UK small businesses charge towards van fleet electrification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fleets braced for car and van price rises as motor industry rages against ‘no deal’ Brexit

The motor industry has warned of the “catastrophic consequences” of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal on October 31 with fleets – and consumers – told to expect major new car, commercial vehicle and component price rises.

What’s more the imposition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs and the end of barrier-free trade would almost certainly mean the collapse of the motor industry’s ‘just-in-time’ business model resulting in delays in the import of vehicles and components, all adding to fleet operating costs.

Meanwhile, there have also been warnings that with the supply of plug-in vehicles in the European Union market already under pressure – the UK is currently the third largest market in the European Union for electric vehicles – a ‘no deal’ Brexit could further hamper UK supply.

A total of 23 organisations from across the European motor industry – including the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – have joined forces to stress the severe impact a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

With less than one month to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union, the organisations warned:

  • ‘No deal’ would trigger a seismic shift in trading conditions, with billions of Euros of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability on both sides of the Channel
  • The end of barrier-free trade could bring harmful disruption to the industry’s ‘just-in-time’ operating model, with the cost of just one minute of production stoppage in the UK alone amounting to €54,700 (£50,000)
  • WTO tariffs on cars and vans could add €5.7 billion (£5 billion) to the collective European Union-UK automotive trade bill, raising prices for customers if manufacturers cannot absorb the additional cost.

Automotive manufacturer leaders said that such disruption and cost “must be avoided, and that all effort should be made to deliver an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union”.

The imposition of trade tariffs would trigger price increases – unless brands and their retail networks could absorb the additional costs which some have already warned they cannot – with the possibility of:

  • The list price of cars rising by 10%
  • Commercial vehicle prices rising by up to 22% (an average 13.5% for light vans)
  • The cost of vehicle components by up to 4.5%.

It has been suggested that new car prices could rise by an average of £1,500-£1,800 and £70 could be added to the cost of a typical vehicle service.

What’s more, some motor manufacturers have previously warned that the burden of price rises could mean that available model choice was reduced.

Meanwhile, fleets can expect the in-life cost of vehicle operations to also rise as a result of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. Experts have suggested that service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs could rise by 10%, while such an increase – along with the rise in the price of components – would also trigger a surge in insurance premiums.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “European automotive is deeply integrated and the benefits of free and frictionless trade have helped our sector become one of Europe’s most valuable assets, delivering billions to economies and supporting millions of livelihoods across the European Union.

“A ‘no deal’ Brexit would have an immediate and devastating impact on the industry, undermining competitiveness and causing irreversible and severe damage. UK and European Union negotiators have a responsibility to work together to agree a deal or risk destroying this vital pillar of our economies.”

Sigrid de Vries, secretary general, of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), said: “The European automotive industry is operating highly integrated global supply chains. A single vehicle consists of around 30,000 parts many of which cross borders multiple times. Frictionless and tariff-free trade, as well as regulatory certainty, is vital. Brexit has a negative effect on all these aspects. Brexit, specifically a ‘no deal’ Brexit, will be seriously damaging to the supplier’s industry in Europe and the UK and must be avoided.”

Separately, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) said in a ‘no deal’ Brexit briefing note that the Government needed “to use existing regulatory and policy tools to ensure sufficient incentives for carmakers to sell ultra-low emission vehicles in the UK in the event of a ‘no deal’.

With motor manufacturers bound by fleet emission targets which if breached result in huge fines, the BVRLA said: “It is not clear in a ‘no deal’ that UK sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would count towards a manufacturer’s European Union carbon emissions targets, creating a disincentive to sell ultra-low emission vehicles into the UK market. This will impact our ability to achieve net zero emissions targets.”

Future Labour Government to lead electric car revolution: Fleets urged to go 100% plug-in by 2025

A future Labour Government would lead an ‘electric car revolution’ with car fleets urged to ‘go 100% electric’ by 2025 and a raft of financial measures revealed to speed up adoption of plug-in vehicles by businesses and consumers.

The far-reaching plan would also include the phasing out of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 – the current Conservative Government has said 10 years later in 2040.

What’s more, Labour’s shadow business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey has pledged to make the entire Government car fleet – 70,0000 vehicles – electric by 2025. The Conservative-led Government has said that it would aim for 25% of the fleet to be electric by 2022.

Calling Labour’s measures “part of the Green Industrial Revolution” that the Party planned to lead, Ms Long Bailey said: “For those [companies] that transition their entire fleet to electric vehicles by 2025 we will install charging stations in workplaces and depots. In this way Labour will ensure the right conditions are in place for an electric vehicle revolution on our roads.”

The charge towards electric cars and vans was revealed by Ms Long Bailey in a string of related announcements at this week’s Labour Party Conference in Brighton. They included:

  • Providing ‘certainty’ on company car benefit-in-kind tax by maintaining the existing schedule for pure electric vehicles at 2% beyond 2022/23
  • Waiving for two years the £320 Vehicle Excise Duty surcharge on electric vehicles with a list price above £40,000 purchased for fleet use
  • A vehicle scrappage scheme to take 400,000 of the ‘dirtiest cars’ over 10 years old off the roads thereby saving buyers £2,000 per vehicle. The scheme would initially be available for one year
  • £2.5 million to fund interest-free loans of up to £33,000 to support low to middle income households, those living in rural areas and independent contractors and SMEs purchase new electric cars. The Government would cover the £1,500 cost of interest on a loan, with individuals saving up to £5,000 over time. A total of 500,000 interest free loans would be issued every year, for five years. The maximum loan size of £33,000 in year one would reduce as electric vehicle costs fell and would be issued by car manufacturers and dealers, but guaranteed by the Government
  • Investing £3.6 billion in building charging networks, more than 72,000 charging banks, in towns and along motorways
  • Investing £300 million to support the creation of ‘community car clubs’ owned by the community, thus emulating private companies like Zipcar, so making access to 30,000 electric vehicles “as easy as ordering a pizza” with models rented via an app
  • Making £3 billion available to invest in new electric car models and technology, to enable vehicle manufacturers to bring new electric car models into production
  • Investing more than £2 billion towards the construction of three battery ‘gigafactories’ (plants) in South Wales, Stoke and Swindon – potentially on the current Honda site – to manufacture the batteries needed for electric cars.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association welcomed Labour’s package of measures to drive fleet demand for electric vehicles.

Chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “It is reassuring to see fleets being acknowledged in this announcement as it indicates a degree of understanding and appreciation of the key role that fleets play in delivering the UK’s zero emission goals.”

However, he added: “We welcome the proposed removal of the £320 surcharge for electric vehicles, which was one of our recent pre-Budget 2019 calls to the Chancellor, but this on its own will not be enough for fleets to meet this 2025 target.

“We need to remove some of the uncertainties that are currently stifling progress. The fleet sector needs some long-term clarity on future company car tax rates for electric vehicles. We would also like to see continued support for the Plug-in Car Grant to at least 2025.”

Labour said that the rapid roll out of charging stations would eliminate concerns over driving range and lack of electric car charging infrastructure by providing enough electric charge points for 21.5 million electric cars – 65% of the UK’s fleet – by 2030. That, it claimed, would double the number of electric cars that the Conservative Government was planning for by 2030.

The networks, said Ms Long Bailey, would  be made up of ‘en-route’ ultra-fast charge stations along motorways, and a mixture of ‘about town’ rapid and ultra-fast charge stations in more urban environments.

On the expansion of the UK’s electric vehicle charging networks, Ms Long Bailey said: “The Tories have sat on their hands as air pollution poisons our children and the climate emergency intensifies. Their inaction on electric charging infrastructure has held back the transition to cleaner vehicles and put our industry behind the curve.

“Labour is ready to jumpstart an electric car revolution. We will roll out electric vehicle charging infrastructure to every city, town and village, and along our motorways. Under Labour, nobody buying an electric car needs to worry about running out of fuel.”

Electricity, she said, would be generated from renewable sources and distributed by Labour’s publicly owned grid and newly-created National and Regional Energy Agencies. Those bodies would also oversee the roll out of the electric vehicle charging networks and create up to 3,000 new jobs for electricians and network engineers.

Ms Long Bailey also highlighted the importance of “accelerating the shift away from cars driven by fossil fuels” to electric cars powered by wind and solar as becoming more urgent to tackle what she called “the climate emergency”.

She said: “On day one of a Labour government, we will begin a broad consultation with industry and trade unions exploring the transition from internal combustible engine to zero emission vehicles at the earliest possible opportunity. It is our objective to secure through these discussions a rapid but just transition that ensures the necessary infrastructure and support for skilled manufacturing jobs is in place with a firm ambition to phase out the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030.”

Claiming that the current Government “lacked ambition” on electrification, Ms Long Bailey said: “We need to accelerate the shift away from fossil-powered cars if we’re to tackle the climate emergency. If we want our automotive sector to flourish, we need a Government which is not afraid to intervene. Labour’s electric car revolution support package will accelerate the electrification process.”

Additionally, a further £500 million would be available by a Labour Government for research and development to encourage the UK to become a world leader in electric, connected and autonomous car technology.

‘Outdated’ mobile phone legislation must be reviewed and extended to improve road safety

Calls have been made for the Government to update the law on the use of a mobile phone while driving – including banning the use of hands-free phones.

Safety organisations say that mobile phone use has evolved beyond the legislation that was introduced in 2003, which states that an offence is committed if a driver uses a hand-held mobile phone for ‘interactive communication’ behind the wheel.

Furthermore, a new report from the House of Commons Transport Committee says the Government should consider tougher restrictions on driving while using a mobile phone and stricter enforcement of the law to prevent the ‘entirely avoidable’ tragedy of deaths and serious injuries from related crashes on the roads

The calls come in the wake of a High Court ruling overturning the conviction of a builder for driving while using a mobile phone to record footage of a road crash in west London in August last year. Judges ruled that using a function on a mobile phone which did not involve ‘interactive telecommunication’, was not a mobile phone offence.

Claiming that the current law was “not fit for purpose” and that ‘interactive communication’ was an “outdated concept”, road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist said: “The Government must immediately update wording of mobile phone legislation.”

MPs on the Committee agreed as they have called on the Government to overhaul current laws on using hand-held mobile devices while driving, to cover use irrespective of whether it involves sending or receiving data.

Additionally, as evidence showed that using a hands-free device created the same risks of crashing, the Committee also recommended that the Government explored options for extending the ban on hand-held devices to hands-free phones. It wants a public consultation on the extension published by the end of the year.

MPs on the Transport Committee in a report, ‘Road Safety: Driving While Using a Mobile Phone’, said there was clear evidence that “using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous, with potentially catastrophic consequences”.

In 2017, there were 773 casualties, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, in collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor. The number of people killed or seriously injured has risen steadily since 2011, according to the Department for Transport.  

The High Court overturned the conviction of 51-year-old builder Ramsey Baretto, who had been using his phone to film the scene of a collision as he drove by. Lady Justice Thirlwall said: “The legislation does not prohibit all use of a mobile phone while driving. It prohibits driving while using a mobile phone or other device for calls and other interactive communications – and holding it at some stage during that process.”

She continued that the ruling was not “the green light for people to make films as they drive” and acknowledged that, despite the weakness in the law, drivers who did choose to use a mobile phone behind the wheel could still be prosecuted for more serious offences such as careless or dangerous driving.

Lady Justice Thirlwall concluded: “Whether a review of the regulations is necessary to take account of the myriad current and potentially dangerous uses of a mobile phone or other device while driving is a matter for Parliament, not the courts.”

The judgement could now pave the way for other defendants who felt misrepresented to challenge their similar convictions in a bid to have them quashed.

Mr Baretto’s legal firm Patterson Law, a specialist firm of UK motoring lawyers, said in a statement: “We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of this case. We have been arguing for many years that the legislation in relation to the offence of using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving a motor vehicle has failed to keep pace with the evolution of smart phones. The increasing multi-functionality of smart phones was, in fact, making a mockery of the law.”

Reflecting on the Hugh Court ruling, Patterson Law said: “This is not a loophole argument/defence. This is simply the correct application and understanding of the law as it currently stands. The issue was that the law as it stood created anomalies and confusion. We now have the clarity in this judicial precedent to match what we had been correctly advocating on behalf of our clients for many many years.”

GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “The Government’s failure to bring legislation up to date is putting lives at risk. We now have an absurd situation where the wording of the law is insufficient and cumbersome, only stating ‘interactive communication’ as an illegal use of a mobile phone when driving, when we know it is clearly unsafe to use a mobile phone for any purpose when driving.”

Specific laws applying to the use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving were introduced in December 2003. The penalties have gradually increased over the years and are now a standard fine of £200 and six penalty points, with a maximum of up to £1,000 and six points. The fine can rise to £2,500 if driving a bus, coach or HGV. Under current UK case law, ‘driving’ includes being stationary if a vehicle’s engine is running, including in traffic queues and at traffic lights. It is not a specific offence to use a hands-free mobile phone while driving.

Mr Worth said: “Although penalties have increased, the specific wording of the law governing mobile phones and driving has not changed for 16 years. We are writing to the Government urging it to update the legislation at the earliest opportunity. This will ensure it is fit for purpose, and will avoid further compromise to road safety.”

Mr Baretto was convicted in July last year after a magistrates’ court trial. He then appealed to the crown court and had the conviction overturned. The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently launched a legal challenge in the High Court claiming that the legislation prohibited all hand-held mobile phone use while driving.

Transport Committee chairman Lilian Greenwood MP, said: “Despite the real risk of catastrophic consequences for themselves, their passengers and other road users, far too many drivers continue to break the law by using hand-held mobile phones. 

“If mobile phone use while driving is to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving much more effort needs to go into educating drivers about the risks and consequences of using a phone behind the wheel. Offenders also need to know there is a credible risk of being caught, and that there are serious consequences for being caught.

“There is also a misleading impression that hands-free use is safe. The reality is that any use of a phone distracts from a driver’s ability to pay full attention and the Government should consider extending the ban to reflect this.

“Each death and serious injury which results from a driver using a mobile phone is a tragedy that is entirely avoidable. We need tougher restrictions, better enforcement and more education to make our roads safer for all.”

GEM Motoring Assist’s tips on mobile phones and driving

  • Drivers are allowed to use a mobile phone when safely parked, with the engine off and the handbrake on
  • Do not pick up a phone in any other driving situation, including when stationary at traffic lights or queueing in traffic
  • The only exception to the above is if it is an emergency and it would be unsafe or impractical to stop, in which case call 999
  • Do not assume that using a hands-free kit means the risk has been dealt with. Drivers are still allowing themselves to be distracted from the task of safe driving, and could still be prosecuted for not being in control of a vehicle (an offence that carries a £100 fine and three penalty points)
  • Take a few minutes before a journey to make important calls or to check voice messages and emails. Work together with friends, family, colleagues and work contacts to remove the expectation of availability at all times
  • Plan journeys to build in breaks from driving, where calls, texts or emails can be sent or checked or to interact with social media in a safe environment.

‘Must have’ air conditioning drives van values up and delivers a return on investment

Air conditioning is the new light commercial vehicle ‘must have’ feature driving residual values up by around 40% in some cases, according to latest analysis by remarketing giant BCA.

While air conditioning for cars is commonplace, it remains an option for vans and is not widely fitted across the UK’s light commercial vehicle parc. 

Consequently, the ‘driver comfort’ feature is hugely ‘desirable’ at remarketing time, according to BCA, with values typically outstripping standard vehicles by a considerable distance – well over £1,000 on average it is claimed, thus delivering a return on the upfront cost of fitting air conditioning as an optional extra.

BCA’s data analysis of sold vans at its auction showed that those fitted with air conditioning outperformed those without the option by a considerable margin in values achieved, performance against guide values and conversion rates.

Across all large panel vans sold by BCA during 2019 to date, vehicles sold with air conditioning averaged £6,440, equivalent to 102% of CAP ‘clean’, while those without averaged £5,374 (97.3% CAP ‘clean’) – a £1,066 benefit. The sales conversion uplift for large panel vans with air conditioning was a ‘substantial’ 15.5%, said BCA.

For small panel vans, vehicles with air conditioning averaged £7,975 (104.7% CAP ‘clean’), compared to £6,319 (99.3% CAP ‘clean’), a £1,656 increase in value – more than 26%. The sales conversion improved by nearly 5%.

Car-derived vans averaged £4,912 (103.7% CAP ‘clean’) at BCA during 2019 if fitted with air conditioning, and £3,499 (98.9% CAP ‘clean’) without, a ‘substantial’ 40.3% or £1,413 increase in value. Car-derived vans with air conditioning also saw a large increase of 11.5% in conversion rates.

The biggest value differential in favour of vehicles fitted with air-con was seen in the 4×4 Doublecab Pick Up sector. Values increased from £8,783 (99.8% CAP ‘clean’) without the option, to £10,514 (101.1% CAP ‘clean’) with air conditioning, generating a £1,731 uplift in value and a 3.8% improvement in conversion rates.

Jon Gilbert (pictured), BCA’s business development director, light commercial vehicles, said: “While it is to be expected that air conditioning will add value in the used light commercial vehicle market, the real uplift in value now appears to compare very favourably with the front-end costs of specifying this option.

“Light commercial vehicles with air conditioning are highly valued by professional buyers at BCA, because these are the vehicles their retail customers want to buy. For vans that are doing longer distance delivery work, or in a tradesman’s vehicle that doubles as the family transport at the weekend, air conditioning is exceptionally appealing. This is particularly apparent in the car-derived van sector where values increased by more than 40% and in 4×4 Doublecab Pick Ups, which saw the largest increase in value.”

Mr Gilbert continued: “Not only were remarketing values substantially improved, the sales conversion rate rose by up to 15.5% for large panel vans, making air conditioning a win: win option for light commercial vehicle operators specifying new vans for their fleets.”

He concluded: “These figures underline that up-speccing commercial vehicles at acquisition time can deliver real benefits to van operators.  A better specification will make a van more desirable and saleable, and higher-spec vehicles will often sell the first time they are offered, improving cash-flow for the seller.”

April 6, 2020 the ‘critical’ tax date as fleet chiefs and drivers weigh up company car replacement schedules and powertrain choices

Company car benefit-in-kind tax calculations highlight the complexity facing fleet managers and drivers as to whether vehicles should be replaced before or after April 6, 2020 – and the critical powertrain choice to the decision-making process.

In simple terms when choosing a new company car: If opting for a 100% electric model then delay replacement until after April 6, 2020 as huge benefit-in-kind tax savings will be made; if selecting a plug-in hybrid vehicle then the decision-making is less clear-cut, although a small tax saving can be made after that date; if deciding to drive a petrol or diesel car then the tax bill will be higher if the vehicle is registered after April 6, 2020.

Calculations following the Government’s company car benefit-in-kind tax announcement outlining rates for the three years 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 and whether or not cars are first registered before or after April 6, 2020 – see http://www.fleetservicegb.co.uk/new-company-car-tax-regime/ – makes clear the importance of that date linked to the choice of fuel.

From April 6, 2020 company car benefit-in-kind tax is based on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as measured under the new Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), which replaces the long-established New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test.

Adding further complexity, and with specific reference to diesel cars, is the availability – or currently lack of – models that meet the new Real Driving Emissions Step 2 (RDE2) standard.

However, inquiries to motor manufacturers reveal that many have yet to publish WLTP-derived CO2 figures thus making direct comparisons with current company car benefit-in-kind tax bills impossible, and only a handful of RDE2-compliant diesel cars are on the market.

Nevertheless, what is clear is that despite the Government reducing rates by two percentage points on most company cars first registered from April 6, 2020, the benefit-in-kind tax burden is likely to be higher after that date than before on petrol and diesel cars. That is because the rate reduction is not sufficient to wipe out the rise in CO2 emissions under WLTP testing versus the NEDC-correlated CO2 figure – an interim calculation pending full WLTP CO2 adoption.

The following examples for each key powertrains – 100% electric, plug-in hybrid, petrol and diesel – illustrate the dilemma facing fleet decision-makers and drivers.

100% electric

The Nissan leaf is the UK’s best-selling ‘pure’ electric car. Using the five-door 40k 150 Acenta auto model (P11D value: £31,440), which has a homologated WLTP driving range of 168 miles, as an example shows the benefit-in-kind tax saving potential of switching to 100% electric.

In 2019/20 the company car benefit-in-kind tax rate on the model – and all other zero emission models – is 16%. That means a basic rate (20%) taxpayer is paying £1,006 in company car benefit-in-kind tax and higher rate tax payers (40%) £2,012.

However, the Government’s ‘green’ agenda means that in in 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 – irrespective of whether a car is first registered before or after April 6, 2020 – the tax bill will be £0 next year rising to £63 (20% taxpayer) and £126 (40% taxpayer) in 2021/22 and £126 (20% taxpayer) and £252 (40% taxpayer) in 2022/23. That means in the three years 2020/21-2022/23 a basic rate taxpayer will pay company car benefit-in-kind tax on the model of just £189 and a higher rate taxpayer only £378 – an unprecedented low burden.

Kalyana Sivagnanam, managing director of Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd, said: “We welcome these latest tax changes, which will add a further financial incentive for company car drivers to switch to zero emissions fleet vehicles and help accelerate demand for electric cars.”

Plug-in hybrid electric

The best-selling plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is the Mitsubishi Outlander. Selecting the 2.4h Dynamic auto model (P11D value: £38,500) with a zero emission range of 28 miles and a current CO2 figure of 40g/km sees the model fall in to the 16% benefit-in-kind tax rate band in 2019/20. That means a tax bill of £1,232 for a basic rate taxpayer and £2,464 for a higher rate taxpayer. In 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 on cars first registered before April 6, 2020 the tax burden reduces to 14% meaning a bill of £1,078 for a basic rate taxpayer and £2,156 for a higher rate taxpayer.

However, benefit-in-kind tax on the same model – the WLTP CO2 emissions figure rises to 46g/km – first registered from April 6, 2020 and total savings of £231 (20% taxpayer) and £462 (40% taxpayer) can be made in 2020/21 and 2021/22 before equalising in 2022/23 with a model registered prior to April 6, 2020. In 202021 the car will fall into the 12% tax bracket (£924/1,848), rising to 13% in 2021/22 (£1,001/£2,002) and to 14% in 2022/23 (£1,078/£2,156).

Diesel

Diesel has been the powertrain of choice for fleets and company car drivers since the introduction of CO2-based benefit-in-kind tax almost 20 years ago.

Now facing a four percentage point benefit-in-kind tax penalty unless cars meet the WLTP-related RDE2 emission standard, which is not mandatory until January 2021, the issue for fleet decision-makers and company car drivers is that few such models are currently available.

While selecting an RDE2-compliant will generate a tax saving versus a non-compliant model, delaying vehicle replacement until after April 6, 2020 is likely to mean that a wider choice of RDE2-compliant models is available as they arrive in showrooms.

However, the impact of WLTP testing will almost certainly not be enough to wipe out a higher CO2 emissions figure on those cars registered post April 6, 2020 compared to those registered prior to that date. Therefore, even if choosing a new RDE2-compliant diesel model the sensible move could be to replace now and not wait until April 6, 2020.

The entry-level RDE2-compliant Vauxhall Astra five-door hatchback 1.5 105PS Turbo D six-speed manual has a CO2 figure of 95g/km, which in SE trim has a P11D value of £19,720. With the car in the 23% tax bracket in 2019/20 the tax charge is £907 (basic rate taxpayer) and £1,814 (higher rate taxpayer) rising to £947/£1,893 in the following three financial years as the model then drops into the 24% tax bracket.

Vauxhall provided provisional ‘range’ WLTP CO2 figures of 117-125g/km for the entry-level diesel engine. Assuming the same model/trim combination is registered after April 6, 2020 and the car sits at the bottom end of the ‘range’ it will fall into the 26% tax bracket in 2020/21 giving a tax charge of £1,025 (basic rate taxpayer) and £2,051 (higher rate taxpayer) rising to £1,065/£2,130 in 2021/22 as the model falls into the 27% tax bracket and £1,104/£2,209 in 2022/23 as the model then drops into the 28% tax bracket.

Therefore, taking delivery of the model prior to April 6, 2020 will in the tax years 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 deliver a tax saving of £353 (basic rate taxpayer) and £711 (higher rate taxpayer) versus a post-April 6, 2020 first registered model when WLTP CO2 figures are applied.

The Jaguar XF 163PS and 180PS diesel rear-wheel drive variants are among the first RDE2-compliant models to be launched.

The entry-level XF 2.0 four cylinder turbocharged 163PS Prestige diesel saloon (P11D value £34,725) has an NEDC-correlated CO2 emissions figure of 124g/km putting the model in the 28% benefit-in-kind tax bracket in 2019/20 giving a charge of £1,945 (basic rate taxpayer) and £3,889 (higher rate taxpayer). For a car registered prior to April 6, 2020 the tax burden rises to 29% in 2020/21-2022/23 giving a tax charge of £2,014 (basic rate taxpayer) and £4,028 (higher rate taxpayer). The previous non-RDE2-compliant model had CO2 emissions of 134g/km, which would have put it in the 34% benefit-in-kind tax bracket in 2019/20 rising to 35% in 2020/21-2022/23. However, Jaguar was unable to provide WLTP CO2 figures so benefit-in-kind tax bills on a model registered after April 6, 2020 cannot be calculated.

Audi has made its WLTP CO2 figures available and they clearly show the impact of the new emissions testing procedure on benefit-in-kind tax bills. For example, the entry-level A4 2.0 TDI 136PS S tronic Technik saloon (P11D value: £34,275) has an NEDC-correlated CO2 emissions figure of 103g/km that rises to 134g/km under WLTP testing for a standard specification model.

In 2019/20 the model falls into the 28% tax bracket giving a tax bill of £1.919/£3,838 before rising into the 29% tax bracket for the following three financial years giving an annual tax bill of £1,988/£3,976. However, Audi has yet to launch any RDE2-compliant cars so the model, if first registered after April 6, 2020, falls into the 33% tax bracket in 2020/21 giving a tax bill of £2,262/£4,524 rising to 34% in 2021/22 (£2,331/£4,661) and 35% in 2022/23 (£2,399/£4,798). That means over the three years 2020/21-2022/23 a basic rate taxpayer driver will pay an additional £1,028 in benefit-in-kind tax (£2,055 higher rate taxpayer) clearly showing the impact of the WLTP testing regime on CO2 emissions – and tax bills.

Petrol

Audi and Vauxhall are among very few vehicle manufacturers that were able to provide WLTP CO2 figures, despite the importance of the data for fleet decision-makers and company car drivers to calculate vehicle choices and the benefit-in-kind tax burden from April 6, 2020.

The Audi A4 saloon is a popular company car and the 2.0 TFSI 150PS S tronic Technik saloon (P11D value: £32,075) has an NEDC-correlated CO2 emissions figure of 126g/km that rises to 150g/km under WLTP testing for a standard specification model.

In 2019/20 the model falls into the 29% tax bracket giving a tax bill of £1,860/£3,721 before rising into the 30% tax bracket for the following three financial years giving an annual tax bill of £1,924£3,849.

However, due to the impact of WLTP, the model, if first registered after April 6, 2020, falls into the 33% tax bracket in 2020/21 giving a tax bill of £2,117/£4,234 rising to 34% in 2021/22 (£2,181/£4,362) and 35% in 2022/23 (£2,345/£4,490). That means over the three years 2020/21-2022/23 a basic rate taxpayer driver will pay an additional £771 in benefit-in-kind tax (£1,539 higher rate taxpayer) clearly showing the impact of the WLTP testing regime on CO2 emissions and thus tax bills and why it makes sense to, if possible, replace prior to April 6, 2020.

The new Vauxhall Astra 1.2 110PS model in SE trim has an NEDC-correlated CO2 emissions figure of 99g/km that rises to a ‘range’ of 119-126g/km depending on exact specification under WLTP testing.

In 2019/20 the model falls into the 23% tax bracket giving a tax bill of £860/£1,720 before rising into the 24% tax bracket for the following three financial years giving an annual tax bill of £898/£1,795.

However, due to the impact of WLTP, the model, if first registered after April 6, 2020 and assuming it has a CO2 emissions figure at the bottom end of the range, falls into the 26% tax bracket in 2020/21 giving a tax bill for that year of £972/£1,945. In 2021/22 the model will be in the 27% tax bracket and in 2022/23 the 28% tax bracket giving respective annual tax bills of £1,010/£2,019 and £1,047/£2,094.

That means over the three years 2020/21-2022/23 a basic rate taxpayer driver will pay an additional £335 in benefit-in-kind tax (£673 higher rate taxpayer) clearly showing the impact of the WLTP testing regime on CO2 emissions and thus tax bills.

Conclusion

Reviewing company car choice lists and profiling driver journey and mileage usage per individual is critical to arrive at the optimum vehicle and powertrain solution on a model-by-model, driver-by-driver basis.

Long gone are the days of a ‘blanket’ powertrain solution with a so-called ‘blended’ solution embracing 100% electric, plug-in hybrid, petrol and diesel almost certainly key.

However, rarely can a single date – April 6, 2020 – be so critical in the fleet calendar. To replace before or after that date alongside the powertrain choice could save, or cost, drivers hundreds of pounds a year in benefit-in-kind tax.

It should also be remembered that the CO2-related company car benefit-in-kind tax change will also impact on the fuel benefit charge if drivers are in receipt of employer-provided fuel for private journeys and employer Class 1A National Insurance contributions.

Idling drivers could face higher fines under new Government crackdown

Drivers who leave their vehicle engines running while parked could face tougher penalties under new Government proposals to further improve air quality.

Councils already have the power to fine drivers, but the Department for Transport is looking at toughening up those powers to try and put a stop to unnecessary air pollution.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling intends to launch a public consultation later this summer, looking at increasing fines for idling drivers. According to some reports drivers could be fined up to £1,000, but the Government has yet to announce fine levels, which are likely to be revealed in the forthcoming consultation document.

Engine idling is already an offence, but not widely enforced by local authorities or the police. Rule 123 of The Highway Code looks at ‘The Driver and the Environment’ and states that drivers must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.

Local authorities have the power to issue £20 fixed penalties for emission offences and stationary idling under The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002. Under other legislation a fine of £80 can be imposed if a driver ignores a warning and continues to idle for at least a minute.

Vehicle idling is a major factor in poor air quality, particularly in areas with large numbers of waiting vehicles – such as outside schools, at taxi ranks and bus stations.

Mr Grayling said: “We are determined to crack down on drivers who pollute our communities by leaving their engines running.

“Putting a stop to idling is an easy way to drive down dangerously high levels of pollution, reducing its impact on the environment and our health.”

The Government’s plans, which the Department for Transport said would represent the biggest change to the rules since 2002, would also provide guidance to local authorities on their anti-idling powers, enabling them to enforce the law more effectively.

The consultation will also explore how to deal with repeat offenders who keep their engines running following several warnings.

In respect of engine idling, The Highway Code additionally says: “Generally, if the vehicle is stationary and is likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, you should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution. However, it is permissible to leave the engine running if the vehicle is stationary in traffic or for diagnosing faults.”

Businesses fail to communicate and implement a robust driving for work policy to keep employees safe, says new report

Businesses are failing to communicate and implement a robust driving for work policy to keep those who drive for work safe, according to a major survey of employers and executive directors.

Furthermore, the survey revealed a tension between what executive directors’ claim and what their employees say is happening while driving for work.

The study commissioned by Driving for Better Business (DfBB), the Government-backed Highways England programme to raise awareness of the business benefits that come from improved management of occupational road risk, highlighted dangerous attitudes and behaviours of executive directors – and staff – that put the safety of employees who drive for work at risk.

A driving for work policy sets out the standards required of drivers in order to ensure that any business driving activities are compliant with all relevant legislation and guidelines. What’s more, Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) is working with a number of customers to check and, if necessary, update their policies.

Executive directors, said DfBB, needed to ensure a policy was comprehensive, regularly reviewed, communicated effectively to drivers, and that compliance with the policy was monitored.

Improving occupational road risk management of employees who drive company-provided vehicles as well as those driving their own cars on work-related journeys – the so-called ‘grey fleet’ – is one of the key reasons behind Fleet Service GB’s development of its Achieve-branded programme of services including Achieve Driver Management, Achieve Crash Management, Achieve Maintenance Management, Achieve Fleet Manager, Achieve Management Services, as well as its garage network, Achieve Fleet Service Partnership.

The fully-integrated work-related road safety programme unites all aspects of the vehicle and driver management process – eligibility to drive, crash history, vehicle maintenance record, motoring offences and data collected via telematics and other on-board vehicle technologies – to provide managers with a single silo of live and dynamic data with no requirement to access a ‘mishmash’ of sources.

Building on Fleet Service GB’s established driver risk profiler incorporating driver licence checking and driver training, Achieve is a sophisticated continuous driver management programme that uses the very latest IT functionality to compile a driver risk profile delivering analysis and action prompts.

Head of sales Marcus Bray 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 Achieve is that it continuously records and measures 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 DfBB study of 1,006 UK employees and 255 executive directors highlighted numerous “failures” by UK bosses to implement driving for work policy including:

  • Despite three quarters (75%) of executives polled saying they ensured employees were aware of their legal obligations in relation to driving for work, nearly half of ‘grey fleet’ employees surveyed (45%) who used their personal car for work said they had not been given a copy of their employer’s driving for work policy.
  • 60% of executives were unsure if or how many employees used their own car for business trips, yet 90% of drivers made work journeys in their own cars despite one in three not being insured to do so. A total of 44% of executives said their organisations did not check that workers who used their personal car for business journeys had a valid driving licence.
  • Almost half (49%) of executives expected their employees to answer their mobile phone at any time, with one in six employees who drove for work (17%) saying they had been involved in an incident when driving for work due to a phone call from a colleague. Despite that it is illegal, one in 20 executives and one in eight employees thought the hard shoulder was a safe place to take a phone call.
  • 75% of employees said they used their personal cars for work journeys at least once a week, yet a third of those drivers (33%) were not insured to do so – saying they did not have cover for business use on their vehicle insurance.

The survey also found a poor approach to vehicle checks and maintenance by employees. Nearly three quarters of employees who drive for work (74%) said when they checked their tyres they simply took a quick glance to see that tyres looked ‘OK’.

Simon Turner, DfBB campaign manager, said: “The report shows a disparity between what employers and employees are saying when driving for work. Business leaders are failing to communicate and implement a robust driving for work policy to keep those who drive for work safe, particularly for those who use their personal cars. Leaders are failing to carry out basic due diligence checks such as ensuring that all employees have a driving licence or vehicle insurance.

“At the same time, the study highlights employees are putting themselves at risk while driving for work, not checking that vehicles are roadworthy and exhibit reckless behaviours when using their mobile phone.”

Mr Turner continued: “As a way of reducing occupational road risk and safeguarding employee wellbeing, a dual responsibility by business leaders and employees is needed. Leaders must implement a driving for work policy that enforces legal and ethical obligations on all employees that drive on work-related journeys. Regular checks need to be put in place to ensure that employees have read and understood the guidelines laid out in the driving for work policy. In doing so, the associated risk to road users and pedestrians is reduced.

“A good practice driving for work policy ensures that at a minimum, organisations are compliant with all relevant legislation and guidelines. Once implemented, these policies complement more general employee safety and wellness programmes as well as introduce efficiencies that reduce costs associated with employees that drive for work purposes.”

mon Turner, DfBB campaign manager, said: “The report shows a disparity between what employers and employees are saying when driving for work. Business leaders are failing to communicate and implement a robust driving for work policy to keep those who drive for work safe, particularly for those who use their personal cars. Leaders are failing to carry out basic due diligence checks such as ensuring that all employees have a driving licence or vehicle insurance.

“At the same time, the study highlights employees are putting themselves at risk while driving for work, not checking that vehicles are roadworthy and exhibit reckless behaviours when using their mobile phone.”

Mr Turner continued: “As a way of reducing occupational road risk and safeguarding employee wellbeing, a dual responsibility by business leaders and employees is needed. Leaders must implement a driving for work policy that enforces legal and ethical obligations on all employees that drive on work-related journeys. Regular checks need to be put in place to ensure that employees have read and understood the guidelines laid out in the driving for work policy. In doing so, the associated risk to road users and pedestrians is reduced.

The DfBB report is available at: https://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com/resources/dfbb-publications/leadership-survey-2019/