Meet the team – Becs Croce

Name: Becs Croce

Job Title: Accident management claims handler

Explain your role in 10 words: From vehicle damage to vehicle repair and everything in between

What’s the best aspect of your job? Showing compassion to drivers following an incident and being compassionate in sometimes upsetting circumstances

What’s the worst aspect of your job? Using the toilet after Leo!

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Almost one year

What was your first paid job? A Saturday girl at a hairdresser

What’s your favourite car? Mainly vintage cars, 1950s. But for modern day cars, I love the Honda Civics and of course, most camper vans…

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? I’d love to travel more, my ambition is to travel throughout Asia

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? To spend my life working at festivals or just to be paid to attend them!

Who in the world would you most like to meet? DJ, record producer and musician Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook)

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? Either at a festival or at a gig

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? Travel, travel and more travel!

Not a lot of people know that… I auditioned to be a Bluecoat at Pontins but by the time I was offered the job, I’d fallen pregnant with my son so I sadly had to turn down, my then, dream job

New security ratings help fleets to identify cars least likely to be stolen

New car security tests that provide fleet operators and company car drivers with information to help understand their likely theft risk have been launched by Thatcham Research, the motor insurance industry research centre.

However, six of the first 11 new cars tested have been rated ‘poor’ for security – the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Nexo, Kia ProCeed, Lexus UX, Porsche Macan and Toyota Corolla Hybrid as the keyless entry/start system they each have as an option has no security measures to prevent theft by criminals using the so-called ‘relay attack’ technique.

The Audi e-tron, Jaguar XE, Land Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz B-Class each received a ‘superior’ rating, while the Suzuki Jimny was given an ‘unacceptable’ rating notably because it does not have keyless entry/start system as standard or as an option. The five rating system means that new cars could also be rated ‘good’ or ‘basic’ for their security.

The security ratings – further new cars will be tested as they enter UK showrooms – have been launched against a rising tide of vehicle theft, up by 16% in 2017/18 in England and Wales, according to the latest Government figures. The surge in vehicle crime has led to insurers paying out a record £1 million every day, according to figures published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The rise in vehicle theft is largely blamed on the adoption of keyless theft – also known as relay attack – which has become a popular modus operandi for thieves in recent years (Buzz, March 2019: http://www.fleetservicegb.co.uk/company-car-risk-keyless-attacks/). To steal cars without a key, thieves use so-called ‘relay’ boxes – one near a car and the other near where the car key is kept. That has the effect of lengthening the signal produced by the key, fooling the car into thinking the key is close by. The thieves can then open and start the vehicle, and drive it away.

The new ratings assess whether measures to specifically address the keyless entry/start vulnerability, have been adopted.

Thatcham Research has administered the Association of British Insurer’s Group Rating insurance system for cars and light commercial vehicles the past 50 years and has crash tested vehicles as a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) for many years.

Euro NCAP data has become a key part of vehicle selection criteria for fleets in the past two decades and Thatcham Research hopes that launch of the New Vehicle Security Assessment will similarly be widely adopted – https://www.thatcham.org/what-we-do/security/consumer-rating. The focus put on Euro NCAP crash test results by fleet operators and consumers led to motor manufacturers designing safety features into vehicles to ensure they achieved top ratings.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, said of the New Vehicle Security Assessment: “This initiative focuses on addressing keyless entry/start vulnerability. We’ve seen too many examples of cars being stolen in seconds from driveways. Now, any vehicle that is assessed against the new Security Rating, and has a vulnerable keyless entry/start system, will automatically not achieve the best rating.

“Security has come a long way since vehicle crime peaked in the early 1990s. But the layers of security added over the years count for nothing when they can be circumvented instantly by criminals using digital devices. The shame is that most of the cars rated ‘poor’ would have achieved at least a ‘good’ rating had their keyless entry/start systems not been susceptible to the relay attack.”

Referencing the four cars that received a ‘superior’ rating, Mr Billyeald said: “These carmakers have made significant strides in addressing keyless entry/start vulnerability, by either switching to a more secure wireless technology or introducing key fobs that go to sleep when idle. This demonstrates that there are solutions and fixes to the problem, which we expect other manufacturers to include on their future models.”

Commenting on the Suzuki Jimny’s ‘unacceptable’ rating, Mr Billyeald said: “This car falls well below expectation, scoring consistently poorly across all criteria, and missing some fundamental security features that consumers might rightly expect should be fitted.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for vehicle crime, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty, said: “The significant reductions in vehicle crime in the 1990s were achieved by police working with manufacturers to design out crime with innovations like immobilisers, alarms and central locking.

“Police chiefs fully support the New Vehicle Security Assessment. It’s a positive step towards improving vehicle security and will help us cut the levels of crime as manufacturers continue to develop security measures.”

Laurenz Gerger, ABI’s motor policy adviser said: “The resurgence in car crime is worrying. The record amounts paid to motorists by their insurers in part reflects the vulnerability of some cars to keyless relay theft. Action by motor manufacturers to tackle this hi-tech vulnerability will help reverse this unwelcome trend.”

  • Ford, the UK’s number one fleet manufacturer, says it is fighting back against the growth in keyless car theft with the roll out of new security technology. The UK’s two top-selling cars, the Ford Fiesta and Focus are the first to benefit from the technology which disables their keyless entry fobs when not in use to block illegal hacking. Over the next two years Ford will be rolling out the same motion-sensor technology across its other cars’ key fobs. Britain’s best-selling car, the Fiesta, plus the Fiesta Van version, are already being delivered with the new fobs as standard at no extra cost, followed by Focus production from May 2019.

Do recycled parts have a place in fleet SMR strategies to cut costs?

The use of recycled parts may have a role to play in some fleet operations as businesses continually seek to cut vehicle maintenance costs.

A number of fleets, notably in the public sector and particularly some police operations but also utility sector businesses, have used recycled parts, known as ‘green parts’, for a number of years.

Typically if a police vehicle is written off it is sold to a company specialising in parts recycling at a set percentage of the pre-crash value. The vehicle is then stripped down and non-safety related parts sold back to police fleets when required.

In other cases damaged vehicles are recovered by a specialist company, disassembled and non-safety parts then made available for sale.

One of the major issues around the use of recycled parts, which are official manufacturer (OEM) parts that have been removed from a vehicle during the dismantling and recycling process, is consistency and quality. However, specialist companies says they operate a strenuous quality test and a grading system where components are categorised according to any damage template provided by individual fleet customers.

Furthermore ‘green’ parts have typically been inspected, analysed and tested to industry-leading standards to ensure quality. Suppliers will also usually provide warranties on all parts to further enhance peace of mind.

Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) has an open mind on the use of ‘green parts’, but suggests that they could have a role to play where replacement of so-called ‘bolt-on, bolt-off’ parts such as bumpers or a sliding door on a van are required.

However, some fleets have been reported by the trade press to have acquired remanufactured engines, transmissions and turbo-chargers from recycled parts specialists rather than buying new.

One supplier of recycled parts claims that “guaranteed quality assured ‘green’ recycled vehicle parts are creating quite a stir in the fleet and insurance industry even more so today, as the demand for a more affordable and sustainable source gather pace”.

Claimed to cost up to 90% less than buying OEM replacement parts, the supplier said: “We simply cannot afford to keep paying big sums for new parts direct from the manufacturer.”

The company continued: “We can see great potential for uplift in demand for ‘green parts’ and with our industry standards in place, fleet users will be able to buy with ever-increasing confidence. As manufacturers strategies towards producing ever more eco-minded vehicles it would be fair to assume that the buying will switch from expensive, OEM parts to quality affordable, recycled parts that help every aspects of saving time and money as well as the environment.”

Fleet Service GB operates a ‘matching quality’ on new replacement parts with some tenders asking for repairs “at the lowest possible cost”.

Peter Hitt, head of operations at Fleet Service GB, said: “We have met with a ‘green parts’ supplier to understand how the recycled parts market works. We currently do not use recycled parts, but it is a marketplace development that may have a place for certain fleets and vehicles in respect of some replacement of some parts.”

Anthony Machin, head of content at Glass’s Information Systems, which published used vehicle pricing ‘Bible’ Glass’s Guide, writing a blog last year said: “The automotive industry is developing in different ways whilst simultaneously delivering enhancements to vehicles making them more efficient and easier to recycle at end of life. The adoption of ‘green parts’ will continue to grow in the coming years as parts buyers and insurance companies look to new lower cost trustworthy parts sources.”

The Vehicle Recyclers’ Association (VRA), the UK trade association for vehicle dismantlers, salvage agents, scrap metal processors and associated companies previously known as the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers’ Association (MVDA), endorses the parts standards developed by the Automotive Recyclers Association of America (ARA) which has helped to make the use of ‘recycled parts’ widespread in the insurance repair industry in the USA. See – https://www.vrauk.org/PartsStandards.aspx

The VRA admits that “over the years there has been some bad publicity about ‘green parts’, but claimed it mostly originated from either new part manufacturers or horror stories from consumer organisation focusing on ‘cowboy operators’.

As a result, the VRA advises: “We strongly recommend only buying ‘green parts’ from members, who are all reputable businesses. Otherwise there is no way of knowing whether the parts purchased are stolen, have been checked for correct operation beforehand, or will be covered by a guarantee if something goes wrong.”

A spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers said: “We don’t issue particular advice or have a policy on fleets using recycled parts – it may be that the insurers of specific fleets have their own views.”

AXA Insurance UK is a leading fleet insurer and Mark Heaton, head of AXA motor engineering, said: “In 2001 we ran a pilot testing the concept of using ‘green parts’. We had a number of successful repairs completed but the low availability of quality parts prevented us from taking this forward. It was the main blocker.

“Today we do use ‘green parts’, but only to avoid writing a car off – and with the insured’s permission. However, just like back in 2001, we find the availability of quality parts is still a challenge.”

Martin Smith, motor technical claims manager at rival insurer Aviva, said, “Recycled parts can have a role to play in vehicle repairs, especially in cases where an older vehicle or one where parts may no longer be available and might otherwise have be to declared ‘total loss’ are concerned.  Working alongside our customer, Aviva will consider the use of non-safety critical recycled parts in specific vehicle repairs. Safety critical parts are always replaced with new.”

Driverless cars: the six equipment levels of connected and autonomous vehicles

Connected and automated vehicles are the future, but while the Government has announced that it expects driverless cars to be on the UK’s roads from 2021, the fact is that it will be another 15-20 years before they become a reality.

SAE International, previously the Society of Automotive Engineers, classifies automated driving features into six levels – and features in the first three levels are already available in some cars on sale in the UK.

However, level three, four and five features have yet to be incorporated into vehicles with the consensus that ‘full and unconditional automation’ – level five – unlikely to be introduced before 2035.

Nevertheless, subject to current road traffic and vehicle type approval regulations being changed there is a possibility that the first ‘driver-out-of-the-loop’ features – level three or ‘conditionally automated’ – could be deployed on cars available in the UK by 2021. Changes to the regulatory framework are already taking place with the Government last year introducing the world’s first insurance legislation for automated vehicles.

Vehicle equipment covered by level zero are categorised as ‘driver only’ features and include technology such as lane departure warning and blind spot warning providing ‘momentary assistance’ to drivers when they fail to exercise ‘proper control’ and react to road/traffic conditions.

Level one and two features are described as ‘driver support features’ by SAE International or by the Government as ‘partial automation’. Level one features provide steering or brake/acceleration support to drivers and include lane centring or adaptive cruise control, while level two features provide steering and brake/acceleration support to drivers and include lane centring mated to simultaneous use of adaptive cruise control. Park assist systems and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are also included in those categories.

The Government is currently reviewing regulations, including the Highway Code, governing the use of higher levels of automation, which are set to be rolled out over the next decade.

The key difference between existing levels of automation – levels zero, one and two – and higher levels of automations – levels three, four and five – is that with the former a person is ‘driving’ when the features are engaged even if their feet are off the pedals and they are not steering.

With level three, four and five features – classed respectively by SAE International as ‘conditionally automated’, ‘highly automated’ and ‘fully automated’ – a person is not ‘driving’ even if they in the driver’s seat behind the wheel. While level three features may be available on vehicles from next year, the use of them requires existing ‘laws of the road’ to be changed.

Thatcham Research, the motor insurance industry research centre, is already concerned that that technology designed to ‘assist’ drivers is being misinterpreted as ‘autonomous’.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, said: “Some carmakers are designing and marketing vehicles in such a way that drivers believe they can relinquish control. Carmakers want to gain competitive edge by referring to ‘self-driving’ or ‘semi-autonomous’ capability in their marketing, but it is fuelling consumer confusion. This is exacerbated by some systems doing too much for the driver, who ends up disengaged.

“Our message is that today’s technology supports the driver. It is not ‘automated’ driving and it is not to be relied upon at the expense of driver attentiveness. The driver is in control and must always remain alert. If used correctly highway assist systems will improve road safety and reduce fatalities, but they won’t if naming and marketing convinces drivers that the car can take care of itself.”

Level three features include traffic jam chauffeur and motorway pilot – manoeuvering in traffic jams and driving on motorways –  which have the capability to ‘drive’ a vehicle under limited condition but will not operate unless all required conditions are met. When systems encounter a system they cannot manage they will issue a takeover demand, handing control back to the driver.

Level four features deliver a further degree of automation with drivers only in control when the system is not in use and include technology such as: highway pilot, valet parking and enabling vehicles to operate within virtually defined or ‘geofenced’ zones in towns and cities at low speed. Such equipment is likely to be fitted to cars from around 2023.

Finally, ‘full automation’ will arrive when cars are able to ‘drive’ themselves under all conditions with no operating domain or geographic restrictions.

However, according to a new report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market’: “Based on current technology roadmaps and real world applications, the consensus is that full and unconditional automation (level five) is unlikely to be introduced before 2035.”

One of the key reasons for that is the so-called ‘technology challenge’ of equipping autonomous vehicles with the required features to tackle all possible ‘unusual driving situations under all driving conditions and in all environments’.

Instead, according to the report: “Level five automated driving is likely to be reached gradually as more advanced driver assistance features come to market.”

Furthermore the hundreds of millions of pounds being invested by motor manufacturers in the development of technology and its fitment to vehicles will come at a cost and drive the need for new business models and revenue streams to generate returns. They are likely to include a range of connected in-car services and products under the Mobility-as-a-Service umbrella.

The fitment cost of level three technology is estimated to be £2,500 per vehicle, rising to £5,000 for level four technology and £7,000 for ‘full’ automation.

FSGB delivers fleet maintenance cost budget stability for NMR

National Milk Records (NMR) has benefited from a near 10% cut in fleet maintenance costs in the past three-and-a-half-years after outsourcing management responsibility.

Chippenham-headquartered NMR became one of the first customers of Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) and consistent and robust management of maintenance costs across the fleet have ensured operating budgets have been kept in check.

Service, maintenance and repair (SMR) cost analysis of the NMR fleet in the 43 months to the end of January 2019 under Fleet Service GB’s management reveal that the annual cost of keeping vehicles on the road reduced by £4,544 (9.4%) to £43,480.50.

Over the period under review SMR costs, despite the impact of inflation, have remained remarkably static with a £5.93 pound per saving per vehicle (1%) with the cost per annum per vehicle reducing from £585.67 to £579.74. Over the period key pence per mile costs have reduced from 2.86p to 2.76p (3.5%), reflecting a “well established travel working pattern”.

The average age of vehicles was maintained at 31 months in the months bookending the review period – although it peaked at an average 40 months in December 2016. Additionally, the average age of vehicles in miles was little changed – 53,015 miles in July 2015 and 52,569 miles in January 2019 – although it did peak at more than 65,500 miles in January 2017.

NMR is the leading supplier of dairy and livestock services to the UK dairy supply chain and Tracey Firth, senior administrator (pictured) who is in charge of the fleet, which currently numbers 75 company cars and vans and has reduced from 82 units in 2015 when Fleet Service GB took on management responsibility, said: “It is very gratifying to know that fleet operating costs are so stable.

“As a business we have been hugely focused over many years on ensuring the safety of our drivers and limiting their exposure to risk when on the road. That focus has translated into SMR cost savings and the excellent pence per mile figures that NMR is consistently achieving.”

NMR leases its vehicles – the majority being diesel with a handful of petrol models – on individual replacement cycles up to a maximum of five years/120,000 miles.

The fleet comprises: 38 company cars of which 13 are user-chooser management cars with the remainder mostly Skoda Octavia Estates driven by field-based area account managers; and 37 Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo vans driven by field-based area co-ordinators making farm visits.

Senior management at Fleet Service GB, headquartered at nearby Corsham, were known to Mrs Firth, who said: “We knew that Fleet Service GB was firmly focused on risk and driver management, and NMR shared the view that managing work-related road safety was critical not only to compliance, but also keeping fleet operating costs in check. As a result of the launch of Fleet Service GB we decided to partner with the company.”

Under the fast-growing technology-led co-ownership company’s umbrella brand, Achieve, it operates an array of solutions: Maintenance Management, Crash Management, Driver Management, Management Services, Fleet Manager and Fleet Service Partnership.

Utilising the strapline “inspire fleets to Achieve better”, Fleet Service GB delivers all critical management information across all key operations via intelligent integrated online dashboards that deliver real-time headline data on vehicles and drivers to the fingertips of fleet managers and the ability to drill down into the minutiae of operations. The easy to understand numerical and graphic formats, simultaneously highlight action areas.

Additionally, Fleet Service GB provides customers with access to a driver app that offers a wealth of sophisticated cutting-edge features delivering 24/7 support to employees at the wheel of company vehicles.

Mrs Firth, who has been responsible for the NMR fleet for more than 15 years, said: “We understand the importance of data and expect Fleet Service GB as our fleet management partner to continue to enhance existing solutions and be fully focused on supporting our vehicle operation and our drivers.”

Marcus Bray, head of sales at Fleet Service GB, said: “The data reflects a well-managed fleet working within an environment where miles travelled by each vehicle to carry out work requirements is constant.

“Costs are influenced by a number of areas, not least drivers. But the results clearly indicate that NMR management has excellent control over all areas of cost, all of which is reflected in the achieved result.”

He added: “Fleet Service GB’s pro-active focus under its Achieve Maintenance Management programme underline that significant operational financial savings on, what is generally perceived to be a major area of fleet expenditure, can be delivered.

“Both Fleet Service GB and NMR understand the objective and importantly work together delivering results by adopting an open and transparent partnership approach.”

‘Many companies view road risk as managing compliance and not managing the risk itself’, health and safety lawyer tells fleet chiefs

Many companies are compliant with work-related road safety legislation, but those same employers fail to effectively manage vehicles, drivers and journeys on a day-to-day basis thus risking potential criminal prosecutions and/or civil actions in the event of a crash.

That was the message from health and safety lawyer Michael Appleby, of London-based law firm Fisher Scoggins Waters, to fleet decision-makers at the inaugural meeting of Fleet Service Great Britain’s Achieve Driver Management User Group (pictured).

Achieve is the company’s umbrella brand with a range of components – Achieve Driver Management, Achieve Crash Management, Achieve Maintenance Management, Achieve Fleet Manager, Achieve Management Services, as well as Achieve Fleet Service Partnership.

Fleet decision-makers are able to ‘pick ‘n’ mix the tools in the Achieve box to provide their businesses with a single silo of live and dynamic online data to further improve vehicle, driver and journey management.

The Driver Management User Group is focused on providing support advice and mentoring on all aspects of managing drivers, vehicles and journeys, by sharing knowledge and best practice to influence behind-the-wheel behaviour and performance thus ensuring a safe working environment. Furthermore, fleet decision-makers in the User Group will provide input into the future development of new Achieve Driver Management features.

Mr Appleby, highlighted that many organisations went through the compliance ‘tick box procedure’ of, for example, checking the validity of employees’ driving licences and perhaps encouraging defect checks to be undertaken, but failed to translate the information gathered into practical management.

“There is a correlation between ‘bent metal’ crashes and proper management,” he said, with data collected via the Achieve Driver Management programme able to provide fleet decision-makers with detailed insight into the driving performance and behaviour of individual employees so remedial action can be taken. “Companies may have really good health and safety management across their core business, but when it comes to vehicles and drivers it can be much weaker.

“Too many companies view road risk as managing compliance and not managing the risk itself. Employers should have the basic elements of managing safety in place, but frequently there is very little actual day-to-day management. When ‘things go wrong’ businesses could be massively exposed because they do not have the answers to questions posed by investigators.”

Business journey crashes – either in a company-provided vehicle or an employee’s own vehicle – could be investigated by the police or Health and Safety Executive while coroners, in the event of a fatality, may also be influential.

Mr Appleby highlighted how coroners now had a statutory duty to consider writing a Prevention of Future Deaths Report to any organisation or person where they believed action should be taken to prevent future deaths.

“Coroners have a wide discretion as to the scope of an inquest. I can foresee the situation where there is a fatality in a work-related road crash and a coroner wants to enquire how a business is managing its vehicles and how data is being used to manage the fleet and drivers,” he said.

Mr Appleby also warned that employers could find themselves “caught up” in a work-related road safety investigation as a consequence of an associated incident.

He explained: “Investigators will want to know how a business manages safety and may find weaknesses in respect of managing vehicles, drivers and journeys that were a contributory factor to any incident. When I interview company directors and other employees the speed at which requested documents are produced is a good indication as to how well safety is managed in the business.”

Highlighting that “a well-managed company manages safety well”, Mr Appleby told the User Group that while both criminal prosecution and/or civil action could result from a work-related car or commercial vehicle crash, the rise of social media meant the “court of public opinion” was also becoming increasingly influential.

Many companies have corporate social responsibility statements on their websites and in their annual reports but, said Mr Appleby: “People can become particularly vocal, particularly through social media, if there is an incident and a business is thought to be uncaring towards its workforce. I can see problems in that scenario.”

He suggested that the resulting “wrong type of publicity” could cause “tremendous damage” to a business, its reputation, profitability and share price.