Private parking fines surge to record high as new law brings greater transparency to the ‘scourge of fleets’

The number of penalty tickets issued to drivers parking on private land – the scourge of both fleet operators and company car and van drivers – has leapt by more than one million in just 12 months to a new high, the latest official figures suggests.

RAC Foundation’s analysis of Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data shows that in the last financial year (2018/19) 6.8 million sets of vehicle keeper records were released to private car parking management companies. The figure is almost 20% higher than in 2017/18 (5.65 million) and 10 times the volume a decade ago (2008/9: 687,000).

Indeed, Fleet Service Great Britain has recorded a significant year-on-year increase in the number of penalty tickets handled on behalf of customers in relation to their drivers parking on private land. While some of that increase is undoubtedly due to a rise in the number of customers and therefore fines managed on their behalf, the company still handled more than 360 private land parking tickets last year and in the first four months of this year the figure is 160.

The huge number of penalty tickets issued against drivers in relation to parking ‘misdemeanours’ on private land has been a major fleet issue for many years and fleet decision-makers’ organisation ACFO has called for a change in practices within the unregulated sector to stem the flood of penalty tickets.

Change is underway as earlier this year MP Sir Greg Knight’s private members’ bill Parking (Code of Practice) became law – the Parking (Code of Practice) Act. The new legislation lays the framework for the establishment of: a single, Government-sanctioned, industry-wide Code of Practice; a single independent appeals service; and an independent ombudsman to oversee the behaviour of the parking industry.

Presently all private parking firms wanting to access the vehicle-keeper data held by the DVLA need to be members of an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) and abide by that ATA’s Code of Practice. There are currently two ATAs: the British Parking Association and the International Parking Community. Additionally, both ATAs have established appeals bodies to which drivers can take their cases to assess the validity of tickets if initial appeals to member firms themselves fail.

In introducing the new law to protect drivers, the Government called against the rogue private parking industry the ‘Wild West’. It says the Code of Practice covering England, Wales, and Scotland, will ensure parking is consistent, transparent and easier to understand. If private parking firms break it then they could be barred from asking for motorists’ information from the DVLA to enforce tickets. Meanwhile, it is claimed that the new independent appeals service will give drivers greater support to challenge unjustified parking tickets.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “These staggeringly high numbers stand as a vindication of the urgent need for the measures in Sir Greg Knight’s Act to be put in place – a single, tighter Code of Practice, a single, consistent appeals body, and strict audit of parking companies’ compliance.

“Businesses who employ private companies to manage their car parks should be taking a close look at how they are operating, the implications for the drivers who will often be their own customers and, ultimately, what that means for their own reputation.

“We have never advocated a parking free-for-all, but for a system that is clear, transparent and fair for drivers and landowners alike.”

In the last 13 years more than 33 million vehicle keeper records have been obtained by parking firms from the DVLA, enabling penalty tickets to be issued. The DVLA charges private firms £2.50 per record, but says the charge enable it to recover costs and it does not make any money from the process.

The resulting charges levied by parking management firms for contraventions such as overstaying can be as much as £100 suggesting that, in principle, parking firms could be demanding up to £680 million from drivers on an annual basis, according to the RAC Foundation.

The data reveals the industry is obtaining records on a scale that would allow it to issue a penalty notice every five seconds; the equivalent of 13 per minute, 777 per hour and 18,653 per day. The top five private parking management companies in terms of keeper records obtained are: ParkingEye Ltd, Euro Car Parks, Ranger Services Ltd for Highview Parking Ltd, Smart Parking Ltd and Civil Enforcement Ltd, said RAC Foundation.

Clamping on private land was banned (in all but exceptional circumstances) in 2012 by the Protection of Freedoms Act. However, the Act also allowed for private parking companies to pursue the registered keepers of vehicles rather than having to prove who the driver was at the time of the ‘offence’.

The new Code of Practice will be drafted later this year with industry stakeholders, and is expected to provide the clarity of a single set of rules for private parking, with clearer processes of appeals.

‘Big fines’ on the cards for engine idling fleets as Government looks to crackdown on air pollution

A crackdown on engine idling – with commercial vehicles and company cars particularly in the firing line with possible ‘big fines’ – is on the cards.

The Government is reportedly considering proposals to reduce engine idling as part of its strategy to improve air quality with, it is suggested, local authorities likely to be given additional powers.

What’s more reducing engine idling is claimed to be one of the quickest ways for fleets to cut their fuel bills. Telematics provide fleet operators with a useful tool to measure and monitor driver behaviour including reducing incidents of engine idling. One provider claimed fleets had reported fuel savings of 10-18% based on cutting idle times alone, while clients had suggested it had discovered that drivers were clocking up 40-70 minutes engine idling time each day.

Presently local authorities have the power to issue £20 fixed penalty notices – £80 in parts of London – for emission offences and stationary idling under The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002, but that power is rarely used. What’s more, a fine is imposed only if a driver refuses to switch off their vehicle’s engine off when asked to do so by an authorised person.

Meanwhile, the Highway Code (rule 123) says “you 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”.

Highlighting the scourge of engine idling, Nickie Aiken, the leader of Westminster City Council, was quoted on The Guardian’s website as saying that engine idling needlessly added to air pollution and drivers’ habits needed to change.

The Council has urged the Government to allow for the punishment of companies whose drivers are repeatedly caught idling with fines of more than £1,000, saying delivery drivers and commercial vehicles were the worst offenders.

Ms Aiken added that nothing less than a four-figure sum would serve as a “sufficient deterrent” for large companies whose drivers continued “widespread and persistent idling even after being asked”.

The Department for Transport is expected to issue new guidance on engine idling to local authorities later this year.

The RAC says: “[Engine] idling increases the amount of exhaust fumes in the air. These fumes contain a number of harmful gasses including carbon dioxide, which is bad for the environment and contributes towards climate change, as well as a range of other harmful gasses including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons which are linked to asthma and other lung diseases. Diesel vehicles are thought to be one of the biggest contributors to the problem.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also made recommendations about improving road-traffic-related air pollution. They include the possibility of local authorities introducing ‘No Idling Zones’ where authorised individuals such as traffic enforcement officers monitor vehicles.

Public Health England estimates long-term exposure to particulate air pollution has ‘an effect equivalent to’ around 25,000 deaths a year in England. That makes air pollution the largest environmental risk linked to deaths every year. Road traffic is estimated to contribute more than 64% of air pollution recorded in towns and cities.

RAC’s advice to stop engine idling

  • Try to consider how long you are going to be stationary in traffic. The RAC recommends that motorists turn off their engines if they think they are not going to move for around two minutes.
  • Many modern vehicles have ‘stop-start’ systems fitted that automatically switch off the engine when the vehicle is stationary and restart it as soon as the accelerator is pressed. Manufacturers allow this feature to be manually switched off, however we urge motorists not to do this. There is no risk to your vehicle in allowing this feature to be left on.
  • For vehicles without ‘stop-start’ it’s fine to turn off your engine, but you should try to avoid doing this repeatedly in a short space of time. In addition, older vehicles (around eight years old) and vehicles with older batteries (around five years old) may struggle if they are started too often in a short space of time.

Zero-emission van market set for boost from driving licence concession

The zero-emission van market is expected to be boosted by the Government’s long-awaited publication of guidance that allows employees with a category B driving licence – enabling a person to drive cars and vans up to 3.5 tonnes – to drive alternatively fuelled vehicles up to 4.25 tonnes, provided they have undertaken a further five hours of training.

The regulatory change comes as part of the Government’s commitment to encourage the transition to ultra-low emission vehicles, as set out in its ‘Road to Zero Strategy’.

The Government announced the payload concession last year and published legislation putting those vehicles outside of the Operator Licence framework. It has now issued guidance outlining how fleet operators can take advantage of the initiative.

It has been suggested that businesses have held-off from adding alternatively-fuelled vans above 3.5 tonnes to their fleets pending publication of the guidance.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said publication of the guidance would “fast-track” adoption of zero-emission vans by making them a more viable option for fleet operators, providing clear benefits to air quality and the wider environment.

The guidance says that the five hours of training on driving alternatively fuelled vehicles must be provided by members of the only two Government recognised light goods vehicle (LGV) training registers – the National Register of LGV instructors or the National Vocational Driving Instructors Register.

The training may be a mix of practical and theory, and will include vehicle handling techniques when driving a loaded alternative fuelled vehicle, refuelling alternative fuel types and the safe loading of alternative fuelled vehicles. On completion of the training a driver will be issued with a certificate.

The document says: “Guidance should be considered by any employer with employees who drive vehicles such as delivery vans, as well as self-employed people and those using their own vehicle for a work-related journey. It will be particularly valuable to those who operate large goods vehicles and those who are responsible for fleet management of goods vehicles.”

Until the change, licencing regulations meant that driving a vehicle with a maximum authorised mass of more than 3.5 tonnes would normally require a Category C1 licence, which allows the driving of vehicles weighing between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes. Consequently, fleet operators of alternatively-fuelled vehicles wanting to remain below that regulatory threshold must either suffer a constrained payload or employ drivers with a category C1 licence. That entails higher staffing costs, and in practice, said the Government, was “holding back many fleets from adopting alternatively fuelled vehicles”.

Future of Mobility Minister Jesse Norman said: “The Government’s ‘Road to Zero Strategy’ sets out our ambition for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.

“By changing these driving licence requirements, we are seeking to support business owners by enabling them to use alternatively fuelled vehicles more easily.”

James Firth, the FTA’s head of road freight regulation, said: “Our members are committed to transitioning to low or zero emission vehicles, but with their propulsion systems and fuels far heavier than those of petrol and diesel, operators were left in a difficult position. They were forced to either lose payload or use heavier vehicles, which incur the expense of tighter regulatory regimes in relation to driver and operator licensing. These limitations were preventing operators from investing in ‘green’ vehicle technology; they were a clear barrier to the adoption of low and zero emission vans.

“The guidance will fuel interest in the alternatively-fuelled commercial vehicle market; hopefully it will pave the way for such vehicles to become the norm rather than the exception.”

Alternatively-fuelled vehicles – the guidance refers to electric, natural gas, biogas and hydrogen – can have an increased kerb weight compared with their conventionally fuelled counterparts.

The change in legislation is the result of a European derogation, which the Government says will remain in place until 2023. It will then conduct a review of the legislation to evaluate its impact and consider whether it is still necessary.

Further information is available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/798056/guidance-category-b-licence-requirements.pdf

New van technologies guide to help fleets cut fuel cost, emissions and climate impact

Van fleet managers are coming under increasing pressure to introduce low and zero-emission models, particularly in urban areas, as towns and cities nationwide turn to introducing clean air zones.

Additionally, with van fleet replacement cycles being up to as much as eight years and the Government planning to end the sale of new petrol and diesel vans by 2040 – although its advisory Committee on Climate Change in a recent new report recommended bringing forward that date to 2030, or 2035 at the latest – organisations advising businesses on future-proofing their fleets for a low and zero emission future say now is the time to investigate and trial alternative powertrains.

To help businesses transform their light commercial fleets from a typically diesel operation, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), a public-private partnership working to accelerate a sustainable shift to lower carbon vehicles and fuels and create opportunities for UK business while also providing advice to Government, and consultancy Cenex, the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies, have published a new guide.

The number of vans licensed to operate in the UK has grown by around 25% in 10 years, largely due to the huge rise in internet shopping and consequently home deliveries, to 4.1 million vehicles. Consequently, say the two organisations, cleaning up van emissions, which now represent about 33% of all oxides of nitrogen and more than 15% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from all road transport, has become an increasingly important focus for policy.

Coupled with the introduction in April of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in central London and with Birmingham due to introduce a clean air zone impacting on van fleets in January 2020 and other locations set to follow, there is increasing impetus for fleet managers to consider low and zero emission vehicle van options, it is claimed.

What’s more, reducing CO2 emissions also makes business sense as lower carbon vehicles can be cheaper to run, it is suggested.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, said: “Vans are an essential business tool and mobile workplace for businesses across the UK. At the same time, van users, particularly those operating in urban areas, are coming under increasing pressure to reduce their emissions.

“The next few years will bring an increasingly wide range of low and zero-emission van models, which will be available to buy outright, lease or rent by the year, month, week, day or hour. Van users will have a lot of options and this Guide will help them make the right decision.”

Small vans presently dominate electric light commercial vehicle sales – notably the Nissan e-NV200 and Renault Kangoo ZE – but 2019 could be a watershed year for the sector with the emergence of a number of larger vans. They include the Ford Transit plug-in hybrid (pictured), the only hybrid in the one-tonne van class; and the arrival of plug-in versions of the Mercedes-Benz Vito and Sprinter. Other plug-in vans due to arrive in the UK within the next 12 months are likely to include Volkswagen’s e-Caddy and e-Transporter.

The ‘Low Emission Van Guide’ is intended for use by van buyers, fleet managers and procurement leaders, and provides an overview of low emission vans, the alternative fuels and technologies that can be used as well as providing advice on fleet management best practice.

It includes information on:

  • The low emission van market and range of Government incentives for adoption available
  • The most appropriate technologies for circumstances relating to particular fleets
  • The key factors to consider in terms of low emission vans, fuels and related technologies
  • Best practice options for cutting costs and emissions from conventional vehicles
  • A selection of ‘real world’ case studies showing what can be achieved.

The Guide analyses operational, financial and environmental considerations and a range of technology options including battery electric vans; plug-in hybrid and extended range electric vehicles; the vehicle charging infrastructure; liquefied petroleum gas and BioLPG; compressed natural gas and biomethane; high blend biodiesel and hydrogen fuel cell and dual fuel options.

Andy Eastlake, managing director of the LowCVP, said: “Van use is one of the most important and complex road transport sectors. It’s been growing rapidly and represents a major source of the polluting emissions which we urgently need to tackle from both air quality and climate change perspectives. Government has committed to all new vans in 2040 being effectively zero emissions, so we need to move now.

“Technology is advancing rapidly in many areas and it’s vital that fleet managers are up-to-speed with the latest options. This new Guide should help them get close to the forefront of developments and plan for the future.”

Furthermore, said Cenex’s head of transport Steve Carroll: “With van ownership cycles being anywhere up to eight years, it’s essential that fleets now start to investigate, trial and understand how to successfully implement lower emission vehicle technology options so they can form part of a future-proof fleet replacement strategy.

“This clear and informative Guide is an essential read for van operators. It sets out the business and environmental case for a range of lower emission and zero emission technology options available to replace the use of conventional diesel vans – as well as an introduction to installing and overcoming infrastructure challenges.”

The guide can be downloaded at: https://www.lowcvp.org.uk/

Fleet chiefs warned of importance of post-repair recalibration of ADAS-equipped vehicles

Fleet operators and vehicle repairers have been reminded of the importance of ensuring Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)-equipped models are correctly recalibrated with the safety critical features working effectively following maintenance.

The warning comes from Thatcham Research, the motor insurers’ automotive research centre, which says that recalibration of the safety critical systems “must be undertaken and confirmed within vehicle manufacturer tolerances” post repair.

As the number of vehicles on the road fitted with ADAS, such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, night vision cameras and adaptive lighting rises above 10% – more than four million vehicles with many of them being fleet models – Thatcham Research says there is a dearth of information on how to approach the repair of the safety critical systems.

Furthermore, most ADAS features rely on windscreen-mounted cameras in order to operate effectively. Therefore, if a windscreen needs replacing then those cameras will also have to be recalibrated to ensure the safety systems continue to function correctly.

Additionally, as new vehicles are introduced to fleets it is certain with the rise of connected vehicles and more ADAS features being added – 11 safety features including AEB will be mandatory on all new cars from 2021 – the need for post-repair calibration will continue to grow. By 2020, it is predicted that more than 40% of new vehicles will have at least two types of driver assistance systems fitted as standard.

As a result, Thatcham Research is also working with the automotive industry to develop a Code of Practice. It has commenced a round of consultation with vehicle manufacturers, insurers, windscreen repair and replacement companies, equipment providers and repairers. The full Code of Practice will be released later this year.

Richard Billyeald, Thatcham Research’s chief technical officer, said: “As ADAS continues its ever-increasing penetration into the car parc, the lack of a clear approach to the repair of ADAS-equipped vehicles is having an effect across the whole repair industry. For their own peace of mind, insurers and repairers need proof that they have taken all reasonable steps to reinstate the safety functions of a vehicle before returning it to the road.”

Referencing fleets, Mr Billyeald said: “Fleet managers have a duty of care to ensure that any ADAS fitted to one of their vehicles is performing correctly post-repair. For their own peace of mind, proof is required to confirm that all reasonable steps to reinstate the safety functions of a vehicle have been taken, before it returns to the road.

“In this respect, it is important that approved repairers are trained appropriately and have a proof of competence for reinstating ADAS safely. During and following successful ADAS calibration key details such as the technician’s name and proof of competence, the equipment used to calibrate, and proof that the system is functioning to within a vehicle manufacturer’s specification and tolerances should also be captured and retained by repairers, alongside other repair process records.

“By doing so, fleet operators can be assured that their drivers will continue to reap the proven safety benefits of ADAS.”

If ADAS sensors, or parts that are in proximity to ADAS sensors, are included in a repair specification, calibration post repair must be completed to confirm sensors are functioning to the vehicle manufacturers’ specified tolerances, according to Thatcham Research.

In addition, to enable identification and safe repairs involving ADAS, vehicle repairers should:

  • Assess for the presence of ADAS sensors and record the outcome clearly
  • Research and seek guidance from relevant repair methods and calibration instructions
  • Ensure all calibration activities are completed by currently competent technicians
  • Complete system calibration in accordance with the relevant repair method/instruction
  • Be able to demonstrate that the calibration of all affected sensors has been completed and that the results of the calibration confirms functionality within the vehicle manufacturer’s specified tolerance – unless stated otherwise in the repair specification
  • Where no specific repair guidance exists, and functionality cannot be proven through systemised calibration, then advice should be sought from a vehicle manufacturer’s dealership network and appropriate action taken prior to vehicle release
  • If vehicle manufacturer information states dynamic calibration, this should be completed and confirmed prior to vehicle release.

Mr Billyeald continued: “ADAS supports the driver to prevent a crash in the first place. This represents a huge step forwards for vehicle safety and the transition into more advanced assisted and automated driving will continue to raise the safety bar. However, whilst that benefit may be fully realised on a new car, maintaining it once a car has been repaired is vital.

“The whole industry needs to work together to make sure ADAS repairs are safe and vehicles are returned to the road quickly and efficiently. Equipment suppliers must ensure that verifiable evidence of a successful calibration is provided. Repairers must invest in training to ensure competent persons are reinstating ADAS safely and vehicle manufacturers must provide ADAS fitment data and consistent advice around which repair scenarios will result in successful ADAS calibration.”

Laurenz Gerger, policy adviser for motor insurance at the Association of British Insurers, said: “Insurers are major supporters of systems which improve vehicle safety and reduce the frequency and severity of crashes. With a number of assistance systems set to become mandatory from 2021, it will be even more important to have clear guidance on managing vehicle repairs involving them. Ensuring these hi-tech systems are working effectively after a repair is an important part of putting a vehicle back onto the roads and we are committed to helping establish the standards and processes to make sure this happens.”

New security ratings help fleets to identify cars least likely to be stolen

New car security tests that provide fleet operators and company car drivers with information to help understand their likely theft risk have been launched by Thatcham Research, the motor insurance industry research centre.

However, six of the first 11 new cars tested have been rated ‘poor’ for security – the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Nexo, Kia ProCeed, Lexus UX, Porsche Macan and Toyota Corolla Hybrid as the keyless entry/start system they each have as an option has no security measures to prevent theft by criminals using the so-called ‘relay attack’ technique.

The Audi e-tron, Jaguar XE, Land Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz B-Class each received a ‘superior’ rating, while the Suzuki Jimny was given an ‘unacceptable’ rating notably because it does not have keyless entry/start system as standard or as an option. The five rating system means that new cars could also be rated ‘good’ or ‘basic’ for their security.

The security ratings – further new cars will be tested as they enter UK showrooms – have been launched against a rising tide of vehicle theft, up by 16% in 2017/18 in England and Wales, according to the latest Government figures. The surge in vehicle crime has led to insurers paying out a record £1 million every day, according to figures published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The rise in vehicle theft is largely blamed on the adoption of keyless theft – also known as relay attack – which has become a popular modus operandi for thieves in recent years (Buzz, March 2019: http://www.fleetservicegb.co.uk/company-car-risk-keyless-attacks/). To steal cars without a key, thieves use so-called ‘relay’ boxes – one near a car and the other near where the car key is kept. That has the effect of lengthening the signal produced by the key, fooling the car into thinking the key is close by. The thieves can then open and start the vehicle, and drive it away.

The new ratings assess whether measures to specifically address the keyless entry/start vulnerability, have been adopted.

Thatcham Research has administered the Association of British Insurer’s Group Rating insurance system for cars and light commercial vehicles the past 50 years and has crash tested vehicles as a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) for many years.

Euro NCAP data has become a key part of vehicle selection criteria for fleets in the past two decades and Thatcham Research hopes that launch of the New Vehicle Security Assessment will similarly be widely adopted – https://www.thatcham.org/what-we-do/security/consumer-rating. The focus put on Euro NCAP crash test results by fleet operators and consumers led to motor manufacturers designing safety features into vehicles to ensure they achieved top ratings.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, said of the New Vehicle Security Assessment: “This initiative focuses on addressing keyless entry/start vulnerability. We’ve seen too many examples of cars being stolen in seconds from driveways. Now, any vehicle that is assessed against the new Security Rating, and has a vulnerable keyless entry/start system, will automatically not achieve the best rating.

“Security has come a long way since vehicle crime peaked in the early 1990s. But the layers of security added over the years count for nothing when they can be circumvented instantly by criminals using digital devices. The shame is that most of the cars rated ‘poor’ would have achieved at least a ‘good’ rating had their keyless entry/start systems not been susceptible to the relay attack.”

Referencing the four cars that received a ‘superior’ rating, Mr Billyeald said: “These carmakers have made significant strides in addressing keyless entry/start vulnerability, by either switching to a more secure wireless technology or introducing key fobs that go to sleep when idle. This demonstrates that there are solutions and fixes to the problem, which we expect other manufacturers to include on their future models.”

Commenting on the Suzuki Jimny’s ‘unacceptable’ rating, Mr Billyeald said: “This car falls well below expectation, scoring consistently poorly across all criteria, and missing some fundamental security features that consumers might rightly expect should be fitted.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for vehicle crime, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty, said: “The significant reductions in vehicle crime in the 1990s were achieved by police working with manufacturers to design out crime with innovations like immobilisers, alarms and central locking.

“Police chiefs fully support the New Vehicle Security Assessment. It’s a positive step towards improving vehicle security and will help us cut the levels of crime as manufacturers continue to develop security measures.”

Laurenz Gerger, ABI’s motor policy adviser said: “The resurgence in car crime is worrying. The record amounts paid to motorists by their insurers in part reflects the vulnerability of some cars to keyless relay theft. Action by motor manufacturers to tackle this hi-tech vulnerability will help reverse this unwelcome trend.”

  • Ford, the UK’s number one fleet manufacturer, says it is fighting back against the growth in keyless car theft with the roll out of new security technology. The UK’s two top-selling cars, the Ford Fiesta and Focus are the first to benefit from the technology which disables their keyless entry fobs when not in use to block illegal hacking. Over the next two years Ford will be rolling out the same motion-sensor technology across its other cars’ key fobs. Britain’s best-selling car, the Fiesta, plus the Fiesta Van version, are already being delivered with the new fobs as standard at no extra cost, followed by Focus production from May 2019.

Do recycled parts have a place in fleet SMR strategies to cut costs?

The use of recycled parts may have a role to play in some fleet operations as businesses continually seek to cut vehicle maintenance costs.

A number of fleets, notably in the public sector and particularly some police operations but also utility sector businesses, have used recycled parts, known as ‘green parts’, for a number of years.

Typically if a police vehicle is written off it is sold to a company specialising in parts recycling at a set percentage of the pre-crash value. The vehicle is then stripped down and non-safety related parts sold back to police fleets when required.

In other cases damaged vehicles are recovered by a specialist company, disassembled and non-safety parts then made available for sale.

One of the major issues around the use of recycled parts, which are official manufacturer (OEM) parts that have been removed from a vehicle during the dismantling and recycling process, is consistency and quality. However, specialist companies says they operate a strenuous quality test and a grading system where components are categorised according to any damage template provided by individual fleet customers.

Furthermore ‘green’ parts have typically been inspected, analysed and tested to industry-leading standards to ensure quality. Suppliers will also usually provide warranties on all parts to further enhance peace of mind.

Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) has an open mind on the use of ‘green parts’, but suggests that they could have a role to play where replacement of so-called ‘bolt-on, bolt-off’ parts such as bumpers or a sliding door on a van are required.

However, some fleets have been reported by the trade press to have acquired remanufactured engines, transmissions and turbo-chargers from recycled parts specialists rather than buying new.

One supplier of recycled parts claims that “guaranteed quality assured ‘green’ recycled vehicle parts are creating quite a stir in the fleet and insurance industry even more so today, as the demand for a more affordable and sustainable source gather pace”.

Claimed to cost up to 90% less than buying OEM replacement parts, the supplier said: “We simply cannot afford to keep paying big sums for new parts direct from the manufacturer.”

The company continued: “We can see great potential for uplift in demand for ‘green parts’ and with our industry standards in place, fleet users will be able to buy with ever-increasing confidence. As manufacturers strategies towards producing ever more eco-minded vehicles it would be fair to assume that the buying will switch from expensive, OEM parts to quality affordable, recycled parts that help every aspects of saving time and money as well as the environment.”

Fleet Service GB operates a ‘matching quality’ on new replacement parts with some tenders asking for repairs “at the lowest possible cost”.

Peter Hitt, head of operations at Fleet Service GB, said: “We have met with a ‘green parts’ supplier to understand how the recycled parts market works. We currently do not use recycled parts, but it is a marketplace development that may have a place for certain fleets and vehicles in respect of some replacement of some parts.”

Anthony Machin, head of content at Glass’s Information Systems, which published used vehicle pricing ‘Bible’ Glass’s Guide, writing a blog last year said: “The automotive industry is developing in different ways whilst simultaneously delivering enhancements to vehicles making them more efficient and easier to recycle at end of life. The adoption of ‘green parts’ will continue to grow in the coming years as parts buyers and insurance companies look to new lower cost trustworthy parts sources.”

The Vehicle Recyclers’ Association (VRA), the UK trade association for vehicle dismantlers, salvage agents, scrap metal processors and associated companies previously known as the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers’ Association (MVDA), endorses the parts standards developed by the Automotive Recyclers Association of America (ARA) which has helped to make the use of ‘recycled parts’ widespread in the insurance repair industry in the USA. See – https://www.vrauk.org/PartsStandards.aspx

The VRA admits that “over the years there has been some bad publicity about ‘green parts’, but claimed it mostly originated from either new part manufacturers or horror stories from consumer organisation focusing on ‘cowboy operators’.

As a result, the VRA advises: “We strongly recommend only buying ‘green parts’ from members, who are all reputable businesses. Otherwise there is no way of knowing whether the parts purchased are stolen, have been checked for correct operation beforehand, or will be covered by a guarantee if something goes wrong.”

A spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers said: “We don’t issue particular advice or have a policy on fleets using recycled parts – it may be that the insurers of specific fleets have their own views.”

AXA Insurance UK is a leading fleet insurer and Mark Heaton, head of AXA motor engineering, said: “In 2001 we ran a pilot testing the concept of using ‘green parts’. We had a number of successful repairs completed but the low availability of quality parts prevented us from taking this forward. It was the main blocker.

“Today we do use ‘green parts’, but only to avoid writing a car off – and with the insured’s permission. However, just like back in 2001, we find the availability of quality parts is still a challenge.”

Martin Smith, motor technical claims manager at rival insurer Aviva, said, “Recycled parts can have a role to play in vehicle repairs, especially in cases where an older vehicle or one where parts may no longer be available and might otherwise have be to declared ‘total loss’ are concerned.  Working alongside our customer, Aviva will consider the use of non-safety critical recycled parts in specific vehicle repairs. Safety critical parts are always replaced with new.”

Driverless cars: the six equipment levels of connected and autonomous vehicles

Connected and automated vehicles are the future, but while the Government has announced that it expects driverless cars to be on the UK’s roads from 2021, the fact is that it will be another 15-20 years before they become a reality.

SAE International, previously the Society of Automotive Engineers, classifies automated driving features into six levels – and features in the first three levels are already available in some cars on sale in the UK.

However, level three, four and five features have yet to be incorporated into vehicles with the consensus that ‘full and unconditional automation’ – level five – unlikely to be introduced before 2035.

Nevertheless, subject to current road traffic and vehicle type approval regulations being changed there is a possibility that the first ‘driver-out-of-the-loop’ features – level three or ‘conditionally automated’ – could be deployed on cars available in the UK by 2021. Changes to the regulatory framework are already taking place with the Government last year introducing the world’s first insurance legislation for automated vehicles.

Vehicle equipment covered by level zero are categorised as ‘driver only’ features and include technology such as lane departure warning and blind spot warning providing ‘momentary assistance’ to drivers when they fail to exercise ‘proper control’ and react to road/traffic conditions.

Level one and two features are described as ‘driver support features’ by SAE International or by the Government as ‘partial automation’. Level one features provide steering or brake/acceleration support to drivers and include lane centring or adaptive cruise control, while level two features provide steering and brake/acceleration support to drivers and include lane centring mated to simultaneous use of adaptive cruise control. Park assist systems and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are also included in those categories.

The Government is currently reviewing regulations, including the Highway Code, governing the use of higher levels of automation, which are set to be rolled out over the next decade.

The key difference between existing levels of automation – levels zero, one and two – and higher levels of automations – levels three, four and five – is that with the former a person is ‘driving’ when the features are engaged even if their feet are off the pedals and they are not steering.

With level three, four and five features – classed respectively by SAE International as ‘conditionally automated’, ‘highly automated’ and ‘fully automated’ – a person is not ‘driving’ even if they in the driver’s seat behind the wheel. While level three features may be available on vehicles from next year, the use of them requires existing ‘laws of the road’ to be changed.

Thatcham Research, the motor insurance industry research centre, is already concerned that that technology designed to ‘assist’ drivers is being misinterpreted as ‘autonomous’.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, said: “Some carmakers are designing and marketing vehicles in such a way that drivers believe they can relinquish control. Carmakers want to gain competitive edge by referring to ‘self-driving’ or ‘semi-autonomous’ capability in their marketing, but it is fuelling consumer confusion. This is exacerbated by some systems doing too much for the driver, who ends up disengaged.

“Our message is that today’s technology supports the driver. It is not ‘automated’ driving and it is not to be relied upon at the expense of driver attentiveness. The driver is in control and must always remain alert. If used correctly highway assist systems will improve road safety and reduce fatalities, but they won’t if naming and marketing convinces drivers that the car can take care of itself.”

Level three features include traffic jam chauffeur and motorway pilot – manoeuvering in traffic jams and driving on motorways –  which have the capability to ‘drive’ a vehicle under limited condition but will not operate unless all required conditions are met. When systems encounter a system they cannot manage they will issue a takeover demand, handing control back to the driver.

Level four features deliver a further degree of automation with drivers only in control when the system is not in use and include technology such as: highway pilot, valet parking and enabling vehicles to operate within virtually defined or ‘geofenced’ zones in towns and cities at low speed. Such equipment is likely to be fitted to cars from around 2023.

Finally, ‘full automation’ will arrive when cars are able to ‘drive’ themselves under all conditions with no operating domain or geographic restrictions.

However, according to a new report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market’: “Based on current technology roadmaps and real world applications, the consensus is that full and unconditional automation (level five) is unlikely to be introduced before 2035.”

One of the key reasons for that is the so-called ‘technology challenge’ of equipping autonomous vehicles with the required features to tackle all possible ‘unusual driving situations under all driving conditions and in all environments’.

Instead, according to the report: “Level five automated driving is likely to be reached gradually as more advanced driver assistance features come to market.”

Furthermore the hundreds of millions of pounds being invested by motor manufacturers in the development of technology and its fitment to vehicles will come at a cost and drive the need for new business models and revenue streams to generate returns. They are likely to include a range of connected in-car services and products under the Mobility-as-a-Service umbrella.

The fitment cost of level three technology is estimated to be £2,500 per vehicle, rising to £5,000 for level four technology and £7,000 for ‘full’ automation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New safety features to be mandatory in all vehicles from 2022

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

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

The new mandatory safety features include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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