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


Not available

Optional Extra


Driver Drowsiness/Distraction Alert




Intelligent Speed Assistance




Reversing Camera




Reversing Sensor




Data Recorder in case of an accident




Lane Keeping Assistance




Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB)




Crash test-improved seat belts




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!

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.”