Fleets and drivers urged to be on their guard as stolen vans hit record high

Fleet operators and van drivers are being urged to increase light commercial vehicle security after new figures have revealed a 45% rise in thefts in the last four years.

Meanwhile, according to vehicle protection company Tracker, the Ford Transit (pictured) was the UK’s most stolen and recovered van in 2018, followed closely by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

What’s more with a 55% increase in claims costs for the theft of tools from vans in the past year, tradespeople are not just at risk of losing their vehicle, but their livelihood too, according to the company, which works in partnership with UK police forces, and is urging tradespeople to protect their van and its contents from theft.

“Over £500,000 worth of vans were stolen and recovered by Tracker last year,” said Clive Wain, the company’s head of police liaison. “But that’s just one side of the story; with the average tool theft costing victims over £3,000 together in lost earnings and tool replacement – not to mention the loss of reputation when a tradespeople can’t turn up for a job, it’s not surprising they are feeling increasingly victimised by organised van thieves.”

More than 30,000 vans have been reported as stolen across the UK since 2015/16, according to research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles with almost 10,000 commercial vehicle thefts recorded in the last 12 months – a year-on-year rise of 4% and a 45% increase since 2015/16.

Of the 9,371 van thefts reported in the past 12 months, the Metropolitan Police recorded more than half of the total with 4,777 commercial vehicles stolen in the area – a rise of 15%. Tracker calculates that 89% of van thefts are keyless.

The biggest yearly increase in thefts was reported in Leicestershire with 10 times more vans stolen in 2018/19 than records for the previous year. Van thefts in North Wales doubled while West Yorkshire police records showed a 67% rise. In fact, West Yorkshire was the second highest overall after London (931 thefts), followed by the West Midlands (409 thefts), Essex (387 thefts) and Leicestershire (377 thefts). The information was obtained following a Freedom of Information request, 42 of 47 police forces across UK responded.

Mr Wain added: “As van thefts increase owners need to up their game in securing their property from theft or help ensure recovery if a van is stolen. If they don’t keep informed of the latest ways of protecting their van, they may find themselves facing an uphill battle if their insurer feels they haven’t taken enough security precautions.

“It’s tempting to rely on the security technology that comes as standard with a van, but ultimately, taking a few extra safeguards is not just protecting a van, but taking care of the bottom line of a business. Of course, while a tracking device cannot guarantee a vehicle is safe from theft, it can be incredibly efficient in helping retrieve not just the van, but the tools needed by tradespeople for their very livelihood.”

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle is also advising drivers and operators to ensure that the latest anti-theft devices are fitted and not to leave expensive tools in vehicles overnight.

David Hanna, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles head of service and parts operations, said: “Our most recent findings are concerning as it reveals that the problem of van theft is getting worse rather than better – and it’s a problem right across the country.

“Vans are the lifeblood of so many businesses up and down the country and it’s not only the emotional stress of replacing a vehicle but also the days and weeks of letting customers down and the cost of replacing tools, often worth thousands of pounds, before getting back to ‘business as usual’.

“We strongly advise not to leave tools in the vehicle overnight and we’re also supporting our customers with offers on the latest anti-theft devices to help give them piece of mind.”

Top tips to secure a van:

  • Park in well-lit areas or car parks with CCTV or alternatively position a van so that the doors are blocked by another vehicle or object
  • Window guards or full internal bulkheads can stop would-be thieves seeing inside
  • Adding security film to the side or back window glass can stop criminals smashing it
  • Fitting additional locks to rear and sliding doors can help deter thieves. Additional deadlocks and steel-clad locks are advisable and slam locks ensure a door locks every time it’s closed – ideal for quick stops
  • If a van has keyless entry buy a ‘faraday bag’ that blocks electronic key fob signals from being compromised – use it on site and at home.
  • Invest in lockable internal racking or secure storage boxes for the most valuable tools
  • Fitting a tracker can help police hunt down a van if it is stolen plus it may reduce insurance premium
  • Add extra alarms to vans and use immobilisers to stop thieves, even if they do manage to break in.

Source: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and Tracker.

Volkswagen, as part of the Business Pack available across its range of Caddy, Transporter and Crafter, offers an anti-theft alarm system that can be specified with interior monitoring, a back-up horn and tow-away protection. As part of its ‘Working With You’ promise, Volkswagen also offers a variety of lockable racking solutions and storage boxes for expensive tools.

Volkswagen is also currently offering a deal on its Meta Trak subscription, which allows owners to track their vans in real-time and receive instant smartphone alerts with full UK and European coverage. The one-year kit is currently offered with one month free while those opting for a three-year subscription receive three months free.

Tachograph fitment to heavier vans set to be mandated from 2020 for ‘cross border’ vehicles

The fitment of tachographs to light commercial vehicles between 2.4 and 3.5 tonnes to regulate drivers’ hours look set to become mandatory in 2020.

However, it has now emerged that behind the scenes discussions mean that only vans in the 2.4 -3.5 tonne weight category that operate across country borders, for example between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the UK and France, will be impacted.

The plan for tachographs to be fitted to be fitted to vans between 2.4 and 3.5 tonnes was floated in May last year when the European Union published the second draft of its so-called ‘Mobility Package’.

Since then there have been rounds of discussions between European Parliament members and member states on the proposal. During those meetings there was, it has emerged, support for a suggestion that if a van remained within the national border where it was registered, for example the UK with no journeys taking place in another country, no tachograph would be required.

Discussions on the initiative continue with major issues still to be resolved, but Sarah Laouadi, European policy manager at the Freight Transport Association, told Buzz that she anticipated that the final legislation would only apply to vans that travelled across borders.

In that case fleet operators would, for example, not only have to fit vans in the 2.4-3.5-tonne category with tachographs, but would also have to obtain an Operator Licence as is the case for businesses operating vehicles above 3.5 tonnes.

Ms Laouadi said: “I expect agreement on most aspects of the ‘Mobility Package’, including tachographs in vans, to be reached early in 2020 and the legislation to be implemented later next year.”

Although the UK is due to leave the European Union there will be a transition period that could extend as long as 2022. The UK Government has indicated that all European Union law – both existing and that introduced during the transition period – will be transferred into UK law.

Furthermore, following the transition period the European Union will require that, in the case of the UK commercial vehicle sector, it is compliant with all regulations to access the market. Consequently, UK registered 2.4-3.5-tonne vans that are driven across national borders into European Union member states will have to be equipped with tachographs.

The European Union’s timetable for implementation of the ‘Mobility Package’ would appear to have slipped as it was due for introduction in 2019.

When the idea first emerged of tachographs being fitted to the heaviest vans, in the same way that all HGVs are required to be fitted with the technology, the FTA called the measure “an unfair and excessive exercise in red tape”.

When the plan was first mooted, James Hookham, deputy CEO of the FTA, said the proposal would have a serious impact on the working lives of those using Britain’s four million vans in their daily business:

He said: “Forgetting the cost implications of tachograph installation for so many hard-working British businesses, the introduction of this equipment in the van sector would be pointless and time consuming. Will small business really have the time and ability to analyse the necessary data and plan their work around so many new working time rules? Would governments have the resources to enforce the move? The proposal is simply unenforceable, and a case of MEPs making bad decisions on the fly.”

Van operators, said the FTA, were already facing increasing pressure with the introduction of Clean Air Zones in London and potentially in other to towns and cities nationwide and a requirement to update their vehicles to the newest Euro6 emission standard or face paying an charge to enter an area covered by a Zone.

Mr Hookham continued: “Vans are now central to our daily lives, with next day deliveries a given for households and business. Introducing a pointless measure like tachographs for van operators will not benefit small and medium sized businesses but strangle them with red tape, at a time when they should be being encouraged to flourish and expand.”

The ‘Mobility Package’, called ‘Europe on the Move’ was first presented in May 2017. It included a wide-ranging set of initiatives designed to make roads safer and improve air quality. The initial eight measures were subsequently added to with one of those being in the fitment of tachographs in vans between 2.4 and 3.5 tonnes.

Employers’ failure to offer eye care to drivers puts staff and company reputation at risk

The majority of employers do not offer eye care to drivers, potentially putting staff and company reputation at risk, it is claimed.

What’s more following the recent ending of British Summer Time heralding the clocks going back for the winter, driving has become even more of a “risky business”, according to experts.

The latest data from Insurethebox, a UK provider of telematics insurance, reveals the cost an extra hour in bed, is an overall 14% increase in crashes across the UK. Additionally, the loss in daylight in the evening appears to have a particularly marked impact with a 36% increase in collisions between 5pm and 8pm.

Furthermore, more than eight in 10 (83%) people in the UK’s hard-working van community feel more tired in the autumn and winter compared to summer, with 45% admitting they suffer from low mood more in the darker, colder winter months, according to new research from Mercedes-Benz Vans.

As a result of the darker days, 40% of van drivers said they suffered from fatigue, with nearly half confessing to nearly fallen asleep at the wheel (48%). And, according to the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer, which monitors the opinions on more than 2,000 people in van community, nearly one in three (30%) said they suffered from symptoms akin to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter.

Meanwhile, new research by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare suggests that just 38% of employers offer eye care specifically to drivers.

In a survey of more than 500 heads of UK companies, the majority, 62%, said they did not provide eye care specifically for employees who drive during the course of their work.

Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said: “Employers that don’t offer eye care to their drivers may be putting their employees and their company reputation at risk.”

Driver eyesight checks are recommended by Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) as part of its at-work driver safety advice to clients.

Housing association LiveWest, which has outsourced the management of its 317-strong van fleet to Fleet Service GB, introduced driver eyesight checks on the company’s recommendation.

As a result, LiveWest identified some weaknesses and implemented corrective actions to mitigate any risk with fleet manager Paul Ayris saying: “We are comfortable that we have strengthened our risk processes.” Eyesight checks, mandatory every two years, are paid for by the company.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 makes it clear that employers have a responsibility for their drivers. The legislation requires employers to ‘take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work. This includes the time when they are driving or riding at work, whether this is in a company or hired vehicle, or in the employee’s own vehicle’.

An employer’s duty of care therefore, said Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, referred to all drivers, whether they were employed specifically to drive as a main part of their role, or whether they were attending an occasional meeting.

Mr Lythgow said: “While many may wrongly assume that it is the individual’s responsibility alone to ensure their eyesight is adequate for driving, the Health and Safety Executive makes it quite clear that driving safety becomes a joint responsibility when driving for work purposes. With eye tests being so easily available and cost-effective, we would urge employers to implement an eyecare policy for all drivers.”

Industry research suggests that driving is the most dangerous work activity that most people undertake with around a third of crashes being work-related.

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare says that aside from the potential physical and emotional cost of any collision, a crash could be expensive for a business with uninsured losses such as sick pay, temporary cover, legal expenses, lost time and increased premiums.

There was also the potential damage to a company’s reputation to consider if every effort was not taken to ensure that all risks were suitably assessed and managed, as well as a possibility of corporate manslaughter charges in the event of a fatality involving a vehicle on a work-related journey.

Consequently, Mr Lythgow said: “Eye care for drivers makes sense on individual, public and corporate levels.”

Steve Bridge, managing director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said in the wake of the survey: “The hard-working van community is not immune from the impact of SAD or increased isolation during the winter months, so during this period of the clocks changing, we’re determined to raise awareness of just how tiring it can be on both physical and mental health this of year.”

 

Fleet driver AdBlue® education still required but breakdowns are reducing

Fleet drivers are getting better at filling up their company cars and vans with diesel exhaust fluid with the AA reporting fewer call-outs – but education remains critical, according to the breakdown organisation.

What’s more, with the onset of colder weather consumption of diesel exhaust fluid – often known by the German brand name AdBlue® – is likely to increase making the possibility of a breakdown more likely.

The majority of the new generation of low emission Euro6 diesel models are equipped with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology that requires diesel exhaust fluid to be continuously sprayed into the exhaust gas, upstream of the catalytic converter to assist in the breakdown of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Manufacturers will typically top up the tank at time of service, but consumption of AdBlue® can vary enormously according to vehicle type and model, vehicle load, environmental conditions, driving requirements – on mountain roads or towing – and driving style – just like with fuel.

Additionally, with many of today’s diesel vehicles having variable servicing intervals a watchful eye must be kept on tank levels as if the fluid runs out a vehicle will not start.

The AA says that “the message is getting through to drivers”, with 5% fewer call-outs related to the diesel exhaust fluid in the first half of 2019, compared with the same period the previous year. The news follows a peak last year, in which the organisation reported seeing 23,000 AdBlue®-related breakdowns in the 12-months to June 2018.

AA technicians say fewer drivers were making the mistake of running out of the fluid, while call-outs related to system faults were also on the decline.    

Stuart Thomas, director of fleet and SME at the AA, said: “Last year a lack of driver education was leading to significant AdBlue® breakdowns, but we are pleased to see that knowledge levels seem to be on the increase.

“Fleet managers are obviously doing a good job updating drivers on what they need to do. And, if you’ve run out once, you are unlikely to make the same mistake again!”

However, Mr Thomas added: “Despite the positive trend, educating drivers is far from over. Most drivers will need to top up their AdBlue® at least once between services, so it is important to keep an eye on dashboard warnings, particularly for high mileage fleet drivers or those who are jumping in and out of different cars in the company pool.

“We’ve all done it, jumped into an unfamiliar car and decided to take a chance on leaving the warning lights for the next poor person to get behind the wheel. However, when AdBlue® runs out, the engine’s power and performance will be severely limited, and a driver won’t be able to restart the engine once stopped.

“The good news is that the dashboard warnings will come up with plenty of time to get a car topped up. The onus is on drivers to keep their fleet managers informed if they don’t get it sorted themselves.”

What’s more it is even more important to ensure AdBlue® levels are topped up as the weather turns colder this autumn and winter.

Mr Thomas said: “Changes in driving conditions, whether that is heavy payloads or extreme weather, can significantly impact how quickly AdBlue® is consumed. The size of the tank also makes a massive difference. While drivers might top up anywhere between every 3,000 and 12,000 miles in the spring and summer, this could drop dramatically in the cold weather.”

Further information is available at: https://www.theaa.com/breakdown-cover/advice/adblue

Tax savings make 2020 ‘a watershed year for the company car’

Businesses and company car drivers can save thousands of pounds by replacing petrol and diesel models with electric vehicles from April 2020 – and simultaneously reduce their carbon footprint.

Calling April 2020 “a watershed moment for the company car”, professional services firm Deloitte calculates total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of “in the region of 21-25%” for employers and company car benefit-in-kind tax savings of “around 95%” for employees over a four-year operating cycle.

The potential impact for employers could trigger savings running into millions of pounds depending on the size of a fleet. For example, Deloitte calculates that a company operating a 900-strong fleet – 600 medium-sized hatchbacks and 300 premium SUVs – could save £1.9 million a year with total savings of £7.7 million over four years if going 100% electric. For a smaller fleet – 35 medium-sized hatchbacks and 15 premium SUVs – the savings could be £100,000 a year (see table below).

The cost of financing an electric car can be higher than an internal combustion engine equivalent, acknowledges Deloitte. However, it highlights that company savings can be made in Class 1A National Insurance contributions, which are based on employees’ benefit-in-kind, fuel/electricity and Corporation Tax relief.

For employees the major savings, which Deloitte described as “compelling”, come from new company car benefit-in-kind tax rates that are effective from April 2020 as well as from savings on fuel/electricity when compared with petrol or diesel.

For electric cars, rates are being slashed from 16% in 2019/20 to 0% in 202021, 1% in 2021/22 and 2% in 2022/23. Rates beyond that date have yet to be published so Deloitte, in making its calculations, has rolled forward the 2% rate to include 2023/24. However, even if rates for electric vehicles were to increase significantly in 2023/24 alongside a small rise in those for petrol and diesel models, it is understood that there would continue to be a similar financial benefit to drivers and businesses.

Deloitte calculates, for example, that a 40% taxpayer driving a diesel hatchback company car with a list price of £30,000, could currently expect to pay more than £18,000 in benefit-in-kind tax and fuel costs over a 48-month period. By comparison, for a comparable electric vehicle, the total cost of ownership reduces to £916; a saving of 95% or more than £17,000 (see table below).

What’s more, even if 100% electric cars are not viable for a business and its employees, Deloitte highlights that significant benefit-in-kind tax savings can still be made by selecting plug-in hybrid models as company cars.

Michael Woodward, UK automotive lead at Deloitte, said: “We’ve seen electric vehicle popularity increase fourfold over the past year alone. For those thinking about making the switch, the tax changes for company cars from April 6, 2020 are certainly a strong incentive.”

Forecasting a surge in demand, Mr Woodward said the key question was whether both motor manufacturers and businesses were ready with analysis of the existing fleet and company car policies critical for the latter.

He continued: “Over the next three years, car manufacturers will need to review the scale of their production to accommodate growth and assess supply levels into the UK. Fleet sales will drive the majority of demand and manufacturers will be keen to prevent missing out on sales due to lack of supply.

“For many businesses, there are operational, employee and environmental benefits in transitioning to electric vehicles. However, the suitability of electric must make sense before making the switch.

“For some, electric vehicles will already be a viable option given their fleet journey patterns, and next steps may simply be building a robust policy and plan to support wider adoption. For others, long-distance travel demands or knowing how and where to charge electric vehicles will need more consideration. Businesses upgrading from diesel or petrol fleets may also require investment for on-site charge points.

“Environmentally, transport is the highest carbon emitting sector in the UK and targeting corporate fleets in this way has the potential to displace the maximum amount of fossil-driven miles.”

Employer perspective

The table below assumes a 48-month replacement cycle and travelling 10,000 business and 10,000 private miles per year, for a business providing an electric or diesel version of a medium hatchback with a list price of around £30,000, or a premium SUV with a list price of around £70,000.

Total cost of ownership* (48 months)

Medium hatch

Premium SUV

Electric

£21,393

£43,121

Diesel

£27,139

£57,529

Saving achieved

£5,746

£14,408

Saving achieved as a percentage

21%

25%

* The employer TCO includes the cost of lease rentals, maintenance, motor insurance, social security and business mileage reimbursement. The TCO shown is after recovery of any applicable VAT reclaims as well as applicable corporation tax relief. The TCO is the cost over the complete 48-month replacement cycle and also reflects any future changes in tax rules that are known at this point.

Employee perspective

The table below assumes a 48-month company car replacement cycle and travelling 10,000 business and 10,000 private miles per year, for an electric or diesel version of a medium hatchback with a list price of around £30,000, or a premium SUV with a list price of around £70,000.

Total cost of ownership* (48 months)

Medium hatch

Premium SUV

Electric

£916

£1,639

Diesel

£18,006

£49,036

Electric company car saving

£17,090

£47,397

Saving achieved as a percentage

95%

97%    

*The employee TCO includes the cost of company car benefit-in-kind tax, the cost of fuel for business and private mileage, less any business mileage reimbursement received. The TCO is the cost over the complete 48-month replacement cycle and also reflects any future changes in tax rules that are known at this point.

Source: Deloitte analysis 2019.

Meet the team – Sarah Whitehall

Name: Sarah Whitehall.

Job Title: Fleet controller, service support team.

Explain your role in 10 words: Administrator for the maintenance team and invoice processing and ‘anything in between’.

What’s the best aspect of your job? It keeps me busy and there is never a dull moment.

What’s the worst aspect of your job? Simon Bray’s jokes (the same ones for 15 years).

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Almost four years.

What was your first paid job? A Saturday job in a dry cleaners.

What’s your favourite car? Audi TT.

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? Take my daughter to America to swim with sharks (she’s shark mad!).

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? Anything to do with working with animals.

Who in the world would you most like to meet? Tom Hardy, David Attenborough, or Joanna Lumley.

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? Doing anything with friends and family.

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? The usual; house, holiday, cars, treating my family and friends and giving to charity.

Not a lot of people know that… I cry at most Disney films.

Stop press… Stop press… Stop press: Visit Fleet Service GB stand at Fleet Live

Fleet Service GB is exhibiting at Fleet Live taking place on October 8 and 9 at the NEC, Birmingham.

The company will be at stand H16 in the show’s Commercial Fleet Zone where Geoffrey Bray (executive chairman), Marcus Bray (head of sales) and the team will be on hand to talk to customers and prospects.

To register to attend the event, organised by trade publication Fleet News, go to: https://www.fleet-live.co.uk/online-registration.

UK small businesses charge towards van fleet electrification

A quarter (24%) of UK small businesses expect van fleets to be fully electric within a decade with business efficiency the key driver, according to a survey by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

Nissan, which includes the fully electric e-NV200 (pictured) within its van range, said a third of fleet operators in a survey of more than 500 claimed business efficiency was their main motivation when adopting new technologies, followed by cost saving (17%).

Nissan said that sales of the e-NV200 had increased by 200% in 2019 as small business leaders looked to increase fleet efficiency and reduce costs, amid changing emissions legislation and April’s introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone in London. Furthermore, the manufacturer claimed that running costs for the-NV200 were from 2p per mile.

Paolo D’Ettore, director LCV Business Unit Nissan Europe, said “The success of e-NV200 truly demonstrates that we have the right product at the right time. The acceleration of fleet electrification – especially in city centres – is a challenge for our customers, so we recognise the need to work with them and provide the optimal ecosystem to support a smooth transition to electric vehicles.

“Thanks to its intelligent design and zero-emissions powertrain, the Nissan e-NV200 is the perfect tool to help businesses maximise their operational success and contribute to a more sustainable future.”

With particularly high demand from last-mile delivery businesses the 40kW e-NV200 has posted record sales across Europe, with more than 10,000 orders since its introduction in February 2018. The e-NV200 was the best-selling zero-emissions LCV in 10 markets across Europe last year – including the UK.

Meanwhile, Renault, which includes zero emission versions of the Kangoo and Master in its light commercial vehicle line-up, said that 100% of its vans would be electrified by 2022. The French marque is the European leader of electric van sales with a 46.2% market share.

Ashwani Gupta, senior vice president of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi LCV business, said: “These results show that the electrification of fleets is increasingly on the minds of our customers – not just for the financial efficiencies that electric vehicles can deliver, but because environmental sustainability is clearly crucial to the future of their businesses. I’m impressed at how optimistic these fleet managers are about the speed in which their vehicles will be fully electrified.”

Tyre selection and driving style ever-more critical to maximise plug-in vehicle fleet performance

Tyre selection – allied to driving style – will be even more critical to maximise performance and longevity, and minimise fleet costs, when fitted to the new breed of electric vehicles, according to Kwik Fit, a Fleet Service GB supplier.

The number of plug-in cars on the UK’s roads is increasing month-on-month – and is expected to accelerate rapidly in the wake of advantageous company car benefit-in-kind tax changes from April 6, 2020.

That’s because benefit-in-kind tax on 100% electric cars tumbles from 16% of the P11D value in the current tax year (2019/20) to 0%, 1% and 2% respectively in the following three financial years, 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23.

What’s more, with plug-in hybrid electric cars with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 50g/km or below also attracting a significantly lower company car benefit-in-kind tax charge than internal combustion engine-only equivalent models, the Government is driving fleets and employees firmly along the electric road in pursuit of its clean air objectives.

Now Kwik Fit, the UK’s largest automotive maintenance and repair company and the leading fast-fit supplier of tyres in the country, says tyre replacement decisions and driving style will be key to limiting tyre consumption during an electric model’s fleet life.

Primarily this is because the weight of electric batteries means that plug-in vehicles are up to 30% heavier than equivalent internal combustion engine models, putting more strain on the tyres and taking longer to stop.

Andy Fern, fleet sales director, Kwik Fit, said: “Tyres will become an even more important feature of a plug-in vehicle than they are in respect to petrol and diesel models.

“Electric vehicle demand is at embryonic levels, but it is clear that company car benefit-in-kind tax changes will fuel a huge surge in fleet take-up. The infancy of the sector means that it is too early to determine exactly how real world tyre wear will compare to internal combustion engine models, but it is business-critical that fleet operators monitor how tyre life is impacted by the unique characteristics of plug-in vehicles.”

To maximise electric vehicle performance, premium brand tyre manufacturers are developing dedicated tyres and that choice will increase as the market expands. First generation electric vehicles have been invariably equipped with ‘narrow tyres’, to reduce rolling resistance and help increase range between charges. On the downside, a reduced contact patch with the road increases the demand on tyres and can potentially increase wear rates.

Tyre labelling introduced in November 2012 classifies performance in respect of fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), wet grip and noise levels and tyre manufacturers are focused on ensuring the right balance between those factors.

Mr Fern said: “Rolling resistance is of critical importance for an electric vehicle to achieve a stated range. Therefore, premium branded tyres are likely to be even more essential than on petrol and diesel models.

“Similarly, without the noise from an internal combustion engine, the road noise created by tyres will become more significant, and as a result many drivers and fleet managers will want tyres with low noise characteristics for their full-electric vehicles.”

However, to maximise tyre life and ensure maximum performance and longevity, it is important for drivers to adopt a smooth style of driving and to regularly undertake tyre safety checks.

Harsh acceleration and cornering in an electric vehicle, coupled with its additional weight, will have a major impact on tyre wear and tear, so smooth driving will improve tyre life and maintain performance.

What’s more, as with any vehicle, ensuring that the correct tyre pressure for the vehicle is maintained will also maximise tyre life.

Mr Fern concluded: “Drivers of plug-in vehicles typically adopt a smoother driving style with an increased focus on efficiency to preserve battery range. Battery technology is continually improving in terms of providing drivers with additional mileage between charging, but range remains a critical factor in the shift to electric.

“Tyre longevity is influenced by numerous factors – tyre selection, in-life maintenance and driver behaviour – and those characteristics have a greater dominance in respect of electric vehicles, predominantly due to their added weight.

“As always, premium brand tyres will deliver maximum longevity when compared with cheaper tyres, while rolling resistance assumes a greater importance if zero-emission range is to be maximised.”

Electric vehicle tyre wear – one reason for possible lower rates versus internal combustion engine models:

  • Driving style – a tendency to drive more carefully with an increased focus on vehicle efficiency (battery range protection).

Electric vehicle tyre wear – one reason for possible increased rates versus internal combustion engine models:

  • Weight – electric vehicles can be up to 30% heavier than a conventional internal combustion engine derivative.

Law must be updated to provide increased access to in-vehicle data recorders, say safety experts

Road crash investigation experts have called for the law to be changed to provide increased access to information contained within in-vehicle event data recorders (EDRs).

The technology is fitted to most new vehicles and is typically used to record information about road traffic collisions. EDR data helps provide accurate and reliable information of the actions taken by drivers in the pre-collision phase.

However, in the UK and the European Union, the accessibility of EDR data is restricted due to a lack of up-to-date legislation, according to TRL, the global centre for innovation in transport

Currently, motor manufacturers are not required to provide authorities, road safety researchers or vehicle owners with EDR data. But, TRL says legislation governing the accessibility of vehicle EDR evidence must be changed to improve safety, reduce costs, speed up legal proceedings and save lives. It wants EDR collision data to be made available to the police, insurers, the courts and road safety researchers.

Fleet Service GB already provides customers using its Achieve Driver Management, which pro-actively measures a driver’s performance, with a wide range of data designed to improve occupational road safety and simultaneously reduce employers’ risk exposure. Any move to make EDR data more accessible would further aid that programme with information potentially fed into the solution.

What’s more, TRL argues, that EDR data will become even more important in a connected and automated future as systems grow increasingly complex. Indeed, TRL is the lead participant in the Government-backed Greenwich-based driverless vehicle project.

As driverless vehicles advance from semi to fully automated over the next decade or so, it will be vital to understand the data of in-vehicle safety systems and what the vehicle or a safety driver was doing prior to a collision, according to TRL.

Essentially, EDRs, which were introduced in the 1970s, are the equivalent of a black box that records a range of data from safety systems fitted to a vehicle in the seconds before, during and after a collision. That information can include indicated vehicle speed, engine revs, engine throttle performance and accelerator and brake pedal use.

The retrieved data can prove helpful, according to TRL, in being able to verify or dismiss driver accounts, as well as confirming the operating conditions of a vehicle immediately prior to a collision.

Dean Beaumont, accident reconstruction consultant for TRL’s expert witness team, explained: “Physical evidence and CCTV footage is vital in the reconstruction of road traffic collisions. However, EDRs provide important information about the movements of a vehicle before, during and after a collision event that, in many cases, could not be obtained from any other source.

“When analysed by a suitably qualified expert, EDR data allows for a detailed and more accurate investigation into road traffic collisions, specifically in regard to causation and liability. The advantage of EDRs are that they are already installed in the car; it is simply a case of being able to access the data.

“In the UK and European Union, manufacturers are slowly allowing access to this data, but this only applies to a very small number of vehicles. Sharing of EDR data should not be placed above lives in serious and fatal collisions. For example, the United States is far ahead of other regions when it comes to EDRs, as the data is regulated and access is also governed by legislation.”

He continued: “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate and UK and European Union legislation must not fall behind. Regulating the access of EDR data in the automotive industry will help advance collision reconstruction and the industry’s understanding of vehicle design and safety to that of the aviation industry. The United States model of EDR data regulation is already showing how useful this information can be.”

The TRL expert witness team offer a wide range of services within incident investigation; ranging from an initial desktop review on liability to in-depth collision reconstruction of single or multi-vehicle incidents, as well as numerous specialist services, including CCTV analysis, laser scanning, vehicle telematics and diagnostics and seat belt and helmet analysis.

Public and private sector clients include solicitors, police and government bodies in both criminal and civil proceedings.