Police step up Christmas drink-drive crackdown

Police forces nationwide will be stepping up patrols as they launch their annual festive season blitz against drink-driving and drivers have been urged to make safety their priority.

The advice comes as official figures show there has been no decline in the number of people killed through drink-driving in recent years.

What’s more, it has been calculated that a drink-drive conviction costs the average driver nearly £50,000 when all the immediate costs and longer-term consequences are taken into account.

A total of 250 people were killed in the UK through drink-driving in 2017, up 9% on 2016, when there were 230 deaths. It was also the highest number since 2009 when 340 people died, according to the latest data from the Department for Transport. Additionally, 1,380 people were seriously injured in drink-drive related crashes in 2017, the highest figure since 2009 (1,500).

Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is urging party-goers not to take any risks with alcohol by taking one or two simple steps and remove the temptation to get behind the wheel at the end of an evening out: Agreeing a designated driver, pre-booking taxis or arranging to stay the night at a friend’s house.

The legal drink-drive limit in England and Wales is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100ml of breath. In Scotland the limit reduced in December 2014 and is now 50 milligrams. The penalty for a first drink-driving offence is a minimum 12-month ban, a fine of up to £2,500, and a prison sentence of up to six months. Refusal to provide a specimen carries the same penalty.

GEM road safety office Neil Worth said: “It is absolutely not acceptable to drive after drinking alcohol, and the figures show that more people are dying as a result of someone’s choice to drink-drive than at any time in the past decade. Don’t ever take a risk with drink-driving.”

Alcohol myth-busters

  • I’ll be OK after a good night’s sleep – not necessarily. Between 15 and 20% failed breath tests are from people who get behind the wheel the morning after drinking alcohol.
  • One drink means one ‘unit’ of alcohol – wrong, so counting the glasses you’ve had at the pub, at a party or at home is not a reliable indicator of how much alcohol you have consumed.
  • Coffee will sober me up after a few drinks – wrong. You may feel more alert, as coffee is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. But you’ll still have the same amount of alcohol in your system, however much coffee you drink.
  • Eating a heavy meal means I can’t get drunk – wrong. Food doesn’t prevent alcohol from being absorbed… it can slow the process down, but you’ll still have the alcohol in your system.
  • I won’t be impaired until I’ve had a lot to drink – wrong. Even small amounts will impair your judgement. Impairment starts with your very first drink.
  • I’ll see how I feel later before deciding whether to drive or not – wrong: plan early how you’re going to get home. Decide where you can safely leave your car, book taxis, or agree that you’ll stay on soft drinks. We tend not to make our wisest decisions when we’re a little merry – or worse.
  • I can avoid court and go on a course if I get caught, as it would be a first offence – wrong. There’s a mandatory 12-month ban, plus a hefty fine and a criminal record. Estimates show that a drink-drive conviction costs the average motorist nearly £50,000 when all the immediate costs and longer-term consequences are taken into account.

Meet the team – Teodora Byrne

Name: Teodora Byrne.

Job Title: Fleet controller, service support team.

Explain your role in 10 words: Processing vehicle-related fines and invoices whilst offering customer service to clients.

What’s the best aspect of your job? The large variety of people I get to talk to.

What’s the worst aspect of your job? The frustration when issues are out of my hands.

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Three years and 12 days.

What was your first paid job? During my university days I used to be a German tutor for primary school aged children.

What’s your favourite car? 1969 Shelby Mustang GT 500.

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? Write a book.

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? Forensic scientist or criminal psychologist.

Who in the world would you most like to meet? Oh my… so many to choose from! To name a couple: American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the rock band Nirvana Kurt Cobain (hey, you didn’t specify dead or alive!) and actor James McAvoy.

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? I love being outdoors, especially in forests. Otherwise a gig is always a good choice.

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? As I am sadly a (responsible) adult, the usual – buy a few houses around the world and travel as much as possible.

Not a lot of people know that… I have a fascination with killer minds!

New parking code giving 10-minute grace period in private car parks could ease fleet fine ‘nightmare’

Private parking firms will be required to give drivers a 10-minute grace period after their tickets expire as part of a Government clamp down on rogue car parks.

Managing fines relating to parking, particularly on private land, has been called by ACFO, the UK representative body for fleet decision-makers, “a legal, financial and HR administrative nightmare” for fleet decision-makers and company car and van drivers alike.

Earlier this year, the Parking (Code of Practice) Act became law building on action the Government had previously taken to tackle rogue private parking firms, including banning wheel clamping and towing and stopping over-zealous parking enforcement by councils and traffic wardens.

That legislation had been championed through Parliament by Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight to tackle some of the major issues related to the unregulated parking of vehicles on private land raised in recent years by ACFO, which also said that parking fines on private land was “one of the major issues facing fleet decision-makers.”

Under the Government’s proposals, a new Code of Practice is to be developed by the British Standards Institution to bring greater regulation to the private parking industry, making it easier for drivers to challenge unfair parking tickets.

In recent years the number of private penalty tickets being issued to drivers has soared. In 2008/9 some 690,000 penalties were issued, but the RAC Foundation estimates that in 2019/20 8.6 million penalties will be dished out – almost two million more tickets on private land in this financial year compared with last, a rise of more than a quarter – including many anticipated to be to company car and van drivers. The numbers are based on the volume of vehicle keeper records the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) is selling to parking companies which allows them to send demands to car owners – including fleets – often for £100 and sometimes more.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The volume of tickets being issued is now four and a half times what it was when clamping was outlawed back in 2012 and an astonishing 32 times more than it was in 2006 which is the first year for which the DVLA publishes data for. Whatever the outcome of the general election [on December 12] it must be a priority for the new Government to get a grip, quickly, of this out of control juggernaut.”

A 10-minute grace period was introduced for all council car parks in England in 2015, but is currently voluntary for private parking firms. Under the measures being considered, all private car parks in England, Scotland and Wales would have to give motorists up to 10 minutes before issuing a late fine.

Extra measures to crackdown on intimidating and aggressive debt collection practices by private parking companies will also be considered as part of the Code.

Unlike existing voluntary codes set by industry, the new Code will be mandatory and provide a single set of rules to follow. Rogue firms which break the Code will be barred from requesting DVLA data, making them unable to pursue motorists for their charges.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “For too long rogue parking firms have operated in an unregulated industry, handing out unjust fines, putting drivers through baffling appeals processes and issuing tickets to motorists who were only seconds late back to their cars.

“That’s why we’ve appointed the British Standards Institution to work with consumer groups and industry to write the first ever compulsory Code of Practice for private parking firms.

“The new Code will restore common sense to the way parking fines are handed out, encourage people back onto our high-streets and crack down on dodgy operators who use aggressive tactics to harass drivers.”

The Code is also set to introduce a new independent appeals service, giving drivers greater support to challenge unjustified parking tickets.

The British Standards Institution will write the Code in consultation with consumer and industry groups. It will launch a full public consultation on the Code where all members of the public will be able to have their say on the new rules.

New vehicles to feature additional mandatory safety equipment from 2022 and van manufacturers have much to do to comply

All new cars and vans sold in the UK from mid-2022 must feature as standard a raft of safety technology including advanced emergency braking (AEB) systems, driver drowsiness and attention warning systems and event data recorders.

The technology, some of which will also be mandatory in sport utility vehicles, HGVs and buses, is to be fitted following European Council agreement.

Although the UK is destined to leave the European Union, the UK Government has already said that it will write European legislation into UK law following Brexit. 

However, just one-in-10 new vans on sale today features any of the lifesaving technology that is set to become mandatory, according to exclusive analysis by publication What Car? Vans. It has calculated that 88% of all new vans fail to meet any of the proposed European safety standards.

While some van manufacturers are fitting safety features, such as advanced emergency braking (AEB), the analysis of every van derivative on sale in the UK revealed that many top-of-the range examples come fitted with multiple safety features as standard, lower specification models typically do without the potentially life-saving technologies.

In adopting the regulation – European Parliament agreement came last March – the Council said the mandatory safety features to be introduced would provide increased protection of vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users to significantly reduce the number of road casualties.

Under the new rules, all motor vehicles, including sport utility vehicles, vans, trucks and buses will have to be equipped with: Intelligent speed assistance, alcohol interlock installation facilitation, driver drowsiness and attention warning systems, advanced driver distraction warning systems, emergency stop signals, reversing detection systems, event data recorders and accurate tyre pressure monitoring.

Additionally, cars and vans will also have to be equipped with: Advanced emergency braking (AEB) systems, emergency lane-keeping systems and enlarged head impact protection zones capable of mitigating injuries in collisions with vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Speed limiters will still be voluntary so drivers don’t have to use them, but they could save their licence if they do.

“Although all new cars from 2022 cars will be enabled to have an ‘alcolock’ it will be up to the UK Government to decide how they are used. We see them as a useful tool for repeat drink-drive offenders to get them back to safe driving after a ban. It is very unlikely that the vast majority of the law-abiding public will ever have to blow in a tube to start their car.”

In addition to the general requirements and existing systems – such as lane departure warning and advanced emergency braking (AEB) systems – HGVs and buses will have to be designed and manufactured so that blind spots around the vehicle are significantly reduced. They will also have to be equipped with advanced systems capable of detecting pedestrians and cyclists located in close proximity to the vehicle.

The regulation is part of the European Commission’s third ‘Europe on the Move’ package, launched in May 2018.

What Car? Vans’ analysis found just 12% of all new vans on sale had one of the eight mandatory safety technologies as standard, while only one in five vans came with at least one of the eight as an optional extra.

Advanced emergency braking (AEB), which automatically applies the brakes if it senses an imminent collision, is standard in one-in five of the 228 new vans and pick-ups on sale in the UK. Studies by Euro NCAP, the European vehicle safety standards agency, previously found the technology reduced real-word rear-end collisions by 38%.

Other technologies, including lane keeping assistance, which automatically keeps vans on the centre of the lane, was available as standard in only 2% of all new vans on sale, and an optional extra in 18%.

Meanwhile, new technologies, including intelligent speed assistance, which helps drivers to avoid exceeding the speed limit, and automatically slows the vehicle down when the limit drops, is found in just 3% of new vans on sale, while crash-test improved seat-belts and accident data recorders are not fitted as standard to any van currently on sale in the UK.

Despite van drivers covering on average 13,000 miles a year driver distraction and drowsiness alerts were standard on just one-in-10 vans on sale, and an optional extra in 11%.

In 2012, Euro NCAP tested some of Europe’s best-selling vans and called on “manufacturers to offer these vehicles with higher levels of safety equipment” after many of the models tested were found to lack basic safety equipment such as electronic stability control (ESC).

Van manufacturers have since made improvements to driver, passenger and pedestrian safety. In the latest Euro NCAP tests, for example, the Ford Transit (pictured) achieved a top five-star rating.

Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? Vans, said: “There are more than four million vans on the road today. Van drivers shouldn’t be waiting for legislation to come into force to have access to the latest safety technology as standard. Though the industry has made strides in recent years, it clearly still has a lot more work to do.” 

Share of safety technology found in new vans on sale

Technology

Not available

Optional Extra

Standard

Driver Drowsiness/Distraction Alert

79%

11%

10%

Intelligent Speed Assistance

88%

9%

3%

Reversing Camera

34%

47%

19%

Reversing Sensor

25%

36%

39%

Data Recorder in case of an accident

97%

3%

0%

Lane Keeping Assistance

80%

18%

2%

Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB)

41%

37%

22%

Crash test-improved seat belts

100%

0%

0%

New FTA group to become ‘mouthpiece’ for van fleets and drivers

The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which bills itself as ‘the voice of the UK logistics industry’ has launched a dedicated Van Policy Working Group to provide a “mouthpiece for the industry with Government, regulators and other stakeholders and a platform to communicate and debate the issues the market is facing”.

The light commercial sector has gone through unprecedented growth in recent years with currently 4.6 million vans on the UK’s roads – more than double the figure of 25 years ago and a 59% since 2000, almost double that seen in the car sector. What’s more over the past 12 months, the number of van drivers in the UK has increased by more than 12% and together, they cover 51 billion miles a year, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the FTA.

The surge in online shopping and consequently home deliveries is largely responsible for the acceleration in the number of vans on the roads, but there is also a growing army of self-employed workers requiring such vehicles with the trend to vehicle downsizing another factor.

Elizabeth de Jong, director of UK policy at the FTA, said: “As the number of vans on the UK’s roads continues to soar, it is vital the interests of individuals and businesses operating these vehicles are represented with stakeholders and government. The creation of a Van Policy Working Group reinforces FTA’s commitment to the market. As logistics needs change, and vans become increasingly important to UK Plc, this will mean the FTA is perfectly placed to lead this sector forwards to even greater success.”

Reflecting expansion of the sector, Fleet Service Great Britain has in the past 12 months placed an emphasis on winning business with organisations that either exclusively operate light commercial vehicles or a mix of company cars, ‘grey fleet’ vehicles, and vans. That objective is based on the fact that statistics clearly identify that the light commercial vehicle sector is a growth market, while HM Revenue and Customs’ data would suggest that the company car segment is shrinking.

The FTA’s Van Policy Working Group comprises 41 leaders within the sector selected from a cross-section of the industry and represent many of the largest van fleets in the UK, although the organisation declined to name members. However, they are derived from the membership of the FTA’s Van Excellence programme, as well as from van operators across the wider FTA membership.

Mrs de Jong said: “With growth [of the van sector] comes the need to evaluate current safety, compliance and efficiency standards and drive improvements wherever necessary.

“The Van Policy Working Group provide a vital mouthpiece for the industry with Government, regulators and other stakeholders and provide a platform to communicate and debate the issues the market is facing. Van drivers and operators provide a vital service to the UK economy; their contributions must be valued and their concerns and hopes for the future heard and acted upon.”

With a particular focus on the key policy compliance issues facing van drivers and seeking to ignite change within the sector, the Van Policy Working Group represents one initiative in the FTA’s programme of activity, which already includes Operational Briefings held across the country to boost knowledge and expertise across van operators, the Van Driver of the Year Award and the Van Excellence programme.

Van Excellence is a scheme designed by some of the best van operators in the UK; facilitated and managed by the FTA to recognise excellence and improve operational standards. At its heart is the Van Excellence Code; a Code of Practice outlining ‘what good looks like’ in van operations.

Asked why there was a requirement for the new Van Policy Working Group when the Van Excellence programme already existed, an FTA spokeswoman said: “The number of vans on the UK’s roads is rising and the FTA is making these changes to reflect the growing importance of the van market.

“Van Excellence is a scheme designed to recognise excellence and help improve operational standards, and it remains at the heart of FTA’s vans strategy. It continues to be the only industry group responsible for maintaining and championing the very highest standards across the sector, something which FTA is extremely proud of.

“And, while Van Excellence is about safety and efficiency, the Van Policy Working Group will revolve around policy making and influence. Our governance structure has a number of modal councils which help us debate and form policy objectives – vans is now one of them.

“Van drivers and operators provide a vital service to the UK economy and FTA wants to ensure their contributions are valued, heard, but also acted upon. The Van Policy Working Group will discuss the key issues facing van drivers, communicate the sector’s concerns and aspirations to key stakeholders and Government and seek to ignite change.”

‘Climate emergency’ is key vehicle battleground for major parties in general election

Tackling the ‘climate emergency’ forms a key battleground for the major political parties in the run-up to the December 12 general election.

The manifesto commitments by both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are more radical than those outlined by the Conservative Party.

However, while all three main national political parties have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the speed at which the transition to electric vehicles and the outlawing of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans occurs is different.

The Conservative Party is committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.

Following up Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ Conservative Party 2019 Conference commitment to make driving an electric car “the norm” and to look at bringing forward to 2035 its previous commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, the manifesto says that it will consult on the earliest date they can be phased out.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party reiterates its 2019 Conference promise to end the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030, 10 years earlier than previously stated by the outgoing Conservative Government

The Party, as also outlined at the Conference, wants to accelerate the transition of public sector car fleets to zero-emissions vehicles and by leading an ‘electric car revolution’ urge all car fleets to ‘go 100% electric’ by 2025.

The Liberal Democrats plan to reduce emissions from surface transport to near-zero by 2045 with the transition to electric vehicles a key goal. The Party in its manifesto has promised to ensure that by 2030 every new car and small van sold is electric.

In other manifesto commitments, the Conservative’s, if forming the next Government, will in the first post-election Budget prioritise investing in a national plug-in vehicle charging network with £600 million promised over a six-year period in addition to the recent launch of a £400 million fund to help develop rapid charging infrastructure points for electric vehicles.

Additionally, as part of a ‘transport revolution’, the manifesto promises that the Conservative Party will:

  • Launch the ‘biggest-ever’ pothole-filling programme, as part of a National Infrastructure Strategy, with the ‘major investment in roads’ ensuring that potholes are much less likely to appear in the future. A costings analysis released with the manifesto highlights £500 million a year being spent over the four years 2020/21 to 2023/24 on local roads maintenance including pothole filling and investment to reduce new potholes
  • Support commuter cycling routes, so that more people can cycle safely to work
  • Support ‘clean’ transport to ensure ‘clean’ air, as well as setting strict new laws on air quality.

The Labour Party has promised ‘a green industry revolution’, in its manifesto and said it would:

  • Invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and in electric community car clubs
  • Adopt a ‘vision zero’ approach to UK road safety, striving for zero deaths and serious injuries
  • Review all tolled crossings.

At the Party Conference it also said it would provide ‘certainty’ on company car benefit-in-kind tax by maintaining the existing schedule for pure electric vehicles at 2% beyond 2022/23 and waive for two years the £320 Vehicle Excise Duty surcharge on electric vehicles with a list price above £40,000 purchased for fleet use.

The Liberal Democrats in its manifesto has also pledged to:

  • Accelerate the rapid take-up of electric vehicles by reforming vehicle taxation, cutting VAT on electric vehicles to 5% and increasing the rate of installation of charging points, including residential on-street points and ultra-fast chargers at service stations
  • Extend ultra-low emission zones, similar to that in London, to 10 more towns.

The three parties’ manifestos can be viewed at: https://vote.conservatives.com/our-plan, https://labour.org.uk/manifesto/ and https://www.libdems.org.uk/plan

 

Meet the team – Ian Jackson

Name: Ian Jackson.

Job Title: Fleet controller.

Explain your role in 10 words: Managing and tracking maintenance for a wide range of vehicles.

What’s the best aspect of your job? Talking to various people of the fleet world from fleet managers to drivers, every person and situation is different, so the variety is great.

What’s the worst aspect of your job? Simon Bray not making enough cups of tea!

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Four months.

What was your first paid job? Caller at a bingo hall in Plymouth.

What’s your favourite car? Aston Martin DBS.

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? Swim with great white sharks in South Africa.

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? I’ve already done it. In the Royal Navy sailing the world.

Who in the world would you most like to meet? Richard Branson, he’s a perfect example of if you want something, you can get it if you work hard enough.

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? Spending time with my son, He is my world.

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? Buy a Harley Davidson and travel Route 66, and spoil the kids!

Not a lot of people know that…I have slept at Buckingham Palace twice!