded into it). Unfortunately these fixings are on the horizontal part of the roof (not at the top of the side panel) and hence have little strength. Many of the suppliers of these vans realise this, and provide a maximum loading figure for the roofbar fixing points which render them useless for mounting external glass frails.
One option we've explored is to strengthen the structure of the van by installing posts in the van to prop up the roofbar fixing points. Another is to create heavy duty underbody brackets for the van frail to sit on – the disadvantage being that in an accident the collision impact is transferred to the core of the van, to an area which is difficult and expensive to repair.
Fortunately years of installing van frails has shown us that damage to vans only occurs in collisions.
The challenge for us is in what we take responsibility for. Are we as van frail suppliers to the industry responsible for the structural integrity of the vans? Are we responsible for the damage to a van in a collision?
I'm currently dragging information out of the van suppliers about the structural strength of their vans. Many have this information hidden away in their files, never read by van salespeople, and most often never read by the product managers or their technical staff until I push the issue.
Watch this space.