Government plotting ‘biggest roads revolution’

Written on October 5, 2015

The government is currently proposing a number of reforms regarding the UK’s road network, including potentially altering the driving test in order to reflect a potential surge in driverless cars.

The Independent on Sunday has reported that the proposals could be the most substantial reforms made since the driving test was originally introduced in 1935.

A number of other reforms have been planned, including:

  • Closing a number of test centres
  • Cutting different jobs at motoring agencies
  • Increasing the fees for non-essential services (such as personalised number plates)
  • Raising the age at which drivers must declare themselves fit to drive from 70 to 75

The Department for Transport is currently preparing a consultation document on the reforms, and it’s expected that it will be published in October: the Independent has obtained a first draft of the report.

The plan is for the consultation to form the basis on next year’s formal strategy on the future of the three main UK motoring agencies – the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Vehicle Certification Authority (VCA).

The Independent also reported that the Government is currently undertaking a separate review of the driving test, and is also trialling a new examination in which learners are asked to follow satellite navigation directions for a twenty minute period.

Oil prices continue to fall

Written on September 21, 2015

A 12 month oil low of $41.87 at the end of August helped to bring the average price down by 4p a litre, according to RAC information.  Diesel prices also continued to drop, with 5p overall being shaved off per litre throughout the month.

Overall, motorists are now paying around £2 less to fill up a family car than they were at the beginning of the month.

The fall in prices is almost entirely due to the substantial reduction in the wholesale price of oil.  In July, the barrel price was a fairly consistent ($60), but immediately dipped down to below $50 and the beginning of the month and stayed there, reaching a low of $41.87 on the 24th August.

Simon Williams, the RAC fuel spokesman, said:

“We thought July had been a good month for motorists but August proved to be better still due to world oil prices reaching their lowest since February 2009.

“In January, we saw oil go down to $45 but then recover to around the $60-a-barrel mark where it stayed for several months until this new level of over-production in August led to a dramatic reduction.

“Diesel drivers have benefitted the most this summer due to a new supply of diesel from Saudi Arabia bringing the wholesale price down.

“They are now paying £5.60 less to fill up than they were at the beginning of July whereas the savings for petrol motorists have only just kicked in with the drop in the price of oil feeding through into lower wholesale and retail prices.

HMRC oil duty statistics showed that overall fuel sales were 1.6 per cent down on June, with an overall 2.4 per cent drop in the litres of diesel sold, falling from 2.494bn to 2.433bn.

DVLA driver health check system could be ‘open to abuse’

Written on September 18, 2015

The current fitness-to-drive checks have received criticism following the revelation that no-one had been prosecuted following a fatal incident in Glasgow.

The fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the bin lorry crash was told that the driver Harry Clarke had lied to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) regarding his health.

Prosecutors ruled out criminal charges against the driver in February, and also ruled out making any criminal charges against Glasgow City Council, the employers.  Neither party were blamed for the crash.

It was alleged that Clarke had blacked out at the wheel of a stationary bus whilst employed by First Bus in 2010, and it emerged that this had not been fully revealed when he made his application for an LGV license with the DVLA, and when he underwent health assessments by Glasgow City Council. Despite these allegations, he will not face any legal action.

Drivers are required by law to sign a form stating that they meet the necessary medical standards when applying for their license, with the requirements stricter for lorry and bus drivers due to the size and weight of the vehicles.

Dr Wyn Parry, the chief medical adviser to the DVLA, told the enquiry that the current system of self-declaration and detection of relevant health issues had a ‘weakness’ and exposed applicants to a ‘huge level of temptation’.

It is a criminal offence not to inform the DVLA of a medical condition that could affect your ability to drive, and the maximum amount of time that anyone giving misleading information could face is two years.

David Wilson, the solicitor acting for the family of one of the crash victims, said that the family was ‘extremely shocked’ that no-one had been charged.

One in five UK drivers have committed a dent-and-run

Written on September 14, 2015

In a new study, one in five UK drivers have admitted to damaging another car and leaving the scene without making the owner aware of the incident, despite it being a criminal offence.

The study looked at a number of different factors, including how many people accidentally scratched, damaged or dented cars, and how they subsequently reacted.

100 per cent of respondents to the survey had damaged at least one other car, but their reactions varied.

Of all the drivers who took part in a ‘dent and ran’ over a third admitted that they didn’t feel guilty for doing so, with a quarter of these drivers admitting that they’d caused what they considered to be a ‘medium’  – i.e. noticeable – amount of damage.

Men were more likely to knock a car and then leave, with 28 per cent of males (compared to just 16 per cent of females) confessing to having done so.

People in the 18 to 24 age group were the least likely to own up, with over a third of this group having admitted to denting and running.

Dermot Kelleher, the director of marketing and business intelligence, said:

“Doing damage to another car without owning up and exchanging insurance details is an important issue and people need to be aware that it is, in fact, a crime to do so.

“Accidents happen, especially in packed shopping centre car parks, but people should not be afraid to own up when they damage another person’s car.”

HMRC benefit-in-kind statistics reveal size of company car fleets

Written on September 11, 2015

The total number of cars on UK roads has remained at around the same level for the last two years, according to new information from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Newly published figures taken from the 2013/2014 tax year have revealed that benefit-in-kind was paid on a total of around 940,000 company cars.  This number was a decline by 10,000 cars on the 2011/2012 financial year, but still suggested that levels had stabilised, following the constant decline since 2000, when 1.16m people paid BIK on their vehicles.

The number of people paying BIK tax on privately used fuel also declined according to the figures, with 200,000 employees paying BIK in the 2013/2014 year compared to 220,000 in 2012/2013 and 240,000 in 2011/2014.

For a number of years, tax experts have claimed that the majority of employees would actually be better off paying for fuel use out of their own pocket.

Another noticeable decline came in the number of employees currently paying tax on mileage allowances in excess of the current AMAP (Approved Mileage Allowance Payment) rate.

HMRC has already attributed the reduction in the number of employees to 290,000 in the 2013/2014 financial year to the increase in fuel prices during that same period.

Overall, the number of employees paying BIK tax on vans increase from 60,000 to 70,000 across the 2012/2013 to 2013/2014.

High-mileage drivers sceptical about safety benefits of speed cameras

Written on September 2, 2015

According to new information from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), many high-mileage drivers remain sceptical about the safety benefits of speed cameras.

The new paper – titled ‘The Views of High Mileage Drivers’ – found that 28 per cent of high-mileage drivers had a negative view of speed cameras: this is 10 per cent more than other drivers.  It also found that more than half of the people surveyed felt that speed cameras were ‘little more than a money-making tool’

The paper was commissioned by IAM Drive and Survive, the commercial arm of the IAM responsible for providing driver risk management services.

60 per cent of high-mileage respondents to the survey thought that other reasons existed for the installation of speed cameras (apart from where the cameras were installed in black spots), compared to 39 per cent of medium mileage drivers and 47 per cent of low-mileage drivers.

High mileage drivers were also the most divided over whether money generated from speed awareness courses should be used to help operate speed cameras, and over a quarter of them believe that speed cameras have not assisted in reducing the number of road casualties taking place.

Government figures show that between 2008 and 2013, 3,493 people were killed in accidents involving a driver/rider who was driving for work.  515 crashes occurred in 2013.

Vehicle theft remains a ‘significant’ challenge

Written on August 28, 2015

According to the latest statistics, vehicle theft has fallen by 70 per cent across Britain in the last ten years.  Despite this, though, major cities still face a ‘significant challenge’ in tackling it, according to Tracker.

Figures taken from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that UK car crime is currently at its lowest since 1968, but that it remains a major issue in cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Andy Barrs, police liaison officer for Tracker, said:

“The Mayor of London’s Police and Crime Plan, outlines a focus on vehicle theft as a key priority, with sizable increases happening in key London boroughs, such as Westminster (59%), Islington (35%) and Camden (31%).

“It could well be that the London vehicle theft rate is being overlooked by the industry because the Home Office no longer break down individual categories of vehicle, for example ‘theft of’ and ‘theft from’ motor vehicle, preferring instead to measure them under the all-encompassing banner of ‘vehicle crime.’

“Nonetheless, the Home Office public facing crime comparator website clearly indicates that large Metropolitan forces are still struggling to stem the rising trend in vehicle theft, thereby indicating a clear disparity between the picture painted by the Home Office and the reality in London and the UK’s larger cities.”

Tracker has supported calls by the automotive industry for local authorities to collect more detailed data about how vehicles are stolen in their region, in order to try and increase the understanding on the types of theft being conducted across the country.

Chancellor’s four year MOT plans raise safety concern

Written on August 25, 2015

The fleet sector is divided over new government proposals to raise the first MOT test for cars from three to four years after registration.

As part of the recent budget, the chancellor announced a consultation on the proposed test extension.  However, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has called for a time and mileage based system instead, stating that fleets could end up having issues if they don’t take mileage into account.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive for the BVRLA, said:

“Cars are more reliable than ever, but extending the first MOT deadline could pose safety issues for cars that are doing high mileages and aren’t serviced regularly,”

“There could be a case for developing a time and mileage-based criteria for the first MOT.”

Extending the first MOT to four years would remove the obligation that the majority of fleet cars have for undergoing the test, according to new data from Fleet News.  The average company car replacement cycle is around 46 months: 10 months after the first MOT is currently due, but 2 months before if the change were introduced.

Kyle Truman, marketing director at Epyx, said:

“Effectively, this would mean that the majority of cars owned by fleets would never need to be MOT’d, because they are on shorter cycles than four years, which is a definite gain in terms of both costs and reduced hassle surrounding defleeting,”

The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), however, has said that the plan can only damage the UK’s current road safety record.  Current belief is that the average mileage car is significantly more likely to be running on unsafe and worn tyres and brakes after four years than it will at three.

This means that an extension to the law will mean that more and more failures of safety related components – are likely to occur – especially in high-mileage cars.

Driving assembly calls for diesel car ban in capital

Written on August 21, 2015

The London Assembly has called for the Mayor to consider banning diesel cars from the capital.

A GLA Study found that London’s air quality is currently among the worst in Europe, as well as in the UK.  Estimates in the Assembly’s new report showed that over 3,000 deaths in the capital each year can be attributed to air pollution.

The Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to take immediate action in order to tackle the high levels of nitrogen dioxide found in the UK.  Pollution levels in London at the moment are considered illegal by European Union (EU) standards.

The report, ‘Driving away from diesel: Reducing air pollution from diesel vehicles’ report found that diesel road traffic is currently responsible for around 40 per cent of the capital’s nitrogen oxide emissions.

A number of recommendations that could help clean up the capital’s air quality are included within the report, including:

  • An introduction of a wider and stronger Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) before 2020.
  • The introduction of a scrappage scheme linked to replacing non-compliant vehicles with those that are low-emission.
  • A plan for introducing zero-emission capable taxis from 2018, with concrete details as to how the scheme will be delivered.
  • A plan to demonstrate how London will meet European air pollution limits by 2020.

Stephen Knight, environment committee member, said:

“The committee has been pushing for NO2 compliance for some time now but following the judgment from the Supreme Court in April, the Government is now obliged to act by law.

“We urge the Mayor and the Government to take our recommendations on board and we call on the Mayor to finally take ownership of the matter in order to help London’s air quality meet legal limits.”

First company charged with corporate manslaughter following driver death

Written on August 19, 2015

Baldwins Crane Hire has become the first company to be charged with corporate manslaughter, following the death of one of their company drivers.

Lindsay Easton was driving a heavy crane down a steep road when the vehicle crashed into an earth bank off the road.  It has been alleged that the brakes in the vehicle failed.

Jane Wragg, specialist prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said:

“I have concluded that Baldwins Crane Hire should be charged with an offence of corporate manslaughter.

“I have also concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge the company Baldwins Crane Hire with offences under Section 2 and Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.”

Wragg believed that there was sufficient evidence in place for a realistic chance of conviction, and that under the relatively new law a prosecution would be in the public interest.

The case will go to trial in October.

Eight companies have been convicted of corporate manslaughter since it was introduced in April 2008.  Two have been acquitted, and four are currently awaiting trial.

Julia Messervy-Whiting, a partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said:

“There has been a surprising lack of convictions under the [Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide] Act and only one of those resulted in the minimum £500,000 [fine] anticipated by the guidelines.”