Meet the team – Amy Gray

Name: Amy Gray

Job Title: C# developer

Explain your role in 10 words: Implementing and updating code to improve efficiency and user experience

What’s the best aspect of your job? Learning new skills all the time

What’s the worst aspect of your job? Looking at a computer screen all day

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Since February 2018

What was your first paid job? Newspaper/leaflet delivery

What’s your favourite car? Chevrolet Camaro in yellow

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? Achieve a senior role with my own team of developers

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? Property development

Who in the world would you most like to meet? George R R Martin, the American novelist and author of Game of Thrones

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? Enjoying a BBQ with family and friends

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? Quickly! I’d invest in lots of start-up companies and then spend all my time travelling the world – I’d own holiday homes in Barcelona and Florida where I can laze in the sun drinking cocktails!

Not a lot of people know that …………………… I am studying for a degree in computing and IT, specialising in software engineering whilst working full time

New fuel pump labelling to be introduced to help drivers pick the right fuel

Drivers will see new fuel pump labelling on forecourts by September in a bid to end incidents of misfuelling and help them understand the biofuel content of petrol and diesel when they fill up.

The Department for Transport has said that it expects all filling stations to roll out the new labels. The uniform European Union-wide labels are also aimed at preventing drivers from filling up with the wrong fuel when abroad.

Last year, the carbon dioxide (CO2) savings from using biofuels in road transport was equivalent to taking more than one million cars off the UK’s roads.

Blending biofuels into regular petrol and diesel reduces CO2 emissions, helping the UK to meet climate change commitments. Petrol, which contains up to 5% renewable ethanol, will in the future be labelled ‘E5’, while diesel, which contains up to 7% biodiesel, will be labelled ‘B7’.

The labels will appear on the pumps on every forecourt and on the filler caps of all new vehicles, allowing, said the Department for Transport, drivers to easily match the correct fuel to their car or motorbike. Roll out of the new labelling will be accompanied by a wider public information campaign later this year.

The labels have been designed to ‘clearly indicate’ the maximum renewable fuel content, thus supporting the communication of any future introduction of E10 petrol, a grade with up to 10% renewable ethanol.

The Department for Transport said the labels would be increasingly important as new fuels, such as E10 petrol, came onto the market.

In 2018 it issued a call for evidence on whether and how best to introduce E10. Responses to the call for evidence are now being considered and the Department for Transport said it planned to issue its decision later in 2019.

Whether E10 petrol becomes available in addition to a forecourt’s current offering, or replaced the ‘super grade’ would, said the Department for Transport, be at retailers’ discretion.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has estimated that 92.2% of the petrol-engined vehicles in the UK were compatible with E10, but the remainder, typically older models, were not. As of 2011, all new cars sold in the UK must be E10 compatible. B7 diesel can be used in all diesel vehicles.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “These new labels will help drivers chose the right fuel for their vehicle, whilst also highlighting the use of biofuels in reducing the CO2 emissions from everyday road vehicles.

“Our ‘Road to Zero Strategy’ set out our ambition to end the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040, while the ongoing decarbonising of traditional fuels will help during this transition.”

New safety features to be mandatory in all vehicles from 2022

New vehicles – including those on sale in the UK – are to be equipped with a wealth of mandatory safety features starting in 2022 following European Union agreement.

The UK Government, following Brexit and the nation’s departure from the European Union, is expected to mirror the European Union standards designed to protect vehicle occupants, vulnerable road users and pedestrians and save lives.

The new mandatory safety features include:

  • For cars, vans, trucks and buses: alcohol interlock installation facilitation (breathalyser that will cut out engines when drink-drivers get behind the wheel), warning of driver drowsiness and distraction (eg smartphone use while driving), overridable intelligent speed assistance (ISA), reversing safety with camera or sensors, and airline-style black box data recorder in case of a crash.
  • For cars and vans: lane-keeping assistance, advanced emergency braking (AEB), and crash-test improved safety belts.
  • For trucks and buses: specific requirements to improve the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and to remove blind spots, and systems at the front and side of the vehicle to detect and warn of vulnerable road users, especially when making turns.

The European Commission expects that the measures will help save more than 25,000 lives and avoid at least 140,000 serious injuries by 2038 as automation compensates for human error, the cause of most crashes.

The measures, it is claimed, could have the same impact as when seat belts were first introduced. While some of the features are available in ‘high-end’ vehicles, they will be installed in all new models.

Road Safety charity Brake called the decision “a landmark day for road safety” and director of campaigns Joshua Harris said: “These measures will provide the biggest leap forward for road safety this century, perhaps even since the introduction of the seat belt.

“The Government must commit to adopting these lifesaving regulations, no matter what happens with Brexit.”

Excessive or inappropriate speed is a factor in the causation and severity of many road crashes. In the UK, 15% of all fatalities are related to excessive or inappropriate speeding.

Matthew Avery, leading car safety expert and director of insurance research at Thatcham Research, said: “If the benefits of ISA systems are to be fully realised, consumers must be well educated to instil confidence around safe and proper usage.”

ISA systems use GPS mapping and actively read speed signs informing a driver of the present limit. They can issue a warning to the driver when the car’s speed is above the set threshold and can actively prevent the car from exceeding or maintaining the set speed. They can also advise the driver of upcoming limits.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “As we progress on the journey to self-driving cars it is important to take advantage of all the associated technological developments to take safety to the next level.

“Limiting speed may initially sound somewhat Big Brother-like, but as it stands the intention is for the technology to be overridable in certain situations – for example by pressing hard on the accelerator to complete an over-taking manoeuvre. In addition, vehicles will not brake automatically when going from a faster to a slower speed limit, meaning it will still be down to the driver to brake appropriately.

“But as the limiters can be overridden it naturally begs the question whether some drivers will do this regularly to bypass the system, potentially undermining some of the system’s benefits.”

The political agreement reached by the European Parliament, Council and Commission in so-called trilogue negotiations is now subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and Council, which could take several months due to European Parliamentary elections in May. The new safety features will become mandatory from 2022, with the exception of direct vision for trucks and buses and enlarged head impact zone on cars and vans, which will follow later due to the necessary structural design changes.

Van operators expected to be ‘worst affected’ by new London ULEZ and future urban CAZs

Many businesses are expected to face an increase in van operating costs with the introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) on Monday (April 8) and Clean Air Zone (CAZ) charging being introduced in towns and cities nationwide potentially from January 2020 in Birmingham and Leeds.

The claim comes as vehicle remarketing giant Manheim estimates that 80% of light commercial vehicles currently on UK roads pre-date the September 2016 introduction of Euro 6 – the free entry standard adopted for vans to the ULEZ and CAZs – and will therefore face penalty charges each time they enter a charging zone.

While there is widespread agreement that most company cars will be compliant with ULEZ emission standards that will operate 24/7, seven days a week and future CAZ standards – Euro 4 for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles and Euro 6 for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles – there is concern that many van fleets require upgrading.

The average first owner life cycle for a new van is five years. That means, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders estimating that there are 4.3 million vans on UK roads and around 360,000 new models registered annually, it will still take some years before the majority of vans will be Euro 6 compliant.

Manheim in a report, ‘Clean Air Zones and the UK Van Operator: What You Need to Know’, says fleet operating pre-Euro 6 emission vans should analyse their options and weigh up the costs:

  • Do nothing and pay the daily entry charge
  • Buy new or used Euro 6 vans – or consider adding electric vans to the fleet
  • If a van is used infrequently, consider selling it and hiring a van as needed

Furthermore, fleet managers’ trade organisation ACFO has suggested that where possible non-Euro 6 compliant vans were reassigned so they operated on routes outside the ULEZ and future CAZs if they did not meet the qualification criteria.

London’s ULEZ replaces the existing T-Charge, officially known as the Emissions Surcharge, which was introduced on October 23, 2017 and applies to pre-Euro 4 emission standard petrol and diesel vehicles. The area covered by the ULEZ mirrors that of the 16-year-old London Congestion Charge zone, which was introduced in February 2003.

The daily charge for cars, vans and motorcycles that do not meet the ULEZ standard is £12.50 and for commercial vehicles above 3.5 tonnes, buses and coaches it is £100.

Transport for London, which operates the ULEZ, has expanded its Fleet Auto Pay system that applies to the Congestion Charge to include ULEZ payments, which can also be made online or by phone. Further information is available at https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone.

The registered keeper of a vehicle that does not meet the ULEZ standard and its operator/driver will, if they fail to pay the daily charge, be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). The penalty is in addition to any Congestion Charge or London Low Emission Zone non-payment penalties received. The penalty charge for cars, vans and motorcycles is £160 (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days) and for commercial vehicles above 3.5 tonnes, buses and coaches it is £1,000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days).

It is also important for fleets to understand that if vehicles that do not meet the ULEZ entry criteria and enter the Zone and fail to pay the applicable charge, that not only will they face a fine but an administration charge from their leasing provider or fleet management company.

The ULEZ will be expanded from October 25, 2021 to the Inner London area bounded by the North and South Circular roads, although vehicles using those roads and not entering the ULEZ will not be charged.

Additionally, ultra-low emission vehicle streets have already been introduced by Islington and Hackney Councils and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is also planning to introduce low emissions streets in Hammersmith town centre. Meanwhile the City of London Corporation is proposing to limit access to the south section of Moor Lane, near Moorgate, to ultra-low emission vehicles in a pilot scheme expected to be introduced in October 2019 with other boroughs expected to adopt similar schemes.

Meanwhile, more than 60 local authorities have proposals for improving air quality at various stages of development – and some, but not all, include CAZs that some non-compliant vehicles will be charged to enter.

Birmingham and Leeds will introduce chargeable schemes from January 2020, while Glasgow implemented a CAZ at the beginning of 2019 initially applying to buses but being extended to all vehicle types by the end of 2022. Other Zones in Scotland will follow in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, although details have yet to be announced.

However, while local authorities are adopting the same vehicle emission compliant standards as London the rules do not apply to all types of vehicles. Therefore, fleet operators are advised to check with their local authority – and any authorities that vehicles travel into – if they are planning to introduce a CAZ and the applicable rules.

Fleets still in the dark on Government company car BiK and van VED changes

Fleets remain in the dark on any changes to the existing company car benefit-in-kind tax regime from April 2020 with the Government ignoring calls for rates up to the end of 2024/25 to be published in its recent Spring Statement.

The fleet industry had hoped that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond would at the very least indicate the “direction of travel” on any changes – as well as to the to Vehicle Excise Duty for cars – in the wake of last year’s introduction of the Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).

However, the fleet industry was left disappointed as the Chancellor merely stated that “in the coming months” the Government would publish its response to its recent call for evidence in relation to its review into the impact of WLTP on company car tax benefit-in-kind tax and Vehicle Excise Duty for cars.

The lack of clarity means that fleets and company car drivers continue to have no idea as to what company car benefit-in-kind tax rates will be from 2021/22 as rates have only been published up to and including 2020/21, or if those already announced rates for 2020/21 will change.

Meanwhile, April 6, the start of the 2019/20 tax year, signals a further rise in company car benefit-in-kind tax bills. For example, the average emissions of a British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association-member provided new company car is 118g/km of CO2, according to latest figures. That means a rise from 24% of the P11D value in 2018/19 to 27% in 2019/20 for a petrol-engined model.

With its review into the impact of the WLTP emissions and fuel economy testing regime on company car benefit-in-kind taxation and Vehicle Excise Duty, HM Treasury says it wants to ensure the Government “strikes the balance between protecting consumers and meeting our climate change commitments”.

The review document said that initial evidence provided by motor manufacturers suggested that more than 50% of cars would see an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the old New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) testing procedure to WLTP of between 10% and 20% thus resulting in an increased tax liability.

Meanwhile, there was also no word from the Chancellor on the future shape of Vehicle Excise Duty for light commercial vehicles. The move comes in the light of all new vans from September 2019 having to be WLTP type approved.

The Government intends to replace the current flat rate (2019/20: £260 a year/£140 for early Euro 4 and Euro 5 compliant vans/60% of the main charge for zero emission vans) with, from April 2021, a two-category approach, graduated by carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when a van is first registered, followed by a standard rate for subsequent years.

Mr Hammond has previously said that he hoped the changes to Vehicle Excise Duty would “help the great British white van driver go green”.

The Government has previously indicated that:

  • The new system would take account of van weight with a two-category approach each sub-divided into CO2 bands
  • Ongoing incentives would be provided in the first year and beyond for new zero emission, ultra-low emission and other alternatively fuelled vans.

The exact weight categories, CO2 bandings and new Vehicle Excise Duty rates will be announced by the Government prior to April 2021 implementation.

However, the Government has already indicated in its two-category approach that high emission vans will be heavily penalised compared with today’s Vehicle Excise Duty rates. For example, small/medium sized vans with emissions of more than 225g/km could face a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £2,000 and those with CO2 emissions of 191-225g/km a £1,500 charge. Large vans with emissions above 255g/km could face a charge of £500 and those with CO2 emissions of 221-255g/km a £390 charge. In all cases a standard flat Vehicle Excise Duty rate is proposed for vans in the second year of operation and beyond.

Meanwhile, zero CO2 emission vans of all weight categories are likely to be £0 Vehicle Excise Duty rated, according to Government indications, and those with CO2 emissions of 1-50g/km could face a £10 first year rate, but a £125 standard rate compared with a £265 standard rate for higher emitting models.

But, there are concerns that some businesses could be penalised even though the fleet industry generally believes that the tax regime is a “powerful way of incentivising businesses and individuals to choose low emission vehicles”.

For example, there are fears that a graduated Vehicle Excise Duty regime for vans penalises fleets for using what is an essential business tool with some jobs requiring larger vans with larger engines and consequently higher CO2 emissions.

It has also been suggested that some businesses could, depending on operational requirements and Vehicle Excise Duty rates when published, “play the system” and replace one large van with two smaller vans or vice-versa.

For example, using vans with a smaller engine and load capacity to save on Vehicle Excise Duty in place of a larger van could result, it is claimed, in overloading or additional journeys being made.

FSGB delivers fleet maintenance cost savings of almost £280,000 for Stannah

Robust management of fleet maintenance costs across the car and van fleet operated by Stannah has delivered a saving of almost £280,000 despite a 19% increase in the number of vehicles operated.

Stannah, the UK’s leading independent supplier of lift products supplying goods as diverse as loading systems, service lifts, platform lifts, homelifts and stairlifts, outsources the maintenance management of its now 423-strong van fleet and 285-strong company car fleet to Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB).

Key performance measures indicate that maintenance costs on the Stannah van fleet have reduced a staggering 31% between December 2010 and January 2019 delivering a cost reduction of £104,307 with the critical pence per mile figure reducing 41% from 4.51p to 2.68p in a period when overall fleet mileage increased by almost 1.3 million miles.

In the wake of the remarkable van fleet maintenance cost savings, Stannah turned to Fleet Service GB to take over similar responsibility for its company car fleet. Over an almost identical period of time, the headline pence per mile figure has reduced by 1.65p (37%) to 2.84p delivering a maintenance cost reduction of £174,321 (51%). Pence per mile is widely recognised as the most accurate measure of a vehicle’s maintenance expenditure.

Service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs in December 2010 across Stannah’s then 310-strong van fleet totalled £341,620. In January 2019, despite the increase in fleet size and mileage, the total cost reduced to £237,303.

Analysis of Stannah’s company car fleet reveals SMR costs in October 2011 across its then 264 vehicles of £341,616. In January 2019, despite the fleet increasing to 285 cars and taking into account a mileage reduction of 338,088 miles, total maintenance costs reduced to £167,295 a staggering 51% saving.

Across both the company car and van fleets, Stannah has benefited from total maintenance cost savings of £278,628.

Marcus Bray, head of sales at Fleet Service GB, said: “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.

Underpinning Fleet Service GB’s Achieve Maintenance Management solution is a focus on maximising vehicle uptime by constantly challenging lead times and repair processes. Other feature of the programme include: SMR work undertaken through a national network of independent garages; a National Price Promise that offers fixed prices for the same job on the same vehicle throughout the UK for around 75% of all predicted service and maintenance requirements; and instant online access to all reporting and fleet performance evaluation through an industry-leading portal.

Critically, the effective management of SMR and thus the achievement of fleet maintenance cost savings can only be achieved by stamping out driver abuse of vehicles, according to Fleet Service GB, and Stannah uses a suite of fleet management tools to ensure vehicles are in tip-top condition.

Each vehicle is allocated to an individual driver with Martin Carter, Stannah’s group information systems director, who is responsible for the fleet, explaining: “That means every vehicle is completely traceable and it makes a major difference compared with an employee who travels to work each day and collects a van from a depot before returning it at the end of their shift. At Stannah each driver effectively ‘owns’ their van, exactly the same as it is with company cars.”

Efficient fleet and driver management at Stannah starts with buying the ‘right van and car’ for the job required. Each vehicle is then equipped with telematics that records and delivers to Mr Carter a raft of data notably relating to driver behaviour and how a vehicle is driven. Additionally, any incident is reviewed in detail with, potentially, driver training the result.

Furthermore, with drivers logged on to the Fleet Service GB app that offers a wealth of sophisticated cutting-edge features delivering 24/7 support to employees it brings a significant element of self-management to both the company car and van fleet.

Mr Carter said: “Managing maintenance costs starts with vehicle selection and then we use a range of tools at our disposal to identify costs and we seek to manage those. It is all about marginal gains and we seek to make savings wherever we can.

“The cost of most products and services increase year-on-year but, remarkably, the pence per mile vehicle operating costs on the Stannah van fleet have reduced since Fleet Service GB took over management responsibility.”

In part, it has to be acknowledged, that cost reduction is due to improved vehicle manufacturer reliability, but, said Mr Bray, it was also a reflection of the overall management approach to identify and then manage maintenance expenditure.

Mr Bray added: “The maintenance management results are hugely positive which demonstrates, in my view, a good working partnership and also, very importantly, a Stannah policy which encourages ownership and responsibility from a driver perspective.”

Fleet Service GB was launched in spring 2015 led by Mr Bray, who following his decision to leave his former company, Fleet Support Group (FSG), was approached by a number of industry-experienced colleagues to form a unique co-ownership fleet management company.

When Fleet Service GB launched, Mr Carter decided to invest his trust in the new company’s ability to deliver having previously worked with FSG initially maintenance managing the van fleet and subsequently also the car fleet.

Popular company cars at risk from keyless attack as vehicle theft rises

Some of the UK’s most popular fleet cars are among those most susceptible to keyless theft – also known as relay attack – that has become a popular modus operandi for thieves in recent years.

The revelation from research by consumer champion Which? comes at the same time as government figures reveal that car theft increased by 16% in 2017/18 with 106,334 vehicles stolen in England and Wales, up from 91,354 thefts in 2016/17. The latest figures also mark a significant rise in recent years, up from a low of 70,053 thefts in 2013/14.

The most ‘at risk’ areas for car theft are: the West Midlands, London, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Warwickshire and Merseyside.

But, vans are also at risk of keyless theft as highlighted in Buzz last year with a two-fold increase in them being stolen without the owner’s keys. See http://www.fleetservicegb.co.uk/businesses-face-added-risk-as-keyless-van-theft-increases/

The Which? study of research from the General German Automobile Club (ADAC), which tested 237 keyless cars and found all but three of them – the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover and the Jaguar i-Pace – were susceptible to the relay attack, including four of the UK’s five best-selling cars.

All popular company cars they were the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus. Only the Vauxhall Corsa among the UK’s five top-selling cars was deemed safe from such attacks, because it was not available with keyless entry and start.

More than 30 motor manufacturers sell ‘insecure’ cars, according to the analysis, including Audi, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda, Toyota and Volvo. The full list is available at: https://dwkujuq9vpuly.cloudfront.net/news/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Cars-tested-by-ADAC.pdf

Which? said that car makers had sacrificed the security of scores of modern cars for the sake of convenience. Furthermore, with the number of cars being stolen on the rise, it demanded that manufacturers did more to make their cars more secure.

Harry Rose, editor of Which? Magazine, said: “With more than one car being stolen every seven minutes, it’s important that people can feel confident in the security of their vehicle. The fact that so many cars on the road are susceptible to keyless theft simply isn’t good enough. We want manufacturers to up their game when it comes to making their vehicles safe from theft.”

Vehicle tracking company Tracker said that 88% of all stolen vehicles it recovered in 2018 were stolen without using the owner’s keys, up from 80% in 2017 and 66% in 2016 – confirming that keyless theft was not just a threat, but a very harsh reality.

The company’s league table of the ‘Top 10 Most Stolen and Recovered Vehicles’, reveals that the BMW X5 was at number one in 2018 followed by: Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BME 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Range Rover Vogue, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Mercedes-Benz GLE.

Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, said: “Car theft is much lower than it was 30 years ago, but it’s on the rise again, with some pointing the finger at keyless technology. This is supported by our own data.

“Although premium models dominate the top 10, the opportunist thief will take any vehicle they can gain access to, so it’s vital that owners think about their vehicle security measures to make it harder for criminals.

“Vehicle security should be multi-layered and shouldn’t just rely on a keyless security system. Traditional physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps can help deter thieves, but in the event of a car being stolen, vehicle tracking technology plays a powerful role in outwitting thieves. Investing in a tracking device won’t stop a car being stolen, but it can significantly increase the chances of police locating it and returning it to the rightful owner.”

Motor manufacturers typically told Which? that they took car theft seriously and that they were constantly looking for ways to make vehicles more secure.

Additionally, as of January 2019, new cars should start to be better protected thanks to new criteria in the New Vehicle Security Assessment. Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, the UK body responsible for vehicle safety and security, said: “The new criteria will highlight the additional risk of vehicles susceptible to these attacks, and incentivise carmakers to introduce measures that secure their vehicles against electronic compromise.”

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.

Top tips to protect cars from theft:

  • Consider where car is parked at night, when cars are far more likely to be stolen. If not parked in a locked garage, consider investing in CCTV for a driveway or park in a well-lit area on the street.
  • Double check car doors are actually locked when using the remote-locking button on the key, in case thieves are trying to block the signal from the remote.
  • Always keep the car key out of sight at home and as far away from the front door as possible. If a keyless car, consider buying a metal case for the key fob as that can block the signal produced by the key. But be aware that the key needs to be completely surrounded by a metal layer, without even the slightest gap, to be protected from the relay attack.
  • Contact the car’s manufacturer to find out if any extra steps can be taken to protect a specific model.
  • Never leave valuables in plain sight, even only going to be away from the car for a short time.
  • Invest in a steering wheel lock. Even cheap ones will act as a deterrent, but a lock accredited by the police security initiative Secured By Design will be much harder for thieves to break – they cost around £120.

Source: Which?

Van drivers are risking crashes because of heavy loads, reveals new research

Van drivers are risking crashes by failing to leave enough distance to stop, according to new research that showed more than half did not know the impact that heavy loads had on braking distances.

The majority of vans carry up to half a tonne of equipment on a daily basis, according to a survey of 500 drivers, which could increase braking distances by up to 36% – equal to an extra five metres to stop at 60mph, according to vehicle tests undertaken by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

The brand conducted a series of brake tests at the MIRA Proving Grounds in Nuneaton on its range of vans, with the Caddy, Transporter and Crafter carrying varying weights from empty to 500kg at both 30mph and 60mph.

The results revealed that 30mph braking distances increased by an average of 33% when vans had half a tonne of ballast on board – equal to an extra two metres travelled. At 60mph, braking distances increased by an average of 19%, or five metres.

But research revealed that more than half of van drivers could not identify how much longer it would take to brake when driving a loaded van, while just 17% could correctly identify the Highway Code advised 30mph stopping distances. It states braking distances at 30mph are 14 metres with an additional nine metres of thinking time, meaning it takes an average of 23 metres to stop (six car lengths).

Other Highway Code stopping distances are:

  • 20mph, six metres braking distance and a further six metres of thinking time = 12 metres (three car lengths)
  • 40mph, 24 metres braking distance and a further 12 metres of thinking time = 36 metres (nine car lengths)
  • 50mph, 38 metres braking distance and a further 15 metres of thinking time = 53 metres (13 car lengths)
  • 60mph, 55 metres braking distance and a further 18 metres of thinking time = 73 metres (18 car lengths)
  • 70mph, 75 metres braking distance and a further 21 metres of thinking time = 96 metres (24 car lengths).

The above distances are described in the Highway Code as a “general guide”. The actual stopping distance will depend on a variety of factors – driver’s attention (thinking distance), road surface, weather conditions and vehicle condition – as well as load.

Carl zu Dohna, director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “This research highlights a lack of knowledge that could prove lethal. Braking distances in the Highway Code are based on an advised standard and don’t take into account the loads that many van drivers carry.

“Our research highlights an important safety message that van drivers could really benefit from. Whether they’re plumbers, landscape gardeners or construction workers, our customers regularly carry half a tonne of equipment and need to be aware they need to adjust their driving style to avoid having a costly, and potentially serious, accident.”

Supporting the research, Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, the motor insurers’ automotive research centre, said: “We would also encourage van drivers to ensure that loads are well-secured, as movement of heavy items in the rear can also effect stability and stopping distance.”

Volkswagen became the first van manufacturer in 2017 to standard fit Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) across its model line-up. It is claimed that if AEB was fitted to all commercial vehicles in the UK the technology had the potential to stop almost 2,500 crashes per year.

Fleets urged to tackle distraction driving to stem the tide of costly ‘avoidable crashes’

Fleets must “urgently tackle” the issue of distracted drivers at the wheel and overhaul their safety at work policies to help stem the tide of “avoidable crashes” on the UK’s roads, according safety experts.

What’s more, a new report by IAM RoadSmart, questions: “How can the balance best be struck between having employees constantly at-hand on their smartphone – and profit? Is our rush to ‘get the job done’ creating a false economy, given the high cost of fuel-use, damage, downtime and collisions?”

Stressing that “now was the time for business to double down on safety at work”, the report claimed that anecdotally, distraction driving was on the increase with fleets facing higher costs for damage and drivers facing fines and charges – despite legislative moves to clamp down on mobile phone mis-use while driving.

What’s more Fleet Service Great Britain says data it captures from fleets through its range of Achieve-branded vehicle, driver and journey management solutions highlights that the single biggest influence on operating costs is driver performance.

Additionally, with the steady rise of new, potentially-distracting in-car technology being added to vehicles by manufacturers – and with fleets leading on that front in terms of adoption – it was likely that incidents of distraction driving were “worsening”, claimed the report.

Furthermore, data from the Department for Transport revealed that the total number of reported driving collisions caused by distraction in 2017 had hardly changed in a decade – 4,639 in 2017 compared with 5,173 in 2007. However, said the report: “A disturbing feature of these collisions is the number where ‘driver using a mobile phone’ was a factor. Over the 10-year period from 2007 to 2017 this rose by 37%, from 565 to 773.”

The report, ‘Driving While Distracted: Challenges and Solutions’, said: “Cars are becoming ever safer, especially with the march of sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance (ADAS) technology. Surely, therefore, collisions caused by distractions should have seen a significant decrease in numbers?”

With figures suggesting that up to a third of road deaths in Britain involved someone on a journey for work purposes and each day, more than 150 vehicles driven on business were involved in a collision resulting in injury, the report argued that businesses had to “ask some long hard questions, plus have a robust company driver training policy that isn’t ignored”.

It concluded: “It is imperative that fleet managers – and their leaders – take a fresh look at professional driver training, to ensure that their employees reach the very highest standards.”

Marcus Bray, head of sales, Fleet Service GB, said: “Driver-influenced costs are the single largest drain on a company’s in-life fleet vehicle expenditure. Managing work-related road safety is critical to all businesses and key to that is compliance, but also disciplined driver performance.

“The uniqueness of our Achieve suite of programmes and tools is that they continuously record and measure both individual driver compliance and performance via a points process to compile a real-time driver history taking into account all key data to produce a ‘drive safe, stay safe’ employee mentality.”

The Department for Transport figures highlighted, in what the report called “a disturbing feature”, that the number of collisions in which ‘driver using a mobile phone’ was a distraction factor increased 37% over the 10-year period reviewed from 565 to 773.

IAM RoadSmart said that the growing trend of ‘nomophobia’ – the fear of being out of mobile phone contact – was particularly prevalent among business drivers, but employers could avoid it through consistent application of a mobile phone policy among employees.

Furthermore, said IAM RoadSmart, the advent of new driver assistance systems, which could tempt drivers to effectively be a passenger one minute and retake control the next were all adding to the need to ensure fleet managers “took distraction seriously”.

Dr Graham Hole, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, who is quoted in the report, believes that the worst of all worlds is semi-autonomous driving, saying that ‘humans are rubbish at being vigilant’. That’s why cars needed to keep drivers engaged and avoid them switching off during a journey, which meant that human involvement was crucial.

Adding in the fact that at-work drivers were “under time and cost pressures” and a dependence on technology such as satellite navigation and taking advantage of increasingly rich in-car entertainment, it meant it had “never been harder to concentrate on the task in hand; never harder for business to strike the right note on driving-for-work policy”, said the report.

It concluded: “This is why it is imperative that fleet managers – and their leaders – take a fresh look at professional driver training, to ensure that their employees reach the very highest standards – in the best vehicles available.

“This can only succeed if it is fully backed by a thorough company driver policy – a policy that is rigorously enforced and regularly audited, and that results in demonstrably better driver behaviour.

“Driver policy cannot exist in a vacuum, which is why it is equally critical that it becomes enshrined in business culture – supported at the highest echelons of every organisation.”

Tony Greenidge, IAM RoadSmart business development director, said: “With the increasing sophistication of in-car technology there is an unintended consequence that requires drivers – typically in real time – to decide how to best process and utilise the information provided.

“Employers also have a key role to play by ensuring that their travel and mobility policies allow drivers to take full advantage of technology but in a way that is both safe and legal.”

The report is available at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/rxx67238v6pk3l1/IAM_Whitepaper_2v14.pdf?dl=0

Fleets and motorists urged to be “document prepared” to drive in the EU post-Brexit

Fleets and drivers are being urged to think ahead about what documentation is needed when taking a vehicle abroad following the publication of further guidance by the government ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union on March 29.

With a no-deal Brexit seemingly a distinct possibility, drivers from the UK will need extra documentation to drive in the European Union and the European Economic Area*.

As Prime Minister Theresa May continues negotiations with the European Union in an attempt to secure a departure deal, the Department for Transport has published information on:

  • Driving licence requirements and International Driving Permits
  • Vehicle number plates and national identifiers (eg: a GB sign and a European Union flag)
  • Vehicle registration documents
  • Vehicle insurance requirements and Green Cards
  • Road traffic crashes in the European Union involving UK residents and European Union drivers visiting or living in the UK after Brexit.

With Easter (April 19-22) on the near-horizon when many people living in the UK may be driving in Europe and summer holidays to come, the call to ‘think ahead’ comes from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association.

Chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “We must do all we can to protect drivers from inadvertently falling foul of the rules, by making sure that they are kept well-informed about what documentation is required when taking a vehicle abroad.”

Driving licence requirements and International Driving Permits

Currently UK driving licence holders who live in the UK can drive in all European Union and European Economic Area countries using their UK driving licence. Should a European Union exit deal in the run-up to the UK’s departure date on March 29 be agreed that arrangement will continue.

What’s more, in the event that there is no European Union exit deal, the government has said that it would seek to put in place new arrangements for European Union and European Economic Area countries to recognise UK driving licences when people were visiting, for example on holiday or business trips.

However, in the interim from March 29, in the event of a no deal departure, an International Driving Permit in addition to a UK driving licence may be required to drive when visiting European Union and European Economic Area countries.

Currently, UK licence holders who live in the UK only require an International Driving Permit in addition to their UK driving licence to drive in some countries outside of the European Union and European Economic Area.

The UK currently issues two types of International Driving Permit to UK licence holders who are resident in the UK: the 1926 International Driving Permit and the 1949 International Driving Permit. But, from March 28, 2019 the UK will issue a third type of International Driving Permit: the 1968 International Driving Permit. At the same time, the type of International Driving Permit that some countries recognise will change.

To further complicate matters, the type of International Driving Permit required depends on the country/countries driving in.

Countries that are party to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic will no longer recognise 1926 and 1949 International Driving Permits issued by the UK. Instead a 1968 International Driving Permit may be required to drive in those countries. However, countries that have ratified a road traffic convention are not obliged to require visiting foreign drivers to carry an International Driving Permit. So, in some countries it may be possible to drive with a UK driving licence without an International Driving Permit.

The Department for Transport in its guidance said it was important for UK drivers to “check which type of International Driving Permit was needed to ensure the correct documentation for travels”.

Furthermore, International Driving Permits are no longer available by post from motoring organisations in addition to 65 Post Offices. Now they are only available in person from 2,500 Post Offices and are a likely requirement if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. An International Driving Permit costs £5.50.

The AA has warned that without a postal application service, companies with numerous drivers heading overseas may need to queue and wait alongside other Post Office customers.

It also means that drivers who forget to apply for their International Driving Permit before their trip cannot be sent one whilst on holiday if stopped by local police. Varying from nation to nation, said the AA, drivers could pick up a fine for not having an International Driving and Permit and vehicle insurance could be invalidated if involved in a crash.

The AA said: “While Brexit negotiations continue, European Union countries have not determined if they will accept a British licence in its current form. Therefore, the Government is recommending drivers apply for an International Driving Permit.”

Each European Union and European Economic Area country will decide if they require a foreign driver to have an International Driving Permit, in addition to a driving licence, to legally drive in their country.

In some circumstances UK residents may need more than one International Driving Permit depending on how many countries they are planning to drive through. For example, when driving through France a 1968 International Driving Permit is required but in Spain a 1949 International Driving Permit is needed. Information on which International Driving Permit is required on a country-by-country basis is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/international-driving-permits-for-uk-drivers-from-28-march-2019#contents

UK driving licence holders should not need an International Driving Permit to drive in Ireland from March 29, 2019. That’s because Ireland does not currently require International Driving Permits to be held by driving licence holders from non-European Union countries.

Additionally, people currently using a UK driving licence and who live in a European Union or European Economic Area country, from March 29, 2019 cannot use an International Driving Permit to guarantee that their UK licence will be recognised in that country. Therefore, if wishing to continue to drive, they should exchange their UK licence with a local licence, where that option exists.

While the UK is a member of the European Union, UK driving licences are directly exchangeable for European Union or European Economic Area country licences. However, from March 29, in the event that there is no exit deal, licence exchange arrangement will stop. Instead people will need to re-take their driving test in the European Union country where they live to be able to carry on driving there. If exchanging a licence, people will be able to re-gain their UK licence on returning to live in the UK, provided they passed their driving test in the UK or a designated country.

The government said: “People should consider exchanging their UK driving licence for a European Union driving licence as soon as possible. Increased demand may lead to longer processing times and delays to exchanging driving licences the closer it is to March 29, 2019.”

Finally, when the UK ratifies the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, arrangements will also change in some countries outside of the European Union and European Economic Area meaning that one of the three International Driving Permits will be required.

*The European Union countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The European Economic Area countries include European Union countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Vehicle number plates and national identifiers

Under international conventions, GB is the distinguishing sign to display on UK-registered vehicles when driving outside of the UK, including in the European Union and European Economic Area.

The AA is advising that many UK drivers may have to purchase GB stickers as their Euro-style ‘GB’ vehicle number plates may not be recognised under a no-deal Brexit.

However, drivers will not need a GB sticker to drive outside the UK if they replace a Euro-plate with a number plate that features the GB sign without the European Union flag.

Vehicle registration documents

In the event of a no-deal Brexit vehicle registration documents are required to be carried when driving abroad.

That means either a vehicle’s log book (V5C) or drivers of leased and rented vehicles have an obligation to obtain a VE103 certificate from their hire or lease company before taking their vehicle overseas.

Both the V5C and the VE103 are essential documentation that proves drivers have permission to drive the vehicle. Without that documentation, drivers could be subject to delays at the border, or in the worst instance, have their vehicle impounded.

Vehicle insurance requirements and Green Cards

The Association of British Insurers has urged drivers to contact their insurer for a Green Card – an international certificate of insurance – and take it with them if they wish to drive their vehicle in the European Union, the European Economic Area and some other countries (Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland) in the event of no-deal Brexit.

Green Cards will be required under regulations as proof of insurance. Those who travel without one may be breaking the law, which applies to both businesses and individuals. The same requirements will apply to European Union motorists travelling to the UK.

Although an agreement between the relevant European insurance authorities was made in May 2018 to waive the need for Green Cards in the event of a no deal Brexit, it has not been confirmed by the European Commission, hence the industry is planning on the basis of Green Cards being required.

Further information is available at: https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/choosing-the-right-insurance/motor-insurance/travelling-to-the-eu-if-a-no-deal-brexit/

Road traffic crashes in the European Union involving UK residents and European Union drivers visiting or living in the UK

In the event that there is no-deal, from March 29 UK residents involved in a road traffic crash in a European Union or European Economic Area country should not expect to be able to make a claim in respect of that incident via a UK-based Claims Representative or the UK Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).

Instead, UK residents involved in a road crash may need to bring a claim against either the driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the European Union or European Economic Area country where the incident happened. That may involve bringing the claim in the local language.

In the event of an accident in a European Union or European Economic Area country caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK residents may not receive compensation if there is no-deal. That, said the Department for Transport, would vary from country to country.

If involved in a road traffic crash in a European Union or European Economic Area country before March 29, 2019, drivers may need to bring legal proceedings in the UK against either the insurer or the MIB before that date. After that date, drivers may need to bring legal proceedings against either the responsible driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the European Union or European Economic Area instead.