Used van demand fuels price increase

Written on April 19, 2014

The average online price of vans once again reached record levels in the period spanning January to March, with total figures rising from £1,585 to £9,605 according to the latest data from Autorola.

The current level is the highest recorded by the company since the fourth quarter of 2013, when it measured £8,020.  It’s believed that the numbers have been impacted by the increasing demand for lower mileage LCVs in good condition.  There is currently a short supply of such vehicles.

It’s believed that the demand has arisen as a result of the increasing consumer desire to purchase a 12-24 month van and then convert it into either a camper van or a motor caravan.  It’s likely that the hobby-fuelled demand will only increase throughout the summer.  Typically, the most popular vans on the online Autorola platform are between two and three years old, with the average mile count being 31,927.

The price of used cars sold during the first quarter of this year have remained fairly constant, meanwhile.  Prices increased by £22 to reach £8355 during the first quarter, indicating the stability of the online market.  The average mile count for cars is 22,262, with the average age being 2-3 years old.

Jon Mitchell, UK sales director for Autorola, said:

“While we have had an excellent mix of top quality LCV stock on our Autofind portal in quarter one, particularly from Volkswagen, the continued increase in used prices keeps defying all industry predictions.

“SMEs and consumers have a huge appetite to buy used LCVs, especially in good condition, and demand shows no signs of abating.

“Used car prices online remain very consistent, even though we have increased our available stock on our portal by up to 1,500 since January and sold many more cars.

“The used car market has already shown signs of being very buoyant in April, post the record March new car sales figures. We haven’t experienced the trend of softening values online that have been reported in the physical market.”

One in five will avoid driving over Easter

Written on April 17, 2014

More than a fifth of British drivers are planning to leave their vehicles in the garage over the Easter holidays, according to the latest research.

Drivers in both London and the South East are planning to shun their cars, averaging only 36 miles – a third less than drivers in the North – according to the data from Autogas.

Linda Gomersall, the general manager of the firm, said:

“In our opinion, the survey results show that people are not looking at travelling long distances in what has traditionally been one of the big driving weekends of the year.

“More broadly, household bills – including petrol – mean the cost of living is at an all-time high at the moment.”

A number of reasons for the lack of use were cited, with rising fuel costs and predicted traffic jams in particular being noted as key.

“We believe the cost of petrol and potential traffic congestion mean people are less willing to spend hours on the road on the Easter Bank Holiday weekend,” said Ms Gomersall.

Easter bank holiday has always been one of the busiest driving weekends in the UK, with people seeking to take advantage of the long weekend in order to get away.  Traffic jams are therefore commonplace, especially on Britain’s busiest roads.

One of the keys, according to Autogas, is LPG:

“However, fuel is an area where people can look to save money through the use of LPG. Currently LPG is around half the price of unleaded and diesel and available at 1400 refuelling sites across the UK. More needs to be done to end the duopoly of these fuels and give people more cost-effective and cleaner alternatives.”

Investigation launched into vehicle sticker effectiveness

Written on April 17, 2014

A new investigation is to be launched into the overall effectiveness of vehicle stickers, and how they impact the behaviours of other drivers within close range of the vehicle sporting them.  The Highways Agency has commissioned research firm TRL to try and obtain information that could help make Britain’s roads safer.

In addition to conducting the research, it is hoped that the Highways Agency will be able to use the opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers that occur when drivers follow the vehicle in front of them too closely.  It’s hoped that a number of organisations will be able to participate in the study by adhering the relevant stickers to their vehicles.

The new decals – which will measure approximately 19cm x 47cm – will be made available for free to anyone willing to participate.  They are suitable for either vans or lorries, so will suit a number of different motoring firms.

The reason the stickers have been made to that specification is that the text printed on them will be only readable to those drivers that have left a gap of less than three seconds between their vehicle and the vehicle displaying them.

If a driver is driving at 50mph, for example, and is able to read the ‘50’ font, then this will indicate to them immediately that they are driving too fast.  Those that are driving cautiously enough – i.e. leaving the three second-gap – will not be able to read the ’50’ whilst driving at 50.  The same principle applies for the signs reading ‘30’ and ‘70’.

The Highways Agency is an executive agency for the Department for Transport, and they’re responsible for operating, maintaining and improve the English strategic road network.

Car manufacturers to join Hydrogen initiative

Written on April 14, 2014

A number of leading vehicle manufacturers have joined up with hydrogen fuel suppliers and energy consultancies in order to develop and demonstrate both technology and infrastructure linked to improving the viability of fuel cell vehicles.

The new agreement, which was co-ordinated by the Office of the Mayor of London, has been joined by Hyundai, Honda, BMW, Toyota and Daimler – the parent company for Mercedes-Benz.  Between them, the companies plan to deploy a total of 110 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at a number of different European locations.  As a result, it’s hoped that new clusters of hydrogen refuelling stations will appear in the future.

Fuel cell technology combines hydrogen gas with oxygen from the atmosphere in order to generate electric power without the need for any tailpipe emissions (known to be one of the most harmful ways in which the motoring sector affects the environment).  The technology has the potential to be more than twice as fuel-efficient as traditionally power vehicles.  As well as this, they should be able to operate far more quietly.

There are other benefits to the new technology.  It allows for rapid re-fuelling times, and there is the potential for the car to travel more than 400 miles before it needs to be re-fuelled.

One criticism of almost any motor technology is the initial expense during the technology’s early days.  However, as the infrastructure improves and the cost of the technology decreases overall, it is looking like fuel cell technology will soon be far more widely available.

Honda in particular has already thrown its hat in with the fuel cell technology, having already begun to lease cars with the technology to their customers in California.  Hyundai have also begun to explore the market in more depth, having started a limited production run of the ix35 fuel cell vehicle in 2013. Full production for the car is expected to begin in 2015.

Car companies retain support for the EU

Written on April 11, 2014

More than 90% of the companies currently operating within the British car industry wish to stay in the European Union, according to a new survey released this month.

The automotive industry has always been a fervent supporter of the country’s current role in the EU, and has continually highlighted the benefits of access to the single market since Prime Minister David Cameron first threw Britain’s membership into doubt by promising an in/out referendum by the end of 2017, should the conservatives end up winning the next election.

Currently, the British car industry employs approximately 730,000 people, and generates around 60 billion pounds per year in sales.  During 2013, the sector enjoyed a renaissance and bucked the current weak European trends in order to hit a six-year production high.

The survey, which took in data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, showed that 92 per cent of companies in the industry considered the 28-country bloc to have played a big part in their previous year’s success.  Furthermore, 70 per cent of those surveyed believed that withdrawing from the EU would be damaging to both their medium and long-term futures.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said that “Being part of a strong Europe is critical for future success”.

The EU membership benefits the motor industry in a number of different ways, including providing access to the single market, offering free movement of labour and also providing the ability to influence regulations across the whole regions.

Only 3 per cent of car manufacturers surveyed said that they wished to leave the EU, and 5 per cent offered no opinion on the matter.

A number of companies have already expressed concern at the prospect of leaving the EU.  Carmakers Ford and Nissan, plane maker and finance firm Airbus and a number of other leading British Industrial figures – including industry heavyweight Martin Sorrell and Roger Carr, chairman of defence giant BAE.  The latter two in particular have had a huge impact in fronting the campaign to stay in the EU.

ACFO to host seminar for parking and motoring fines

Written on April 6, 2014

The ACFO – the premier organisation for all fleet operators in the UK – has announced it is to host a new seminar to discuss the matters of parking and motoring fines.  A number of expert speakers from some of the key organisations around the British Isles will talk as part of the event.

Some of the main issues to be tackled during the seminar will include: liabilities facing both employees and employers when a Fixed Penalty Charge is issued by the police, the same problems encountered when a Penalty Charge Notice is issued by the local authorities, the main fine and appeal processes related to parking in public car parks and HR issues that arise for both employees and employers when fines are levied.

The members-only seminar – which will be entitled ‘Another Fine Mess?’ will take place on June 3rd at the Henry Ford College in Loughborough.  More than 50 members of the ACFO have already pre-registered for the event, which will be sponsored by Ford.

John Pryor, the ACFO director, said:

“The issues around both Fixed Penalty Notices and Penalty Charge Notices are confusing. It is proving to be a legal, financial and HR minefield for the unwary.”

“ACFO members have highlighted examples where paperwork has been delayed or errors made following the issuing of a Fixed Penalty or Penalty Charge Notice and that has resulted in an escalation of the matter prompting major concerns.”

“In many cases time is of the essence and delays in taking action can make matters worse.”

Mr Pryor also noted the expert speakers planning to attend the event would provide a full lowdown on relevant legal issues, both in terms of problems that could arise as well as the best way to respond to them.

Some of the event’s main speakers include:

  • Robert Toft, the head of data sharing at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
  • Phillip Somarakis, a specialist road traffic and regulatory lawyer at Davenport Lyons.  Mr Somarakis is also the ACFO company secretary.
  • Spencer Palmer, the director of transport and mobility at London Councils, who in turn represent all 33 of the main London local authorities.
  • Kevin Reynolds, the director of policy for the British Parking Association.

Following each of the main four sessions (criminal liability, local authority parking enforcement, private land parking enforcement, leasing companies and HR issues), there will be a delegate question and answer session chaired by Stephen Briers.

Highway Code failing to keep up with technology

Written on April 4, 2014

A high number of Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) believe that the current Highway Code learner license questions are lagging behind the technology available to new drivers.

More than 1,000 ADIs were questioned by, with many of them also voicing the opinion that today’s learner drivers might be at a disadvantage in terms of picking the safest vehicle, simply because many of them are unaware of the available options.

One of the primary issues is based around the electronic stability control (ESC).  The ESC has been a compulsory requirement in all European manufactured vehicles for over two years.  However, despite being actively featured in Rule 120, it isn’t actually mentioned in the advisory section.

Nearly 80% of ADIs surveyed believed that ESC should be included in learner study materials, as an ABS has the potential for saving a vehicle from skidding in a number of different hazardous situations.

A number of other modern driving factors are also ignored by the Highway Code, including EuroNCAP (Europe), ANCAP (Australia) and JNCAP (Japan) crash testing regimes, and there is little to no mention of hybrid or electric vehicle technology, even though such vehicles are now widely available.  Again, almost two thirds of the ADIs surveyed believed that hybrid vehicle knowledge should be included within learner materials.

Darren Cottingham, the director for Right Driver, said:

“If young drivers are not aware of their options, they are less likely to make the safest decision when it comes to purchasing a car.

“Vehicle distributors and dealers know that consumer demand is one of the key drivers behind the adoption of safety technology by manufacturers.

“To accelerate the transition to a safer vehicle fleet, knowledge of safety features needs to be ubiquitous.”

Many ADIs believe that the Highway Code should reduce the number of duplicated questions, and should instead focus on more specific information about topics such as how to choose the safest vehicle.

Fleets urged to get involved in Road Safety Week

Written on March 28, 2014

Road Safety Charity, Brake, is urging employers to sign up to Road Safety Week 2014, which takes place from 17-23 November.

Brake is encouraging organisations to go on the campaign’s website to find ideas on how to promote safe driving to staff and register for an e-action pack. This year’s theme is ‘Look out for one another on roads’, with the aim of raising awareness of the ways drivers can protect each other when driving.

Brake is hoping to encourage drivers to slow down to 20 miles per hour in small communities to protect children and pedestrians, take it slow at junctions and bends, as well as ‘look twice’ at junctions or roundabouts.

Employers are encouraged to help promote this theme to staff and local drivers and address other road safety issues that are important to them.

Employers can access Brake’s their free tips and ideas to get involved, while businesses can register for a free e-action pack with downloadable posters and advice on taking part.

Brake’s campaign comes at a time when the Government has moved to improve the safety on our roads through a £200m fund to remove potholes all over the UK. In the meantime, TyreSafe is urging drivers to check their tyres and wheels regularly for damage in order to avoid accidents:

Stuart Jackson, chairman of TyreSafe, said: “While the announcement of extra funds to help repair the UK’s roads is welcome news, this will not happen overnight.

“In the meantime, it’s critical that drivers pay particular attention to the condition of their tyres and wheels as hitting a pothole can cause significant damage.

“If this damage is left unchecked it can present a very serious safety risk for them and other road users.

“After hitting a pothole, it’s important that drivers check their tyre pressures regularly over the next few days to assess if there is any gradual loss of air.

“If this does happen then it’s important that they visit a tyre specialist to have both the wheel rim and the tyre examined.”

Entrepreneurs have difficulty finding the time to look after company vehicles

Written on March 26, 2014

More than a fifth (23 per cent) of Britain’s entrepreneurs who are in charge of up to 50 vehicles are having difficulty coping with the number of other roles they have to perform, according to new research by RAC and YouGov.

Almost all (98 per cent) of respondents said they were juggling fleet responsibilities alongside many other jobs, including general management (61 per cent), finances (53 per cent), sales and marketing (40 per cent), HR (40 per cent), new business development (34 per cent) and general administration (32 per cent).

Stress amongst SME owners was particularly high for managers looking after 10-50 vehicles; with 49 per cent saying they were stressed and 6 per cent saying they were ‘very stressed’.

A quarter of managers said the admin they undertook around the vehicles and drivers had increased in the past year, as a result of more paperwork or having more vehicles.

Gerry Keaney said: “The Chancellor talked about extending support for low emission vehicles, but there is precious little evidence for that in this Budget.

“The electric vehicle market is still in the doldrums, and the current incentive regime isn’t working.

“The new company car tax rates announced today will do nothing to encourage fleets and their drivers to take a risk on this costly and uncertain technology.”

Elsewhere, the BVRLA has said that the Chancellor has missed an opportunity to support ultra-low carbon cars in his recent Budget.

“A business driver thinking about choosing an expensive zero-emission vehicle this year will see their company car tax rate rise from nothing to 13 per cent within four years. Their cost of motoring will rise much faster than someone choosing a gas guzzler.

“Any cost benefit this industry might have received from the abolition of the 3 per cent diesel supplement in 2016 has been dragged back and by 2018/19 company car drivers will be contributing an extra £480m in annual tax revenues.”

The BVRLA has only tentatively welcomed the Chancellor’s decision to provide an extra £200m for pothole repairs too:

Keaney said: “Poorly maintained and repaired roads are the cholesterol clogging up the vital transport arteries of the UK economy.

“The Government has realised we have a problem, but providing just an extra £200 million for local authority pothole repairs is not nearly enough.”

FTA issues Glasgow Games Ultimatum

Written on March 24, 2014

The organisers of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games have been given an ultimatum by the Freight Transport Association.  The Association has re-iterated its initial concerns regarding the lack of information so far provided by those organising the event, and has noted that the scarcity of data could have a negative effect on the logistics of the Games.

The Association’s conference is due to take place on 13th May, by which point the delegates will expect detailed answers on how best to proceed for the event.  The Commonwealth Games are due to start on 23rd July, and current preparations for freight delivery are believed to be far behind those that were made ahead of the London Olympics.  The consequences for the event could be severe, with logistics firms struggling to minimise the natural disruption that occurs as a result of any major sporting event.

The Head of Policy for the FTA in Scotland, Chris MacRae, said:

“The freight and logistics industry will play a huge part in helping to deliver essential food, drink and supplies not only to the Games venues themselves but also to the residents and businesses of the city and in order to do so, it is vital to prepare well ahead.”

Mr MacRae also cited the case of the London Olympics, where the team responsible for logistics, working to a similar time-frame, had already thoroughly planned out the Games Route Network.  The Freight Working Group for the 2012 Games had also met several times in order to plan the event.

By the same point in time, the organisers of the London Olympics had already thoroughly planned out the Games Route Network, and the Freight Working Group for the event had also met several times.  Such was the contrast in the level of preparation that Mr MacRae actually cited the London event’s speedy organisation as part of his criticism.

A conference is to be held in May between the FTA, the Games organisers, Transport Scotland and Police Scotland so that the different bodies are able to share relevant information.  Due to the lack of data provision, though, it’s anticipated that the rest of the preparation will have to be rushed in order to get everything ready on time.

Mr MacRae added:

“The sooner FTA can get this information the sooner we can help our logistics members plan around the Games and the sooner they can help their customers – the  businesses and citizens of Glasgow – to plan around the Games to make then a success.”

The Association’s conference: ‘Managing Deliveries and Servicing During the Commonwealth Games  2014’ will take place at the Doubletree Dunblane Hydro in Stirling on Tuesday May 13th.