Record high for truck and van sales

Written on May 18, 2015

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that van and truck registrations reached a record high between January and March of this year.

The number of trucks and vans registered in the three months reached 108,456; the highest quarter received on record.  The figures represent a real boost for a sector that had suffered – as many did – during the economic downturn.

Only 221,132 CVs were registered during 2009– down from 388,488 in 2007.  The past 12 months, however, have already seen 384,120 registrations and it’s expected that demand will continue.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said:

“Commercial vehicles are crucial to the functioning of Britain’s economy and these latest figures paint a very encouraging picture.

“As business confidence grows, demand for the latest vans and trucks is now back to pre-recession levels – outpacing the rest of Europe. This year’s Commercial Vehicle Show promises to mirror this success, with a huge range of new products on show.”

GDP is growing and consumers are currently spending more on goods and services.  As a result, they’re more able to invest in vehicles to deliver them.  Some CV operators are currently returning to the market having held off new purchases during the recession.

Demand for vans is particularly high at the moment, with home deliveries across the UK growing.  97,775 vehicles were registered within the last year, an increase of 22.3 per cent on the previous year.

Commercial vehicles continue to play a crucial role in the British economy, with 4.4 million vans and trucks operating across Britain’s roads.

New plan to save public sector fleets announced

Written on May 15, 2015

A new framework agreement has been put in place that could save public sector fleets millions of pounds through the purchase of vehicles at an average discount of 24 per cent.

The new arrangement has been compiled by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), an executive agency of the Cabinet Office, and will set terms and conditions for suppliers.

More than 35,000 vehicles are expected to be purchased through the new scheme each year, bringing in an overall value of around £553 million.

Last year, CCS provided more than £110m of savings to the struggling public sector through various fleet agreements, with more than 32,000 vehicles being purchased through one of their operations.

A spokesman for the agency said that more public sector operations would now move to work within a CCS arrangement in order to ‘take advantage of the discounted rates’.

The programme is now the official framework through which the government departments procure vehicles but devolved agencies such as health departments, schools and councils have the option of opting in or out.

The new agreement also covers the bluelight sector with bodies such as police, fire and rescue, ambulance trusts, the Highways Agency as well as the Marine and Coastguard Agency and other agencies with specific vehicle requirements all likely to use it in future.

The CCS has also worked closely with the UK police forces as part of developing the agreement to ensure that it provides the specific vehicle types required by the police.

In addition to their work covering vehicle purchases and the supply and fit of tyres, a number of other arrangements are in place covering vehicle conversion and re-conditioning as well as the provision of other fleet necessities such as electric charging installations, fuel cards, liquid fuels and insurance services.

The new vehicle purchase framework agreement provides access to a wide range of different vehicles across different ‘lots’ including cars, 4x4s, commercial vehicles, buses, coaches and motorcycles, working with a total of 41 different suppliers.

AA launches new ‘motorist manifesto’

Written on May 12, 2015

The AA has launched its own Motorists Manifesto in the run up to the general election, and has set up a simultaneous #Vote4BetterRoads digital campaign in order to urge politicians to do more for UK motorists.

During the last 12 months, the AA has been surveying British motorists in order to find out the major issues affecting them, with tax the major issue of late.

UK motorists currently pay more in fuel duty alone than UK businesses pay in business rates, and nearly as much as is paid out in council tax. Of the £582.6 billion raised in UK taxes during the last financial year, almost 10 per cent came from motorists.

The AA argument is that roads are still suffering from issues such as potholes and deep puddles, as well as hiked parking permits and strict fines from minor parking and traffic infringements. As such, many motorists don’t feel they are being treated in accordance with the amount of tax they pay.

Edmund King, president, AA, said: “Thirty five million drivers, most with a vote, need to influence politicians in this election. We know that transport issues can influence votes locally. Several local councils have been unseated due to unpopular parking polices, so when those canvassers knock on your doors make sure you ask them about motoring matters.

“We will endeavour to do our bit by sounding out all the main political parties on their motoring and transport polices, reminding them that motorists can vote with their wheels.

“The AA does have influence; prior to the last election we were instrumental in getting two out of the three main political parties to pledge to outlaw rogue wheel clamping on private land. The good news is, after further pressure from the AA, this was subsequently achieved.

“There is always a fear that the motorist will be made the ‘cash cow’ once the election is over, when political parties feel they can quietly drop manifesto promises. Rest assured, the AA will be putting pressure on the parties to come clean on plans for fuel duty, vehicle excise duty (VED), company car tax and the use of tolls to pay for new and/or improved roads. Indeed, our research found 85 per cent of AA Members are concerned that motoring taxes will increase after the election.

“The vast majority of AA members (93 per cent) wouldn’t trust any government to deliver a fair system of tolls. Hence we will continue to oppose tolls and believe (as in Scotland) tolls should be dropped from key river crossings.

“We know that in the past motorists have been influential in elections. It was believed that votes from ‘Mondeo Man’ helped Tony Blair to victory in 1997. The AA is apolitical and we understand that elections are not won or lost on motoring issues alone. Health, education and the economy tend to sway the results. However, transport and motoring are key to economic growth in the UK and shouldn’t be side-lined.”

Brake welcomes tougher sentences

Written on May 8, 2015

Road safety charity Brake has congratulated the Government for issuing tougher sentences to disqualified drivers as part of the new Criminal Justice and Courts Act, which came into force on the 13th April.

The new rules have meant that anyone convicted of causing death by driving whilst disqualified will now face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.  Under the previous regulations, the maximum sentence was only two years.

Drivers convicted of the new offence (causing serious injury by driving while disqualified) will face up to four years in prison.

There is a wider review of driving offences and charges currently being carried out by the Ministry of Justice.

Ed Morrow, campaigns officer, Brake, said:

“This is an important day for everybody involved in campaigning for better justice for victims of criminal driving.

“Getting behind the wheel when a court has already found you to be a danger on the road, and has disqualified you from doing so, is one of the most selfish decisions you can make as a driver.

“It is entirely right that maximum sentences are being increased, and we hope that judges will make use of them where appropriate.

“This is a good first step to securing better justice for victims and families, many of whom have been left feeling betrayed by inappropriate charges and paltry sentences.”

Brake has highlighted a number of other urgent issues regarding dangerous driving, and will be targeting the next government in order to ensure the current review meets a satisfactory conclusion.

86 per cent of fleets experienced accident in last year

Written on May 1, 2015

According to new research from IAM Drive & Survive, 86 per cent of fleets have experienced some form of accident within the past 12 months.

Fleet professionals from 100 different businesses were surveyed on their experience – and approach to – accidents involving their fleet.  The survey found that:

  • Only 14 per cent of fleets hadn’t suffered from some form of accident within the last 12 months.
  • Every fleet had suffered on-road accidents caused by their own driver (an ‘at fault’ incident).
  • Nearly half of fleets noted the average cost of repair per vehicle being over £1,000.
  • 33 per cent of drivers were faced with a fine, excess payments or another form of punishment by their fleet managers.
  • Over half of fleets currently didn’t offer any form of post-incident driver training.

The report stated that:

‘…many companies are not addressing correctly this significant and avoidable overhead by putting in place significant measures to reduce the risk of incidents happening, or more worryingly, happening again to the same drivers.’

‘Few provide any driver training as a way of reducing the chance of the driver having another incident.  Is this a good situation for company, fleet, vehicle or driver?’

Last year, IAM conducted another survey which revealed that 72 per cent of those driving for business reasons hadn’t had any training at all, despite 44 per cent saying they would welcome it.

Between 2008 and 2013, 3,493 people were killed in accidents involving some form of business related driving, according to government figures.

Driving for Better Business says up to one-in-three road crashes taking place at the moment involve a vehicle being driver for work, with around 200 road deaths and serious injuries involving a business.

Statistics also showed that people driving company vehicles are 25 per cent more to have some form of minor accident than normal motorists.

Sarah Sillars, chief executive officer for the IAM, said:

“Accidents involving company car drivers represent a sizeable proportion of accidents on UK roads – and it’s a problem which needs tackling in a meaningful way.

“Fleet operators have a duty to their businesses, employees and other road users to ensure those individuals’ driving conduct is of the highest order. Often companies have full processes and procedures for Health and Safety, HR and Environmental best practice; but often none in place when the employees get behind the wheel of a car or van?”

IAM calls for test overhaul

Written on April 28, 2015

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has called for the current driving test to be changed in order to try and keep it relevant for modern-day learners.

The Road Traffic Act was first passed in 1934, and the current driving test will be eighty years old this year. Since its inception only two major changes have been made: the introduction of the theory test in 1996 and the introduction of hazard perception in 2002.

As it stands, the test doesn’t cover three major motoring risk factors: driving on country roads, driving in poor weather and driving at night.  With road accidents currently the biggest killer of young people in the UK (higher than both alcohol and drugs), the IAM is calling for increased scrutiny in order to help make driving safer.

In 2013, 191 people under the age of 24 were killed and 20,003 injured when driving cars or riding motorbikes.  In the five years between 2009 and 2013, 1,037 people were killed on UK roads.

Neil Greig, the director of policy and research at IAM, said:

“The driving test needs to become a much more integrated part of a graduated licensing system that picks up on best practice from around the world.

“For instance, Austria has a ‘second phase’ licensing system, where young drivers come back in the first 12 months after the test for further interventions to examine attitude changes and skills.”

Casualties for young male drivers have dropped by a third in Austria since a similar initiative was brought in.

The IAM believes the following changes should be introduced into the driver training system:

  • Road safety education to be a bigger part of the National Curriculum.
  • Support for a minimum learning period to take place prior to the practical test.
  • High-speed roads to be introduced in the test itself.
  • Peer passenger numbers to be limited after the test is taken.
  • New drivers to have a lower drink-drive limit.
  • Learner drivers to be allowed on motorways whilst learning, as opposed to after passing their test.

“The driving test today does test a driver’s ability to a very high level, but it has fallen behind what is urgently needed today in 2015. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the next Government,” added Greig.

Huge rise in fleets using short term rental, says GE

Written on April 24, 2015

According to GE Capital, there has been a ‘huge rise’ in the number of fleets using short-term rental during the last 12 months, and the figure is likely to increase even further within the next few months.

The latest quarterly Company Car Trends report found that almost two-in-five (38 per cent) fleet decision makers had increased their rental spend in 2014, and that a similar number (41 per cent) expected to do the same within the next year.

The figures were even higher for van-heavy fleets, with more than a quarter of decision makers (76 per cent) reporting increased rentals during the past year and nearly half (48 per cent) believing that they would spend even more during 2015.

Gary Killeen, managing director at GE Capital Fleet UK, said:

“What we believe we are seeing here is a hangover from the recession. Fleets are facing increasing demand as the economy starts to show signs of improvement. They want to be able to retain the flexibility to hand back a vehicle at any point in time in the eventuality that we see another downturn. It is an understandable attitude.”

He did, however, suggest this approach made “little sense from a financial point of view” and that daily rental was more of a “top-up” to standard fleet needs, and using it as a long-term solution could be very expensive.

“We are starting to see some fleets take a more structured approach to answering the need for further vehicles rather than simply turning to a rental company. We are having conversations with several about the need to manage capacity while maintaining a high degree of flexibility. It is all about helping fleets to forecast and meet demand successfully,” added Killeen.

UK road fuel tax still highest in the EU

Written on April 20, 2015

New research from the AA shows that the UK is still levying the highest level of road tax in the European Union (EU), despite four years of frozen fuel duty.

Fuel duty has been confirmed to stay frozen until after the general election and the AA has called for all the political parties to commit to a number of motorist-friendly policies as part of their manifestos.  Policies requested include:

  • A continued freeze on fuel duty until it at least matches the average of the three highest levels of fuel tax found within neighbouring EU countries.
  • At least two-thirds of all fuel duty receipts being ring-fenced for use in improving and maintaining the UK road network, increasing the gritting coverage as well as helping to increase green motoring infrastructure, cycle ways and pavement safety.

Government figures show that the UK has consumed over 17.672 billion litres of petrol and 27.9 billion litres of diesel.  45.7 billion litres of road fuel sales currently generate around £26.5 million in duty.

Two-thirds of the current fuel duty receipts could pump as much as £17.7 billion’s worth of financing into the UK’s roads: double the figures that are currently being spent.  In 2013/14, £3.156 billion was spent on national roads, and £5.194 billion on local roads.

Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that Highways Maintenance Funding will fall from £901 million next financial year to £801 million in 2017/18.  £725 million is looking like the most likely figure for future years.

Edmund King, the AA president, said:

“AA members appreciate that, with huge swings in the price of petrol and diesel since 2011, the government’s freeze on fuel duty hasn’t added to the burden on family and business finances. But, the fact that UK drivers still pay the highest level of fuel tax in the EU shows just how massively pumped up fuel duty was before the Coalition froze it.”

Highways England to manage Britain’s motorways and A-roads

Written on April 17, 2015

New company Highways England have been responsible for running both motorways and major trunk roads since April 1st, 2015, assuming responsibility from the Highways Agency.

Highways England will be given new longer-term funding, enabling it to plan ahead and to invest in both skills and equipment.  As a result, it’s hoped that essential work will speed up and that costs to the taxpayer will decrease.

The move is the first of a number of changes being made within the road maintenance sector in order to save the taxpayer around £2.6 billion during the next ten years.

Transport Minister, John Hayes, said:

“This marks a significant way forward in how our strategic road network is delivered and managed.

“These reforms will mean the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads upgrade for decades. Ensuring we have well maintained roads and motorways is essential to a modern transport system that will boost our economy, create jobs and give more choice about where we live and work whilst delivering billions in savings.

“I am clear that Government will set the strategy, gauge its implementation and direct necessary changes. Highways England will be answerable to Parliament, fully accountable for its work and will report to ministers.”

The Road Investment Strategy was announced in the government’s Autumn Statement, and included plans to spend £15.2bn on 84 new road projects to help enhance connectivity.

Government will also tackle long-standing problems in the UK’s road network, such as creating a new strategic corridor to the South West via the A303 and adding a 1.8 mile tunnel at Stonehenge.  It’s also committed to adding an extra lane to key motorways in order to boost connectivity between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Yorkshire at a cost of £4.5bn.

The government’s commitment to new spending on roads amounts to the tripling of annual investment by 2021, with the total figure expected to reach £3bn.

Operators worried about road safety law regulation

Written on April 15, 2015

According to new information from the Freight Transport Association (FTA), fleet operators are currently substantially concerned about their authorities’ capabilities of meeting new road safety laws.

The body made a proposal to Department for Transport (DfT) consultations for more vehicles to be brought under operator licensing and annual test laws.

In their response, the FTA stated that members operating vehicles that would be affected by such a change – which would include things like mobile cranes and electric cars – were comfortable with the requirements it would bring.

It did highlight concerns whether the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) ’would be able to meet the increased demand for tests’, and also expressed reservations about being sent on a ‘paper chase’ by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner.

James Firth, FTA head of road freight and enforcement policy, said:

“DfT estimates suggest that each proposal will bring another 40,000 vehicles into O-licensing and testing respectively – that is a 10 per cent increase in testing capacity needed in an already strained ATF network.”

The FTA has previously stated that the Government should start to investigate the accreditation of any non-DVSA employees as part of the annual testing.  This could also help to increase available capacity and deliver increased flexibility to customers.

“FTA members who operate vehicles affected by the proposed O-licence changes are happy with putting these vehicles onto their licences, therefore impacting factors like proving a larger financial standing and applying the same inspection and maintenance regime – many already do this voluntarily as best practice,” added Firth.

“What worries them is that when they have to apply for an increase in authorisation or a new operating centre, they are subjected to a forensic level of scrutiny of their operations by Traffic Commissioners, even when they have a good history of compliance.”