News

DriveSafe calls for increased road awareness

Written on December 19, 2014

Charity, DriveSafe has called on all road users to be more mindful of cyclists following a 10 per cent increase in the number killed or injured on UK roads in the last year.

The Birmingham-based charity was “appalled” at the latest figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) that showed 3,530 cyclists were killed or suffered serious injuries in the 12 months leading up to June.

In the same time period 9,000 drivers and car passengers were either killed or seriously injured.  This figure was also an increase of four per cent, as was the seven per cent increase in motorcyclists suffering the same fate (with 5,510).  The figures for pedestrians changed little at 5,570.

Overall, 1,760 people in the UK were killed in road accidents.

Fay Goodman, founder of DriveSafe, said:

“The latest road accident figures are appalling and can’t simply be explained away by increased usage of the roads in warmer spring weather this year, as the Department for Transport has suggested.

“We need not only slower traffic speeds, safer routes and better policing, but also greater courtesy, consideration and understanding between different road users.

“Lives are being shattered by motorists who text at the wheel, cyclists who ride side by side on busy roads and pedestrians who don’t always look when they cross the road.

“That is why we are urging companies to send their employees on driver safety courses and campaigning for road safety to be made part of the national curriculum.

“We want children to be able to go to school safely by foot or bike so that we can also tackle the problem of obesity, ease the strain on the NHS, and reduce congestion around schools.”

DriveSafe is currently encouraging drivers to make an increased effort to look out for cyclists, with the winter evenings drawing in and temperatures falling: both of which are known causes of visibility issues.

The charity currently has 10 top tips for helping motorists avoid close calls with cyclists:

  • Ensuring a full clear field of vision when the sun is low
  • Having extra sunglasses with you in case of the same situation
  • Allow extra time before leaving to clear any ice and snow from the car
  • Regularly checking to ensure all your lights are working
  • Checking that your tyres have enough tread (at least 3mm is recommended for winter).
  • Taking notes of any blackspots in advance
  • Matching your speed to the conditions
  • Taking extra care when manoeuvring your car when roads are slippery
  • Taking more time to look out for cyclists at junctions and in low light
  • Be aware of cyclists moving up the side of the car.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has published a document setting out the work logistics companies are currently carrying out to improve safety on Britain’s roads.  For more information, click here.

HGV changes to be introduced to deliver fairer deal

Written on December 16, 2014

Rules governing HGVs are to be modernised across England and Wales, according to an announcement by Transport Minister, Claire Perry.

The Government are planning to raise the national speed limit from 50mph to 60mph for lorries travelling on dual carriageways, following on from the increase in the single carriageway limit introduced earlier this year.

Ms Perry said:

“It is really important that speed limits for lorries reflect the needs of a modern transport network and improved vehicle technology.

“Britain has one of the best road safety records in the world and I am determined to ensure this continues. This change is about ensuring rules for lorry drivers’ speed limits are in line with other larger vehicles on our roads, creating a fairer and more proportionate system.”

The current legislation was first set up in the 1980s, and will be updated.

The road safety charity, Brake has already expressed disappointment at the government’s aims, with deputy chief executive, Julie Townsend saying:

“This decision runs against work to more effectively manage traffic speeds and reduce casualties and emissions on our roads.

“As with the decision to raise the HGV speed limit on single carriageways, the Government is making a leap of faith in spite of the legitimate concerns of road safety groups.

“The Government itself admits that, at best, there will be no economic or road safety benefit. At worst, it risks increasing deaths and serious injuries on our roads if the largest vehicles are allowed to reach higher speeds more often.

“The relationship between increased speed and increased casualties is a proven one, so why take the risk?

“Increasing the HGV speed limit on single and dual carriageways sets a dangerous precedent, sending a message that if traffic laws are persistently flouted, the Government would rather change them than get tough with the law-breaking drivers putting everyone at risk.”

Fuel tax trap warning issued by TMC

Written on December 15, 2014

The decrease in oil prices could potentially lead to a fuel tax trap for road users, according to fuel and mileage specialists, The Miles Consultancy (TMC).

Last week’s Autumn Statement saw the Chancellor rule out any rise in fuel duty before the General Election next May.  It’s therefore expected that above-inflation tax rises will take place at some point in the second half of 2015

Oil prices fell below $75 per barrel last week, which was the benchmark that the Government set for a return to above-inflation prices when they introduced the Fuel Price Stabiliser regime in 2011.

Paul Jackson, the managing director for TMC, said:

“Reviving the duty escalator would be a huge gamble by the next government. It would be a bet on oil prices staying low, thus offsetting the negative impact of higher tax on economic growth.

“But global oil supply remains precarious despite the current boost given to US domestic production from fracking. Even a modest uptick in world demand for oil will quickly send the price back up again. Raising fuel duty risks hitting fleets with a double-whammy.”

TMC has urged existing fleets to capitalise on the falling fuel prices by focusing on efficiency and productivity before the expected rises take place.

“The reason for lower oil prices is not a glut of new crude,” added Jackson.

“It’s because major consumers like fleets are much smarter at using in-depth information on vehicles and drivers to get the most out of every litre of business fuel.”

Analysis by the Consultancy showed that, regardless of crude oil prices, the amount paid at the pump is still primarily influenced by tax decisions.  UK pump prices only started to fall in real terms when the Government abandoned the fuel duty escalator in 2011.

The FDE was introduced in 2006, and quickly pushed pump prices 25 per cent higher in real terms than levels which had sparked protests in 2000. Since the FDE was abandoned, the real price of diesel has fallen by 17%, despite oil prices remaining at all-time record highs.

Fuel duty to remain frozen

Written on December 12, 2014

As part of his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne has announced that fuel duty will remain frozen until at least mid-2015. The decision has already been widely welcomed by the fleet industry in general.

David Bizley, chief engineer for the RAC, said:

“The negative impact of fuel duty on economic growth is now acknowledged by the Treasury.

“With fuel duty already frozen until May 2015, we had feared an early return to the fuel duty escalator system – a deeply unpopular practice which led to a series of fuel duty hikes – but, for now, it appears that is not going to be the case.

“While we are currently enjoying low pump prices as a result of the lower world oil price this may change quickly, and it will be reassuring to fleet managers that the taxation scheme is not about to change.”

Though the news of the freeze has been welcomed, there are some within the motoring sector who think that prices should have been cut rather than left as they are.  Andrew Hodgsen, a senior manager with Strategic Fleet Consultancy at Lex Autolease, was one of the first to voice his concerns:

“British businesses are burdened with some of the highest fuel prices in Europe” said Hodgsen.

“Reducing fuel duty would provide them with an immediate cashflow boost as they look to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the recovering economy.

“Unfortunately the Government’s decision not to reduce fuel duty means they remain saddled with this costly overhead.”

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), was also disappointed, having been hoping for a cut of at least 3p per litre. Mr Burnett noted that as a result of current low oil prices, duty now accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the price of a litre of fuel.

Mr Burnett also criticised the chancellor for not addressing either plug-in grants or electric vehicles in the statement.

“The financial incentive of a plug in grant has made electric vehicles more affordable for businesses and motorists in general,” he said.

“Rather than remove this grant in 2017 or when vehicle sales reach 50,000, we would have preferred to see a phased reduction to ensure the fledgling electric vehicle industry is not damaged by a sudden drop in sales.”

Government will announce biggest road upgrade ‘in a generation’

Written on December 10, 2014

Parliament this week announced a new £15bn plan to triple the amount of work being done to improve the condition and capacity of Britain’s roads.  The government has said that it will invest in over 100 new road schemes during this parliament and next.

More than 1,300 new lane miles will be added on motorways and trunk roads, with the aim of reducing congestion and fixing a number of long-standing ‘problem areas’.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

“Today I am setting out the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades. It will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential.

“Roads are key to our nation’s prosperity. For too long they have suffered from under-investment.

“This government has a long term plan to secure the country’s future and this £15 billion roads programme is demonstration of that.

“Better roads allow us to travel freely, creating jobs and opportunities, benefiting hardworking families across the country.”

Planned projects under the new scheme include:

  • A commitment of £2 billion to dual the entire A303 and A358 to the south-west.  This will include a tunnel at Stonehenge.
  • £290 million to complete the conversion of the A1 into a dual carriageway between London and Ellingham.
  • Completion of the smart motorway along the entire length of the M62 from Manchester to Leeds, and improvements to trans-Pennine capacity between Manchester and Sheffield.
  • The improvement of links to the Port of Liverpool as part of a wider scheme to improve access to major international gateways.
  • £350 million of improvements to the A27 along the south coast, with focus on reducing congestion in Arundel, Worthing and Lewes.
  • Investing £300 million to upgrade the dual carriageway sections of the A47 and improve connections to both the A1 and the A11.
  • Improving one third of the junctions on the M25.
  • Improving the M42 to the east of Birmingham.

Spending on Britain’s roads will also receive a boost in the form of maintenance funding worth more than £10bn.

Chancellor George Osborne said:

“Our plans will transform some of the country’s most important strategic routes, with ambitious projects to dual the A303, A1, A27 and the A47 as well as spending on important local infrastructure boosting productivity and helping local economies.

“For years our roads have been neglected. Now that this Government is fixing the economy, we can afford to invest properly in our roads – unlocking jobs for the future and local growth by creating a road network that is fit for the 21st century.”

Third of fleets are ‘failing to teach road safety basics’

Written on December 8, 2014

Almost one in three British fleets is currently failing to educate or train drivers in vital areas of road safety, according to new research.

The Brake and Licence Bureau questioned 228 fleets (around half of which run less than 100 vehicles) about driver education regarding topics such as mobile phone use and speeding.

The survey found that 29 per cent of these fleets do not currently provide education or awareness on any of the key topics listed. The majority of respondents provided no instruction to drivers to slow down to 20mph when working near schools, homes and shops.  As well as this, six out of ten fleets didn’t currently instruct drivers to look twice for bikes at junctions.

Two-thirds of respondents currently tell their drivers not to use their mobile phone at the wheel, with only one in four (26 per cent) requesting that phones are turned off.  Perhaps most tellingly, almost one in four didn’t tell their drivers to take any of the standard precautions.

With 95 per cent of crashes estimated to be the result of driver error, it’s vital for fleet drivers to understand the importance of safety, and the value of taking even these rudimentary precautions.

Mobile phone use in particular is considered a key risk, with studies showing that at-work drivers are far more likely to use mobiles at the wheel than those who don’t drive for work.  Drivers speaking on phones, meanwhile, are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury.

Other distraction risks including eating and drinking, smoking, adjusting music players and modifying sat-navs.  Distraction is estimated to be responsible for almost one in four (22 per cent) crashes.

Ellie Pearson, senior professional engagement officer at Brake, said:

“It’s crucial that all fleet operators are providing regular and ongoing education and awareness training for their drivers, and it’s worrying to see that three in 10 operators still fail to do this.

“It’s very positive to see operators providing training on key issues such as distraction and hazard awareness, but obviously we’d like to see a holistic approach to education, covering all areas of risk.”

Studies also show that a large proportion of organisations do not currently plan efficient routes and realistic schedules that would remove the pressure on drivers to speed, and only 46 per cent won’t consider penalising drivers for running over time.

Motorists uneasy about driverless cars

Written on November 29, 2014

Around a third of motorists remain uneasy about the prospect of driverless cars, according to a new survey put together by Autoglass.

2,000 UK drivers were questioned as part of the survey. 67% cited safety concerns as their main deterrent for buying a driverless car, with more than half (54%) of drivers noting that they would feel unsafe riding in one.

Interestingly, the report – entitled ‘Window to the Future’ – highlighted that the opposite is true for a number of other emerging technologies, with drivers keen to consider new safety features.

Some cutting edge safety technology has actually already been integrated into existing vehicles.  For instance, a number of cars are already on the market with ‘smart’ windscreens – windscreens that are likely to evolve into augmented reality vision in the near future, capable of alerting motorists to potential hazards, pedestrians and adverse weather conditions.

Technology still isn’t shown to be widely renowned, though.  50% of the drivers surveyed were unaware of what a head-up display was.  Interestingly, though, windscreen technology was already recognised as valuable, with 47% of drivers noting their interest in improved night vision and 37% interested in water repellent screens.

Just one in five drivers said that they regularly made use of voice control functionality in smart devices, with around a third preferring to operate devices manually instead.  27 admitted to doubting the efficacy of voice control.

Dr Chris Davies, the head of technical superiority at Autoglass, said:

“The car of the future is, in many respects, already here. We’re seeing more sophisticated technologies and features that have started to revolutionise the driving experience. Many of these, such as the head-up displays and eye tracking devices, are already delivering benefits where they are being used by the military and also in some commercial vehicles.”

“Our research reveals that although many drivers have an understanding of what the car of the future will look like, they aren’t quite ready to try it out just yet and they still enjoy the physical act of driving. Over one quarter (27%) of people surveyed say that they wouldn’t buy a driverless car for that reason, and just one in 10 (or 12%) is excited at the prospect of owning one.”

Mobile phone use still common on UK roads

Written on November 27, 2014

New research has indicated that more or less every driver has at some point seen another road user using their mobile phone within the last twelve months.

99% of respondents to the AA/Populus survey said that they’d seen a fellow driver using their mobile whilst at the wheel, with one in ten getting so annoyed that they’d beeped the horn, flashed their lights or shouted at the mobile user in question.

Jim Kirkwood, the managing director of AA DriveTech, said:

“The use of hand-held mobile phones is an epidemic amongst drivers who appear to be addicted to using their phone whenever and wherever they please.”

Drivers caught using their mobile phone face three points and a fixed penalty fine of £100, and can be fined up to £1000 if the case ends up going to court.  Many police forces are now giving drivers the option of an educational course instead of points and a fine – the cost of attending the course is usually around £90.

Drivers in Yorkshire and Humberside (and West Midlands) were most likely to react to illegal mobile phone use (13%), with those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the least likely.

A small minority (1%) of drivers made an attempt to stop another driver in order to let them know their annoyance of the mobile phone use.

Mr Kirkwood said:

“Drivers seem to be split into two camps – those who are so against drivers using hand-held mobiles that their blood boils when they see someone doing it and those who just carry on using their phones at the wheel without seemingly caring about the risk.

“While we absolutely don’t suggest drivers take the law into their own hands and confront other drivers, these results do highlight the frustration of many motorists who do recognise the risks if using a mobile phone while driving.”

Six out of ten UK drivers ‘can’t read maps’

Written on November 25, 2014

According to research, the majority of British drivers are incapable of reading a map, and have become far too reliant on their sat-navs.

A new survey released by Flexed.co.uk has shown that UK drivers are now so reliant on their electronic devices that they are often completely unaware of the route they’ve taken in order to reach their end destination.

Interestingly, the same survey showed that 91% of drivers relying on their sat-nav have at some point become lost in the last part of their journey because the device was unable to take them to the exact spot of their end destination.

The survey quizzed 1,150 private and commercial drivers about their sat-nav use, and found that 77% of respondents who use one relied totally on it to guide them.  Two-thirds of respondents no longer bother to look at road signs and 60% said that they aren’t able to read a paper map.

Johny Ratcliffe from Flexed.co.uk said:

“It’s becoming very clear that satellite navigation is making drivers lazy, and it’s got to the point where people arrive at their destination with no clear idea how they got there.”

Another point worthy of being highlighted was the increased danger that can occur as a result of reliance on technology.  Mr Ratcliffe referred to the relatively common practise of drivers suddenly changing lanes because of their reliance on a satnav.

“Over reliance on satnavs makes zombie drivers out of us,” Mr Ratcliffe concluded. “It’s absolutely okay to switch it off and follow the road signs. You might even get there quicker.”

Consultation to be launched on ultra-low emission zones

Written on November 24, 2014

The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have launched a public consultation on new proposals to launch the first Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the world in the year 2020.

The new proposals will require any vehicles travelling within the congestion zone to meet new standards.  The zone would be in effect for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Though many vehicles are already likely to meet the necessary standards by 2020, the Mayor and TfL are also planning to try and increase take-up of low emission vehicles.

The ULEZ should help to improve the quality of air in the London area, making it a more pleasant place in which to work.  Predictions are that ULEZ could halve emissions of both nitrogen oxide (NO2) and particulate matter from vehicle exhaust, leading to more than 80% of the capital meeting the NO2 legal limits by 2020.

NO2 has been shown to cause breathing problems and to increase asthma symptoms, with children and young people most likely to be affected. ULEZ could massively cut down exposure in hospitals, care homes and schools across London.

The majority of traffic entering the ULEZ is likely to originate from outside, meaning that the zone should also benefit the rest of London.

Mayor Boris Johnson said:

“Introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone is an essential measure to improve London’s air quality and reduce NO2.

“Safeguarding Londoners’ health and well-being is a top priority for my administration.

“I understand that people need adequate time to switch to greener vehicles and help is at hand for those who will be hardest hit, but let’s be clear, we need to make these important changes ASAP to continue to improve Londoners’ quality of life and give everyone who lives in or visits the city the cleanest possible air to breathe.”

Interestingly, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has already questioned Londoners having to wait until 2020 in order to enjoy the benefits of clean air.  Head of urban logistics and regional policy director Christopher Snelling said:

“Businesses are already operating some Euro VI HGVs today, despite the costs involved,”

“If TfL provided the right incentives, we could ensure that those vehicles are used sooner in central London, which faces some of the most difficult air quality challenges in Europe.”

The proposals would require vehicles travelling in central London to either meet the following emissions standards, or to pay a daily charge.  TfL will also be working to reduce emissions from its buses, as well as from private hire vehicles and to increase the number of zero emission capable vehicles.  Demonstrator fleets in London will help to boost industry sales and lead the transition towards low emission technology.