Meet the team – Sarah Clifford

Name: Sarah Clifford.

Job Title: Head of service delivery.

Explain your role in 10 words: Managing company processes to ensure effective service delivery.

What’s the best aspect of your job? Using the company’s technology to scope and deliver new solutions to meet the needs of customers.

What’s the worst aspect of your job? Balancing priorities.

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Since January 2015 when I helped to develop and then launch the business.

What was your first paid job? Waitress (with the worse uniform I have ever seen).

What’s your favourite car? Jaguar F Type.

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? Have the Fleet Service GB team recognised in the industry as the fleet management partner of choice.

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? Difficult one, I like driving vans and wearing high-vis so maybe a delivery driver! Either that or I’ve always thought I would make a good police officer.

Who in the world would you most like to meet? Either of actors Tom Hardy or Andrew Lincoln (not fussed which).

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? Some retail therapy with a long lazy lunch with friends.

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? The usual – cars, house, holiday home, trust funds for the kids.

Not a lot of people know that… I’m a great tap dancer.

Fleets face threat of rocketing vehicle and component price rises amid risk of no UK/EU regulatory alignment

Alarm bells are ringing across the motor industry that Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid’s decision that the UK will not “stay close to the European Union” after Brexit will trigger new vehicle and component price rises.

Furthermore, with the possibility of no regulatory alignment with the European Union in a future trading relationship, the motor industry’s well-established ‘just-in-time’ business model could be significantly impacted triggering longer vehicle lead times and component and spare part delivery delays resulting in increased fleet vehicle downtime due to administrative hold-ups at point of import.

In a headline-grabbing interview with the Financial Times (January 18, 2020), the Chancellor’s message to business following the UK’s January 31 departure from the European Union and the subsequent end of 2020 transition period was: “There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule-taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union.”

Saying that the required work would be “done by the end of the year”, Mr Javid told businesses to “adjust” to the new reality amid the possibility of there being no comprehensive free trade deal with the European Union with the result being some tariffs, quotes and border restrictions.

Late last year UK and European motor industry chiefs warned against diverging from European Union regulations highlighting concerns about the lack of frictionless trade and customs delays harming the industry’s ‘just-in-time’ operating model and the potential for World Trade Organisation tariffs impacting on the cost of vehicles and components.

The impact of tariffs – unless brands and their retail networks can absorb the additional costs which some have already warned they cannot – would see the list price of cars rising by 10%; commercial vehicle prices rising by up to 22% (an average 13.5% for light vans); and the cost of vehicle components by up to 4.5%.

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

However, the Chancellor countered in the Financial Times interview: “Japan sells cars to the European Union but they don’t follow European Union rules.”

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said its priority was to avoid “expensive tariffs and other behind-the-border barriers”.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), said in response to Mr Javid’s interview: “UK fleets have enough uncertainty to cope with at the moment without having to worry about what kind of regulatory alignment the UK has with the European Union on vehicles and parts.

“Any sudden split from European Union rules could potentially create huge additional cost and administrative burdens. The sector is versatile and adaptable, but needs clear, specific and well-signposted details on future trading terms and conditions.”

What’s more, with the pressure on the UK and the European Union to agree a full trade deal by the end of 2020 – the Government’s self-imposed transition period – the BVRLA said: “This has increased the risk of a disruptive exit from the European Union at the end of 2020, and unless a sector-specific deal for the automotive sector is agreed in time raises the odds of negative consequences for businesses as they may not know how the future looks until late in the day.”

The European Union has confirmed that trade talks will not start before the end of February 2020. The BVRLA said in a briefing update: “One key date to look out for is July 1, 2020. This is when the UK and European Union would need to agree any transition extension past December 2020.”

The Association added: “But by July 1, we will know if there is even higher risk of a ‘hard’ Brexit and the possibility of tariffs or non-tariffs barriers in the automotive and other sectors. In the absence of a satisfactory automotive specific trade deal, the Government will still need to help our sector mitigate new tariffs/non-tariff barriers, possibly in a second Budget during 2020, or as part of a three-year Spending Review.”

What could be in Chancellor Sajid Javid’s Budget box for fleets?

Budget Day is Wednesday, March 11 and fleet chiefs are hoping for a raft of measures that will signpost the fiscal way forward and end the Brexit-inspired paralysis that has hampered Government decision-making in the past 12 months.

There has not been a Budget since October 2018 – there was a Spring Statement in March last year and company car benefit-in-kind tax rates for 2020/21 to 2022/23 inclusive were announced in July.

However, those rates have yet to be enshrined in law as neither an autumn 2019 Budget nor the resulting Finance Bill materialised due to the House of Commons being dominated by Brexit debate and then a general election being held prior to Christmas.

Now, with the Conservative Party enjoying a substantial majority in the House of Commons, a raft of measures could be announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid’s forthcoming Budget to “get Britain moving” and that will impact on fleet operations.

First of all, fleet decision-makers will be hoping that the already announced company car benefit-in-kind tax rates for 2020/21 and the following two tax years will be confirmed and then be ratified in legislation. After all, as the Budget is less than a month before the start of the next fiscal year fleet chiefs and company car drivers will have made vehicle decisions based on an expectation that what was announced last July will not be changed.

As announced, for 2020/21 and 2021/22 separate company car benefit-in-kind tax rates will apply depending whether a vehicle was first registered before or after April 6, 2020 before realigning in 2022/23 – see http://www.fleetservicegb.co.uk/new-company-car-tax-regime/.

Furthermore, to enable fleet bosses and company car drivers to plan for the future, industry organisations have called on the Chancellor to announce benefit-in-kind tax rates for at least the following three tax years.

They point to the fact that many fleets and company car drivers now run vehicles for four years and into a fifth so it was only fair that they knew what the tax burden was for the whole fleet life of a vehicle.

Additionally, they want the Chancellor to confirm that the company car benefit-in-kind tax schedule for pure electric vehicles – 0% from 2020/21 – and plug-in models will be maintained at the levels already announced beyond 2022/23 for several more years to enable the embryonic sector to become established.

It is also hoped that the Chancellor will provide much greater clarity around the timescale for sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be axed with 2030, 2035 and 2040 all dates that are possible.

As one industry expert said: “We know that the Government is driving fleets and consumers down the electric vehicle road, but to date there remains a vagueness about the details as to how the Government intends to improve air quality and its targets.”

Look out also for the Chancellor to announce a shake-up in Vehicle Excise Duty on light commercial vehicles. In 2018 the Government published a consultation on reform exploring the creation of a graduated first year rate for new vans, as is already in place for cars. It would replace the current flat rate regime.

In the 2018 autumn Budget, the Government announced that based on the consultation responses it was looking at:

  • Further developing its understanding of the impacts of Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for vans, ahead of announcing the new rates and bands
  • Ensuring the new system took into account the weight of a van by introducing a two-category approach
  • Providing ongoing incentives, beyond the first-year, for new zero emission, ultra-low emission and other alternatively fuelled vans.

Since then there has been silence from HM Treasury. However, at the time the Government said it was aiming to introduce the new Vehicle Excise Duty system in April 2021.

Calls have also been made in the run-up to the Budget for the Chancellor to scrap VAT on the sale of electric cars.

The demand came from the AA, which also wants VAT to be scrapped on monthly lease rentals and the premium Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rate, applied to vehicles with a list price in excess of £40,000, to be removed from electric vehicles to encourage uptake.

The motoring organisation says that as the £320 a year Vehicle Excise Duty supplement is only applied in years two to six of a vehicle’s life, the change would have a “positive impact” on the sale of used electric vehicles.

AA president Edmund King said: “The UK car parc needs a shock to the system. Eight out of 10 drivers say improving air quality is important to them, but they are confused by current policies and as such many have stuck with older, more polluting cars.

“With electric vehicles making up just 0.2% of the nation’s cars, there is a long way to go to meet the official target of at least half new car sales to be ultra-low emission by 2030. Our proposal would help to achieve that goal more quickly.”

He concluded: “Drivers want to amplify their wishes to go electric. We hope by plugging this idea the country will unite and deliver positive change.”

Additionally, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and more than 20 other organisations have joined forces to call on the Government to pledge its continued support for the Plug-in Car and Van Grants.

Currently there is no commitment to continue the grants – £3,500 for a zero emission car and £8,000 for a plug-in van beyond 2020.

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “Fleets are in a unique position to accelerate the shift to more sustainable road transport, but we need the right incentives in place and the Plug-In Grants are crucial.”

The BVRLA also wants to see a re-introduction of the Plug-In Grant for hybrid electric cars at least as a short term measure, particularly with supply constraints on 100% electric vehicles extending, in some cases, to nine months and even longer.

There has also been a repeat of the annual pre-Budget calls for contract hire and leasing companies to benefit from 100% first year capital allowances on electric and ultra-low emission vehicles and the lease rental restriction on those models to be abolished, which would enable suppliers to cut monthly lease rates if the tax savings were passed on to customers.

Councils’ pollution crackdown seeks to drive cars and vans out of city centres

Driving into city centres could become as anti-social as smoking as towns and cities across the UK consider increasingly more radical solutions than simply a Clean Air Zone to reduce vehicle pollution.

Three of the UK’s best known cities have announced New Year moves to push forward with radical places to improve air quality that will see the nation’s first Zero Emission Zone launched in one location and a city centre car ban in two others.

Additionally, road user charging, Low Emission and Clean Air Zones and workplace parking levies are all on Cardiff City Council’s agenda as it seeks to tackle the climate emergency.

The measures underline the radical thinking of local councils and the extent to which they are prepared to go to improve air quality and compel fleets and consumers to transition to zero emission vehicles and alternative meets of travel.

However, amid the measures to crackdown on vehicle use in town and city centres, Newcastle City Council has toned down its Clean Air Zone plans by making private cars exempt from any charge.

The Council’s moves come with the British Heart Foundation launching a hard-hitting campaign, ‘You’re full of it’, to highlight that people are unwittingly inhaling dangerous levels of particulate matter air pollution in towns and cities across the UK every day.

It says that heart and circulatory disease deaths attributed to particulate matter air pollution could exceed 160,000 over the next decade – equivalent to more than 40 deaths each day – in the UK.

Calling for Government action and arguing that air pollution is a ‘major public health emergency’, the Foundation said: “We haven’t done enough to tackle this threat to our society.”

If the latest local authority announcements are given the green light:

  • Birmingham, the UK’s second city, would effectively ‘limit’ private car city centre access with a complete ban on through trips as the city strives to become carbon neutral by 2030. The measure take the council’s plan to introduce a Clean Air Zone in July covering all roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road (but not the Middleway itself) a major stage further.
  • York would become the first city in the UK to ban “all non-essential private car journeys” from its centre by 2023. However, it has said that it would work with businesses to make sure deliveries continued and companies were not negatively impacted by the changes. The authority is to spend the next 12 months developing the initiative.
  • Only electric and hydrogen vehicles would be allowed free-entry on to five Oxford city centre streets from December 2020 during the hours of 7am-7pm. Charge levels for non-compliant vehicles – cars, vans, HGVs and mopeds/motorcycles – of £10 per day is suggested rising to £20 per day in December 2024. It is planned that the Zone would be extended to cover the rest of the city centre in 2021/22.
  • A raft of measures could be introduced in Cardiff. The City Council’s ‘Transport Vision to 2030: Changing How We Move Around A Growing City’, sets out a £2 billion vision designed to transform Cardiff and South East Wales’ travel network and simultaneously reduce congestion and improve air quality in the Welsh capital. Referencing road user charging – a minimum £2 charge for vehicles entering the city – workplace parking levies and Low Emission/Clean Air Zones, the paper said all the proposals “will be tested” and that “no scheme will be taken forward unless we are satisfied that such a scheme will work for our residents and the city”.

Birmingham City Council’s plan is outlined in its newly published ‘Birmingham Transport Plan 2031’, which outlines a range of measures designed to: Prioritise people over cars, boost public transport, revitalise the city centre and local centres, reduce transport’s impact on the environment, and eliminate road danger particularly in residential areas by prioritising walking and cycling.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “As a city, we have been over-reliant on private cars for too long and with more people choosing to live and work in Birmingham, we need to find innovative new ways to keep the city moving in an efficient but sustainable way.

“The more journeys we take by walking and cycling, the more we will improve air quality and our health and the more we will reduce congestion. For longer journeys, buses, trams and trains will be the backbone of a new, go-anywhere transport system.”

He added: “The introduction of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone will reinforce our commitment to establish a zero emissions city.”

The draft plan is now out to public consultation, before a final version is formally adopted by the Council.

Meanwhile, City of York Council says its moves to improve air quality go further than any city to date including Bristol, which, among other measures, plans to ban all privately owned diesel cars from a section of the city centre from March 2021 if the measure is given Government approval.

The measures are part of the Council’s plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. Councillors claim that by reducing and removing non-essential car journeys across York, whilst improving the attractiveness of other travel options – cycling and faster, more reliable public transport – will boost air quality.

Oxford City Council and Oxford County Council say they will introduce the Zero Emission Zone covering Oxford city centre later this year and expand it in 2021/22.

The far-reaching two-phase measure has been revealed in final draft proposals that have been open to public consultation. Both Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are now assessing feedback on:

  • Charge levels for non-compliant vehicles – cars, vans, HGVs and mopeds/motorcycles – of £10 per day charge is suggested rising to £20 per day in December 2024
  • The Zone’s hours of operation – 7am-7pm is recommended
  • Whether discounts should be available for all blue badge holders entering the Zone until December 2024 and a 90% discount for residents living in the Zone until December 2030
  • What future phases of the Zero Emission Zone should include, and when they should be implemented.

The draft document also proposes the creation of a Green Zone covering the rest of the city centre in 2021/22, which would be accessed free of charge by zero emission vehicles and with discounted charges for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards (Euro6/VI for diesel vehicles/Euro 4 for petrol vehicles).

The document also proposes exemptions for businesses registered in the Red Zone until December 2024, followed by a 50% discount until December 2030 when a £10 per day charge would be levied.

The Councils say that exempting vehicles registered to businesses within the Red Zone from any charge until December 2024, allows employers time to transition to zero emissions fleets. Deliveries in non-zero emission vehicles may be made free of charge outside of the operating hours of the Red Zone.

Under the proposals, a compliant vehicle is considered to be one that matches the Government’s Plug-In grant criteria – allowing some plug-in hybrids (cars with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 70 miles without any emissions at all and vans with CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and can travel at least 10 miles without any emissions at all) and hydrogen vehicles, as well as 100% electric vehicles.

Following the feedback, the Red Zone will then go to formal consultation in March, and the draft charging order published, with both Councils making a formal decision on implementation in the spring, which could mean the scheme coming into effect in December 2020.

Under the proposals, zero emission vehicles would be able to drive in the Red Zone, which consists of Bonn Square, Queen Street, Cornmarket, Ship Street, St Michael’s Street, and New Inn Hall Street – free of charge.

The Green Zone due to cover the remainder of the city centre and slated for implementation in 2021/22, would operate alongside the Red Zone, with separate requirements.

That could involve a charging scheme with:

  • Daily charges for high emission vehicles – worse than Euro 6/VI diesel or Euro 4 petrol
  • A discounted daily charge for low emission vehicles – Euro 6/VI diesel, Euro 4 petrol or better, and/or for vehicles which comply with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards
  • No charge for zero emission vehicles
  • Discounts for residents’ cars, vans or motorcycles.

Greater detail around the implementation of the Green Zone and how it would work is subject to further technical work, and consultation in 2020.

Finally, in a rare item of ‘good news’ for car users in town and city centres, Newcastle City Council has decided to press ahead with introduction of a Clean Air Zone, but that cars will be exempt from any charge.

The Class C Clean Air Zone – rather than the previously announced Class D Clean Air Zone – will see non-compliant HGVs, buses and coaches charged entry of £50 per day and vans/light goods vehicles, taxies and private hire vehicles £12.50 per day. Minimum entry standards are Euro 4 for petrol vehicles and Euro 6/V1 for diesel vehicles.

However, the Council has also now decided to restrict traffic on the Tyne Bridge to one lane in either direction. That development has been criticised by the Freight Transport Association as “not delivering the desired improvements in air quality and simply increasing road congestion”.

Newcastle City Council’s plans, which are slated for introduction in 2021, must be approved by the Government.

Car manufacturers could axe model ranges to meet tough emission targets and avoid multi-billion pound fines

Motor manufacturers may have to radically and rapidly change vehicle line-ups, which could see some models axed, to avoid fines running into billions of pounds for failing to meet tough European emission rules.

New carbon dioxide (CO₂) emission rules demand that each manufacturers’ average emission across their new car ranges is an average of 95g/km. Carmakers breaching their individual CO₂ targets will pay fines of €95 (£81) for every gram over their limit, multiplied by the number of cars sold in both 2020 and 2021.

Now research by PA Consulting, the international management consultancy, suggests that Europe’s 13 leading vehicle manufacturers collectively face fines of €14.5 billion (£12.4 billion) unless low-emission vehicle sales are given top priority.

PA Consulting said: “This is the fifth year we’ve assessed progress towards the targets and, after positive results in recent years, many manufacturers have taken a step backwards and all now look likely to miss them.

“While a few top performers could turn the tide and avoid fines by prioritising low-emission vehicles, most must now take aggressive action to prepare for the 2025 and 2030 European Union CO₂ emissions targets.”

Those targets require by 2025 a cut of 15% on the 2020/21 95g/km emissions target and a 31% reduction from 2030.

In the UK new car fleet average CO₂ rose for a third successive year in 2019 by 2.7% to 127.9g/km, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The motor manufacturers trade body said that massive investment by manufacturers into advanced powertrains, lightweight materials and aerodynamics meant new cars were ever more efficient, emitting, on average, some 9.3% less CO₂ than models produced in 2000.

However, that could not offset the overall CO₂ rise which, said the SMMT, was due primarily to the effect of the more stringent new model emissions testing under the recently introduced Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) protocol.

It generally ascribes a higher CO₂ value than the previous New European Driving Cycle test to the same model, but the SMMT also said that some segment shifts in sales and the decline in diesel in the wake of the 2015 emissions scandal that engulfed the Volkswagen Group and consumer confusion over Government policies towards the fuel were also to blame for the CO₂ increase.

One of those segment shifts has been a significant rise, in registrations of sports utility vehicles in the UK and across Europe. On average, such vehicles have CO₂ emissions 16g/km or 14% higher than an equivalent hatchback model.

PA Consulting said: “All the car makers that were previously on track to meet their targets – Toyota, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, Volvo, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover – are now set to fall short according to our forecasts.”

Other major manufacturer likely to face fines for breaching emission targets include: Hyundai-Kia, Volkswagen Group, BMW, Ford, Daimler, Honda, Fiat Chrysler and Mazda.

As a result, PA Consulting calculates that Volkswagen could face a potential penalty of €4.5 billion (£3.8 billion) – 32% of its 2018 earnings – reflecting the high number of cars it sells in Europe, and Jaguar Land Rover could see a fine equivalent to 400% of its 2018 profit.

To combat the potential fines, PA Consulting said: “Manufacturers should look closely at how they can encourage sales of low-emission vehicles throughout 2020 as electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids qualify for super-credits that could significantly lower fines. That means reviewing pricing and promotions, and making low-emission vehicles more prominent in showrooms.

“Only by increasing sales of low-emission vehicles can car makers move towards their targets and reduce fines. That means understanding sales volumes by CO₂ emissions, heavily marketing hybrids and fully electrified vehicles, and thinking carefully about price. While the disruption and uncertainty caused by technological change have been difficult for the automotive industry, technology will be the long-term solution to reducing emissions and costs.”

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes went further telling The Guardian newspaper: “Carmakers will have to look at their model mix to see whether that is economic. The fines are going to be severe, and all of them will do everything they can to avoid that.

“It could be that you see a reduction in consumer choice through the removal of higher-emitting vehicles from not just the top end, but particular segments.”

Even though the UK is exiting the European Union, it will still be impacted by the European Union’s emission targets as it adopts them as its own.

There is speculation that as motor manufacturers look to minimise the impact of fines that they will target sales of electric vehicles and smaller CO2-emitting models at European Union countries, rather than the UK. With a larger spread to average across, the 95g/km target would be easier to reach, especially with the CO2-heavy UK out of the equation.

The impact of that decision as model ranges transition would be to leave the UK potentially without some of its more popular vehicle options, and nothing to replace them and a fall in over total new car registrations.

PA Consulting added: “Our analysis shows it’s too late for changes in technology to make a difference to the 2021 targets, so manufacturers will have to take a different strategy to make an immediate impact. But the new low-emission technologies they are developing have real potential to reduce CO₂ emissions as focus shifts to 2025 and 2030 CO₂ emissions targets.

“Car makers should accelerate innovative technologies to market as a standard option, foregoing the long process of introducing premium technology that trickles down through the range.”

Tim Lawrence, an automotive expert at PA Consulting, was reported as saying: “There’s a big transition to go through from the existing combustion engines to the new technology. They [manufacturers] are very concerned about consumer adoption of electric vehicles.”

Government must use supportive policies to ‘charge up’ EV switch with sales ‘still tiny’

The pace of the transition to electric motoring must increase if Government targets are to be met, according to a report by the influential Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce.

The Taskforce, a collaboration established jointly by business and transport ministers at the Prime Minister’s Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in 2018, comprises more than 350 organisations including motor manufacturers, major contract hire and leasing companies, energy providers, electric vehicle charge point providers, banks and other organisations.

The report makes 21 recommendations to be taken on by Government and the electric vehicle sector focused on enabling the efficient integration of electric vehicles with the energy system during the electrification transition.

While the report says that “the transition to electric motoring is now well underway” – although new car registrations would suggest otherwise – it adds that “the pace of change must increase”. The Taskforce says that it expects electric vehicles “to become ubiquitous on Britain’s roads”.

One of the major hurdles that must be overcome is electric vehicle charging point interoperability. Concerns include: the different types of plug-in vehicle recharging points causing confusion around the speed at which a vehicle’s battery will be recharged; different vehicles requiring different connectors to enable charging to take place; and no standard payment system across all charge point providers.

Battery enhancements by motor manufacturers means that electric vehicle range has improved significantly, and continues to do so and, as a result, some experts say that electric vehicle charge point anxiety has replaced so-called range anxiety as the number one concern among drivers.

The Taskforce says that the Government must intervene if by 2025 the industry has not reached convergence on a preferred set of standards that meet interoperability requirements across the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Indeed, Mike Hawes, chief executive of motor industry trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “Drivers must feel confident that it is as easy to charge as it is to pull up at a forecourt and refuel.”

Transport Minister George Freeman said: “Government commissioned the Taskforce to advise how we can best work with industry to make sure the energy system is ready for the transition to electric vehicles. This report provides important evidence to shape the next stage of our ‘Road to Zero’ roadmap.”

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

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

That pledge was in response to its advisory Committee on Climate Change suggesting that 2030 might have to mark the end of the road for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans – potentially just two fleet replacement cycles.

Data highlighting new car registrations for 2019 show just how far the pace of electric vehicle take-up must change.

Registrations of battery electric cars totalled 37,850 units, 144% up on 2018 but still accounting for just a 1.6% share of total new model sales, according to SMMT data. Together with plug-in hybrid vehicle registrations, which totalled 34,734, down 17.8% year-on-year, electric vehicles accounted for a combined near-73,000 units to take just a 3.1% share of the new car market.

Nevertheless, Go Ultra Low, the collaborative campaign group bringing together the Government, SMMT and motor manufacturers, said 2019 was the most successful year for electric car registrations to date. At the end of last year the number of 100% electric and plug-in hybrid cars registered in the UK was 271,524.

Furthermore vehicle choice is set to further expand in 2020 as 23 new zero emission cars and 11 plug-in hybrid models are set to make their showroom debuts including the Peugeot e-208, Volkswagen ID.3, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Vauxhall Corsa-e, Skoda CITIGO E, and Mini Electric.

While the “huge increase” in battery electric vehicle registrations was welcomed by the SMMT, it said the 1.6% market share was “still tiny” and underlined the progress needed to achieve Government targets.

However, the SMMT, which is a member of the Taskforce, added that the Government’s ambition had not been helped by the significant decline of zero emission-capable plug-in hybrids, due to what it called “further evidence of the consequences of prematurely removing upfront purchase incentives before the market is ready”. The Government ended the Plug-In Grant for plug-in electric vehicle hybrid cars 15 months ago.

Mr Hawes said: “We urgently need more supportive policies: investment in infrastructure; broader measures to encourage uptake of the latest, low and zero emission cars; and long term purchase incentives. Industry is playing its part with a raft of exciting new models in 2020 and compelling offers but consumers will only respond if economic confidence is strong and the technology affordable.”

He also called for motor manufacturers’ investment in electric vehicles and the widening of model choice to be supported by “an appropriate and appealing electric vehicle charging network for electric vehicle drivers”.

Whether or not the first Budget of the new Government’s reign due on March 11 provides additional financial support to switch electric vehicle demand into the fast lane remains to be seen.

Meet the team – Leo Roy

Name: Leo Roy.

Job Title: Fleet controller, service support team.

Explain your role in 10 words: Covering all aspects of fleet requirements.

What’s the best aspect of your job?Creating a positive working relationship with clients.

What’s the worst aspect of your job?Nothing – I love a challenge!

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Five years.

What was your first paid job? Car valeting at a garage from the age of 14.

What’s your favourite car? The Batmobile.

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? To be financially free.

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? A presenter on BBC TV’s Top Gear.

Who in the world would you most like to meet? Morgan Freeman.

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? Socialising, chilling and having a great time.

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? Share with friends and family and, of course, travel the world!

Not a lot of people know that… I can hold a handstand for 10 minutes.

Scottish and Welsh Governments consult on vehicle emission crackdown measures and penalties

The Scottish and Welsh Governments are holding separate public consultations on proposals to reduce vehicle emissions and simultaneously improve air quality.

The Scottish Government has previously outlined plans to have four Low Emission Zones in place to address air quality in the country by 2020 – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The country’s first Low Emission Zone came into effect in Glasgow from December 31, 2018 and applies to buses only. The Zone will be extended to all vehicle types from December 31, 2022.

The newly published consultation, which runs until February 24, 2020, outlined proposed current and future town and city Low Emission Zone entry standards and the enforcement regime.

Meanwhile, road pricing, Clean Air Zones and/or Low Emission Zones and increasing the proportion of vehicles which are electric and ultra-low (ULEV) emission are all on the agenda as the Welsh Government runs a 12-wek consultation on improving air quality.

It is also working on a proposal for all new cars and light goods vehicles in the public sector to be ultra-low emissions by 2025 and where practicably possible, all HGVs to be ultra-low emission by 2030.

The Scottish Government is proposing that Low Emission Zone entry standards are Euro 6/VI for diesel vehicles and Euro 4 for petrol vehicles this follows the entry criteria for the existing London Ultra-Low Emission Zone and that being suggested by other English towns and cities planning Clean Air Zones.

However, the document makes clear that stricter Low Emission Zone standards could be introduced to meet the Scottish Government’s commitment to move to towards zero or ultra-low emission city centres by 2030 as part of the phasing out of the need to buy petrol and diesel engine cars and vans by 2032.

The proposed penalty for non-compliance with Low Emission Zone entry criteria is a ‘base level’ fine of £60 for cars, vans, minibuses and taxis reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days and £500 for HGVs, buses and coaches reduced to £250 if paid within 14 days.

However, in a move at variance with penalties in other town and cities across England, the Scottish Government is proposing a tiered surcharge option. For cars, vans, minibuses and taxis that could see a £120 fine on second contravention reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days and then incremental graduation up to a maximum of £5,000. For HGVs, buses and coaches a second contravention could incur a fine of £1,000 reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days and then a similar incremental graduation up to a maximum of £5,000.

It is also proposed that three contraventions in the same Low Emission Zone within a 28-day period would see the punishment increased by one tier in the penalty system. Low Emission Zone entry would be enforced by Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras at entry points.

Air pollution is claimed to be the largest environmental risk to the public’s health and Public Health Wales estimates it contributed to between 1,000 and 1,400 deaths in 2017.

Now ‘The Clean Air Plan for Wales, Healthy Air, Healthy Wales’ proposes a wide ranging series of new actions and commitments as a stepping stone to a new Clean Air Act for Wales.

On road pricing, Clean Air Zones and/or Low Emission Zones the consultation document says: “We will continue to review the role of vehicle access restriction, including whether road-user charging and banning of the most polluting vehicles has a role to play in reducing roadside levels of air pollution.”

The document also makes clear that toll roads as well as anti-idling legislation could be part of a move to “align the opportunities presented by Low Emission Zones and Clean Air Zones with wider transport policy initiatives in Wales”.

The document, which is open to consultation until March 10, 2020, continues: “Promoting a switch from petrol and diesel road vehicles to electric and other ultra-low emission power is an essential element of our approach to tackle transport CO2 emissions and reducing air pollutants.”

The Welsh Government has already pledged to invest £2 million by 2020 to help create a network of rapid charging points to enable long distance travel by electric vehicles throughout Wales.

Renault reduces fleet operating costs and breaks convention with new five-year car warranty

Renault has broken with mainstream motor manufacturer convention and launched a five-year warranty on all new cars.

Typically, European and most Japanese motor manufacturers have offered three-year new car warranties with only Korean marques Kia and Hyundai breaking convention with seven-year and five-year warranties respectively. However, Mitsubishi an Alliance partner of Renault, offers a five-year/62,500-mile warranty, while fellow Alliance partner Nissan offers a three-year new car warranty.

The new Renault five-year warranty, which will help reduce whole life operating costs for fleets, sees an increase from 36 months to 60 months of cover as standard for all passenger cars with unlimited mileage cover for the first two years and a 100,000-mile limit thereafter.

Introduction of the five-year warranty coincides with the launch of new models to the Renault range, including all-new Clio, all-new Captur, and the new all-electric Zoe.

The new Trafic Passenger and SpaceClass, people-carrying versions of the Trafic light commercial vehicle are covered by a three-year warranty, in line with all Renault LCVs, with unlimited mileage for the first 24 months, then limited to a total of 100,000 miles in the remaining year.

Speaking about the new five-year warranty Vincent Tourette, managing director of Renault UK said: “Renault is deeply committed to the quality and reliability of its products and this extended cover reinforces the confidence that both we and our customers have in our vehicles.”

As before, all new Renault models will be backed by a three-year roadside assistance package with a 100,000 mile limit for zero emission vehicles and new Koleos, and a 60,000 mile limit for all other models.

Employer action required to reduce fatal and serious crashes involving at-work drivers

Urgent employer action – including the publishing of fleet safety records – is needed to tackle the stagnation in the number of people killed or injured in collisions involving those who need to drive as part of their work, it is claimed.

Drivers and their employers, Government, the Health and Safety Executive and the police most “do more “to address the fact that there has been virtually no change in the number of fatal and serious injury road crashes on UK roads in the last decade.

That includes the number of collisions involving people driving for business, which has remained static, at one in four of all incidents, over the same period. In 2009 there were 5,442 serious and fatal crashes in Britain involving an at-work driver; in 2018 this had risen to 5,506.

Now road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, has highlighted its concerns about “a worrying lack of progress in driving down the number of work-related traffic incidents” highlighted in its latest white paper, ‘The Role of Business Drivers’.

The paper also highlights what IAM RoadSmart calls “some alarming practices and attitudes when it comes to employers and their drivers” including:

  • Nearly half of business leaders polled (49%) expect their employees to answer their phone at any time, including while driving for work
  • Just over one in eight employees who drive for work (13%) and more than one in 20 leaders (6%) consider the hard shoulder a safe place to take a work call
  • One in six UK employees who drive for work (17%) say they have been involved in an incident when driving for work due to a phone call from a colleague.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said in the report: “Employers need to do more to drive change across their workforce and to take their responsibilities to keep staff safe, particularly when they’re behind the wheel for business.

“The one thing you’d think businesses would sit up and take notice of is that there is a major bottom line issue. But it is simply going undetected. This is something we must change.”

Fleet Service Great Britain’s (Fleet Service GB) Achieve-branded programme of services includes Achieve Driver Management, a comprehensive online real-time and fully integrated safe driving programme that measures driver performance. It awards points against a wide range of parameters including points on driving licences and number and type of crashes.

Simultaneously, drivers can improve their record through a range of best practice parameters including self-selecting and completing four online ‘how to’ e-learning programmes a year from the many provided by Fleet Service GB such as driving on rural roads, reversing and manoeuvering.

The IAM RoadSmart report also highlights the issue of so-called ‘grey fleet’ drivers – those using privately owned vehicles for work-related journeys – with the sector increasing in size as employees opt out of traditional company cars in favour of cash allowances.

Irrespective of who owns a vehicle, if it is driven on a work-related journey the employer is legally responsible for staff health and safety.

Tony Greenidge, IAM RoadSmart’s business development director, said in the report: “The penny hasn’t dropped for many organisations that their responsibility for a ‘grey fleet’ driver is exactly the same as for a company car driver.

“If companies are expecting their employees to use their own vehicles for work journeys, they must ensure they are doing so safely and with appropriate guidelines, if they are to stay within the law.”

In what would be a “hugely transformative move”, he suggests that “serious consideration” should be given to forcing employers to declare and publish their fleet’s telemetry data to reveal their levels of safety, just as schools must publish SATS result and the NHS publishes surgeons’ performance data.

IAM RoadSmart has followed the likes of the Driving for Better Business campaign – now backed by the Highways Agency and previously supported by the Department for Transport in delivering improvements in work-related road safety – for road safety to be at the heart of procurement practice in UK industry.

It says that if a business cannot demonstrate a strong commitment to legislation compliance with regards to driving for work safety, then they run the increasing risk that they might be disadvantaged when bidding for contracts in both the private and public sector.

Mr Greenidge said: “Employers should be compelled to report on how they have reacted to telematics data, demonstrating that they have addressed patterns of poor driving with training and other driving-for-work policies. The data should be published in firms’ annual reports or as part of their CSR statement.

This would enable those seeking the services of companies with fleets, or company cars, or logistics firms, to choose only the safest businesses. Companies will compete to produce the best safety record – and attract the most lucrative contracts as a result.”

IAM RoadSmart claims responsibility for the “disappointing lack of progress in reducing the number of collisions involving people driving for business” must be shared between employers, drivers, Government, the Health and Safety Executive and the police as well as vehicle manufacturers.

It added that the Corporate Manslaughter Act introduced in 2007 was expected to underpin safer business driving and safer roads objectives – but to date, not a single person had been prosecuted or sent to jail under it in relation to death caused by a company car driver.

Mr Greenidge said: “Where there is clear evidence of poor driving behaviour no employer of a driver involved in an avoidable death while undertaking a business journey has been anywhere near a prosecution. It seems the legislation has proved difficult to apply.”

The IAM RoadSmart report is available at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/jb43aiw83j8l2qk/IAMRS%20Whitepaper%20-%20v4.pdf?dl=0