News

One quarter of businesses fail to conduct regular vehicle safety checks

Written on September 18, 2017

According to research by TomTom Telematics, a quarter of businesses in the UK do not regularly conduct safety checks on vehicles used for business purposes.

Gathering data from senior managers at 400 UK businesses, the study also revealed that while a majority of businesses do check driver documentation such as licence and insurance details (89%), only 43% perform such checks more than once per six months.

Fifteen per cent of respondents confessed their companies check documentation only when a new employee joins, failing to schedule further follow-up checks. 21% of companies operating grey fleets – vehicles used for business purposes but owned by employees – do not conduct any checks on drivers’ insurance documentation at all.

Beverley Wise, UK & Ireland Director at TomTom Telematics, said: “Ensuring vehicles and drivers are roadworthy is a fundamental requirement for any organisation that expects employees to drive for business purposes.

“If organisations are to safeguard employees and protect themselves from risk, it is important to have comprehensive systems in place not only for ensuring checks are conducted frequently but also to ensure findings are properly recorded and acted upon where necessary.”

Further responses showed 60% of those who manage to check driver documentation do so manually as opposed to electronically.

Wise added: “Since the paper counterpart to the photocard licence was abolished more than two years ago, endorsements and disqualifications have only been recorded electronically.

“Therefore, businesses should strongly consider moving from manual to electronic checks to ensure they are building a more comprehensive picture on driver risk.

“Ultimately, businesses need to keep on top of the process to ensure they have all the relevant information they need.

“Technological systems can help in this respect by setting schedules and notifications for checks and collating results.

“Telematics also helps facilitate the move to a more proactive approach to vehicle safety by reporting fault codes, allowing maintenance to be conducted before problems become serious.”

Fleet bodies demand HMRC tax announcement regarding WLTP

Written on September 15, 2017

A group of fleet operators led by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) are calling for clarity on future vehicle taxation plans following the Government announcement in July that the UK will phase out petrol and diesel based vehicles by 2040.

The group – consisting of vehicle manufacturer representatives, data providers and fleet operators – has intensified calls for a detailed Government response after a recent workshop discussing the implications of the upcoming Worldwide Harmonise Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP).

The current test regime – the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) – will be phased out in favour of WLTP beginning in September, making changes to the existing system which derives vehicle tax rates from a combination of CO2 emissions and miles per gallon (mpg). It is expected, therefore, that further clarification will be provided in the Autumn Budget announcement.

In the short term, the Government has pledged to keep using NEDC CO2 figures to calculate tax figures, representing “business as usual” for vehicle quotations from most leasing companies.

In the longer term, the WLTP test will provide for a greater range of CO2 values, for different operational cycles, and with greater variation on rates according to optional extras fitted to the vehicle.

The BVRLA has voiced concerns over whether this more variable and complicated manufacturer data will be accurately shared between data providers and leasing companies.

John Pryor, chairman of fleet representative body AFCO, said: “We know WLTP is coming and that it will ultimately replace the NEDC regime. However, as yet we have no clarity from HMRC as to the timescale for when WLTP CO2 figures will be used as the basis for all vehicle taxation, including company car benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax.

“In addition to a timeline, as always ACFO would want announcements to be made as soon as possible so as much notice as possible is given of WLTP’s introduction to enable fleet decision-makers and company car drivers to plan. ACFO also requires clarity over where CO2 data in respect of WLTP should be sourced for P11D purposes – a car’s V5 document or somewhere else.

“Whatever the date of WLTP’s introduction for tax purposes, there will clearly be an overlap when fleet decision-makers are operating cars – and company car drivers are at the wheel of them – with taxes linked to either the WLTP or NEDC regimes. That’s because vehicle replacement cycles will straddle the date WLTP is officially introduced for tax purposes.

“ACFO, therefore, assumes that a move to using WLTP-based data will only occur following its official data for use by HMRC as new company cars are introduced. However, that also requires clarification.”

Pryor warned that for fleet decision-makers this will entail an increased layer of administration, with company cars linked to both the incoming WLTP system and outgoing NEDC regime. Company car drivers will also have to be alerted to the change, as BIK tax values may be altered as a result of a car’s higher CO2 emissions – even if the new vehicle is very similar to outgoing models.

Pryor added: “ACFO has already held briefings at regional meetings to alert members to the introduction of WLTP. While they know it is around the corner – and some vehicle manufacturers are already publishing WLTP CO2 and mpg figures for new models alongside NEDC ones – they don’t know when the new system will be adopted by HMRC.

“Therefore, there is little fleet decision-makers can do in the way of preparation and planning until they receive notice from HMRC as to when the Government department will adopt WLTP for tax purposes.”

Fleets require more time to comply with new clean air proposals

Written on September 12, 2017

Industry bodies have called for more time and further financial incentives to support fleets as they adapt to new air quality proposals set forth by the Government.

The plans outline a ban on “conventional” petrol and diesel car and van sales by 2040, urging councils to encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). The proposals also suggest that local authorities should alter road layouts to relieve air pollution bottlenecks. Ultimately, where these and other measures are insufficient, the additional power is provided for councils to charge drivers money for entering heavily polluted zones or to apply restrictions on certain vehicles during particular hours.

Councils are expected to lay out their initial proposals by the deadline of March 2018, with their final plans provided by the end of December 2018. While many fleets will be exempted from Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZs) by operating vehicles of the cleanest Euro 6 standards, van fleets in particular – with longer replacement cycles – may be caught on the wrong side of the rules.

Aside from the planned ULEZ in London, there are at least five other cities which are expected to introduce Clean Air Zones (CAZs) by 2019, including Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton. It is yet to be seen which additional locations, if any, will decide to implement CAZs.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has called for urgent clarification. Elizabeth de Jong, Director of UK Policy, said: “We won’t know where vans will be restricted until next year, giving only a year for businesses to plan their fleets, leaving many with potentially large bills on top of rising operating costs in a difficult trading environment.”

The FTA predicts a scenario where fleets will possess no more than two and a half years’ of compliant vehicles, while no second-hand market will exist to rely upon. As a result many businesses will find themselves tied to lease agreements which, despite extending past the 2019 deadline, will be expensive to break.

“For those whose businesses operate inside a zone, a period of grace, giving them extra time to comply, would provide much-needed breathing space,” added de Jong. “Our worst fear is that some may be forced out of business altogether if the plans are not properly thought through.”

The Government says further details on the proposed tax regime will be announced in the Budget later in the year. It has also declared a £255million package – funded by tax changes for new diesel vehicles or via retooling of departmental budgets – has been set aside to help councils implement their local measures.

The Government also suggests that it wants to minimise the potential impact of new air quality measures on local businesses and commuters where charging zones may be implemented. A further consultation on the issue will take place in the autumn, considering further options to support fleets such as retrofitting, exemptions, discounts or permit schemes.

Nick Lyes, policy spokesman for the RAC, called upon the Government to ensure that charging zones are used as a “last resort” only after exhausting all other emission-reducing measures.

“The Government has not yet made it clear what process needs to be followed before a charging regime comes in to force,” Lyes added.

While the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has welcomed the Government’s pledge to consult on the possible business impact of any new measures, it has also called for consistency in the Government’s approach.

Gerry Keaney, BVRLA chief executive, said: “We must ensure that zones are consistent across the UK – not only having the same emissions standard requirement, but also in terms of their signage, enforcement and penalties for non-compliance.

While Government analysis of past scrapping schemes has reportedly shown “poor value for the tax payer”, Keaney believes that well-targeted schemes could make a noteworthy contribution to the reduction of NOx emissions.

Mandated charge points will encourage drivers to adopt EVs

Written on August 30, 2017

Greater availability of electric vehicle (EV) charge points would help to overcome one of the largest barriers to EV adoption in the UK, according to the fleet industry and research conducted by Fleet News.

Following the Government’s Queen Speech announcement of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, polls conducted by Fleet News revealed nearly a third of drivers (29.2%) would make the switch if they were able to charge their car at traditional petrol pump locations. The Bill mandates the installation of EV charge points at all motorway service areas and large fuel retailers.

The proposed legislation was was welcomed by leasing company Lex Autolease. Chris Chandler, principal consultant, said: “One of the biggest barriers to greater adoption of electric vehicles is range anxiety, so more charging points at petrol stations and motorway services will help to address that fear.

“The measures are a recognition of the need for pathway charging – essentially making it easier for electric vehicle drivers to get from one end of the country to the other, without worrying about their next charging point. This should broaden their appeal and open up the market for electric vehicles across the UK.”

Zap Map, a website designed to track the locations of charge points, shows up to 6,890 EV charge points in 4,523 locations across the UK, including 1,057 rapid chargers. Both Shell and Total have also previously announced their intention to provide charge points at their petrol stations, with BP indicating their interest in pursuing this next step.

Alison Bell, marketing director at Venson Automotive Solutions, said: “Research we conducted recently found that 85% of motorists would consider buying an electric vehicle; however; 69% said that the lack of charging points across the UK would be the biggest deterrent.”

“Our research shows there is an appetite for electrical vehicles, but motorists do have their reservations when it comes to the day-to-day running of the vehicle. Hopefully this Bill should move forward plans to invest in infrastructure for electric vehicles.”

However, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), Brian Madderson, raised some concerns while calling for “clarity” over how ‘large retailers’ are to be defined. He said: “The measure forms part of a Government push to increase the number of electric vehicles on UK roads… the PRA is concerned this could place an unreasonable financial burden on independent fuel retailers who feel there is insufficient market demand to justify the investment at this time.

“The PRA recommends that the Government introduces a centralised monetary fund allowing private businesses to apply for grants which will underwrite such speculative investment in rapid charge equipment.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) recently released data showing that the total amount of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) in the UK reached over 100,000 in March this year including 92,414 plug-in cars and 3,358 plug-in vans. Furthermore, research by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed registrations of ‘pure’ plug-in EVs increased by nearly half (46.25) in the first five months of 2017 compared to 2016.

Arval: fleet growth predictions reach five-year peak

Written on August 22, 2017

Arval’s Corporate Vehicle Observatory Barometer has shown that the number of UK fleets anticipating growth in their business has risen to its highest point in five years.

In spite of political upheaval and uncertainty in the market, a net 21% of fleets in the UK are predicting an increase in the number of vehicles they operate in the next three years (with 29% expecting improvements and 8% anticipating a decline).

The results represent the most positive outlook in the past five years, coming four percentage points higher than 2016’s net balance of 17%. Positive responses were seen more frequently from larger fleets, with 37% of big fleets believing their capacity will increase compared to a net balance of 11% from SME fleets.

The positivity of UK respondents is contrasted with the average outlook in European countries, with only 11% of fleets in Europe forecasting any growth in the next three years (at 19% of larger fleets, 13% of medium fleets and 7% of smaller fleets).

Shaun Sadler, head of the Arval’s Corporate Vehicle Observatory in the UK, said: “This degree of positivity among fleets is good to see, even if it should perhaps be tempered slightly by the fact that our research took place just before the general election, which may have had an effect on overall economic confidence.

“It is worth noting that this sense of confidence is strongest among larger fleets. They are the ones who we would anticipate to be aware of any corporate changes that are being envisaged on a strategic level which could have a negative effect on fleet numbers. However, their confidence is high.”

Distinction between ‘assisted’ and ‘automated’ vehicles causes concern to UK insurers

Written on August 18, 2017

A coalition of UK insurers has warned that ambiguity over the differences between ‘assisted’ and ‘automated’ vehicle systems may lead to a short-term increase in road collisions.

The Automated Driving Insurer Group (ADIG), headed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) in collaboration with Thatcham Research, released a white paper aiming to address the significant regulatory changes that assisted and automated systems will necessitate.

The Regulating Automated Driving white paper shows a wide range of companies which are strongly supportive of vehicle automation on the grounds that it will reduce accidents on the road. These include AXA, Admiral Ageas, Allianz, Aviva, Co-operative Insurance, Covea, Direct Line Group, Esure, LV, RSA, Zurich and the Lloyd’s Market.

However, concerns have been raised that drivers may be confused over so-called intermediate automated systems. These mid-stage systems offer a great deal of self-driving capability, but they also require the driver to resume control of the vehicle in certain conditions. The paper suggests that the distinction between ‘assisted’ and ‘automated’ systems needs to be clearly defined by international regulators.

Peter Shaw, CEO of Thatcham Research, said: “Vehicles with intermediate systems that offer assisted driving still require immediate driver intervention if the car cannot deal with a situation.

“Systems like these are fast emerging and unless clearly regulated, could convince drivers that their car is more capable than it actually is.

“This risk of autonomous ambiguity could result in a short-term increase in crashes.”

The group suggests that a vehicle should be identified and marketed as ‘automated’ only when:

  • The driver can disengage from driving safely, in the knowledge that the car is able to deal with virtually all road tasks
  • The vehicle can reliably come to a safe stop when encountering a situation it can’t handle
  • The autonomous system can avoid all possible crash types and can function even in the event of a partial system failure
  • Both insurers and manufacturers are able to access vehicle data in order to, in the event of accidents, identify liability without ambiguity

James Dalton, directory of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: “The insurance industry strongly supports the development of automated driving technology – which we see as the logical conclusion to work over several decades to reduce the numbers of people killed or seriously injured on the roads.

“However, we know all too well from conventional vehicles that drivers often misunderstand what their vehicles can and can’t do. Therefore, consistent standards are needed so that those taking up automated driving technology can do so with confidence.”

The paper also calls upon vehicle manufacturers to provide maximum clarity in the labelling and naming of assisted driving systems.

Shaw said: “Vehicle Manufacturers should be judicious in badging and marketing such systems, avoiding terms which could be misinterpreted as denoting full autonomy. Hybrid systems which creep into the intermediate grey area between assisted and automated should also be avoided.”

Vehicle rental industry sees significant growth online

Written on August 14, 2017

Experts at digital marketing agency Inside Online have revealed online growth of 33% for the UK car hire industry since 2016. Their annual study, the Car Hire Digital Insight Report, allows industry leaders to measure their relative performance in the digital landscape. The latest study draws results from analysis of the online presence of the top 43 companies within the industry.

Global consulting and market research firm Lucintel recently predicted substantial opportunities within the car rental industry in their latest market report, stating: “The future of the global car rental industry looks good with opportunities in the on-airport and off-airport market segment.

“The global car rental industry is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 5.6% from 2016 to 2021. The major drivers of growth for this market are rising global tourism industry, increasing globalisation of corporate operations, and increasing income levels across the globe.”

Inside Online suggest that, if Lucintel’s predictions are accurate, larger car hire companies will need to maintain their strong position online while smaller firms must significantly improve their online strategies to ensure profitability.

Their report, based on search metrics data, places Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the head of the market in terms of its year-on-year online visibility. They are followed by Hertz, Sixt, Rentalcars.com and Europcar. Notably, Indigo Car Hire saw the largest visibility increase with an improvement of 538% since 2016. Enterprise also takes the top spot for the brand most searched-for per month, followed in the top five by Holiday Autos, Europcar, Herts and Avis.

The authority of a website is partly determined by the number of links pointing towards it: the greater the number of links a site has tends to correlate with its authoritativeness, which correlates with the site’s visibility in search engine results pages. Larger brands are generally able to acquire a high number of links per month due to their organic appearance in industry news and blog pieces. Contrarily, a small brand which is able to acquire significant numbers of links per month could be pursuing aggressive and illegitimate link manipulation strategies.

Rentalcars.com leads with the greatest number of linking domains at a total of 962. Car Rentals and Enterprise sit in distant second and third places. However, the brand generating the most authoritative links (from websites with a Domain Authority between 70 and 100) is Budget, with National Car, Thrifty, Premiere Velocity and Easirent also performing well in this area.

On the other hand, when it comes to influence and engagement through social media the top-performing organisation is Sixt, followed by Hertz, Europcar, National Car and Alamo.

Hatty Scaramanga, sales and marketing manager at Inside Online, said: “There are several emerging trends which have a direct impact on the dynamics of the car rental industry, these trends include enhanced user experience through digitisation, additional green vehicles in the fleets of rental car companies, introduction of autonomous vehicles, enhanced technologies in car rental services, and the concept of self-driving instead of hiring a driver.

“Companies must ensure their organic and digital visibility through on and offline channels as their position becomes more volatile due to the increased emergence of comparison sites and new technological advancements.”

Europcar investigation puts pro-forma invoicing in spotlight

Written on August 11, 2017

Leicester Council’s Trading Standards investigation into Europcar is bringing attention to questions around vehicle rental damage and pro-forma invoicing by fleets.

The investigation follows accusations published in the Daily Telegraph that Europcar has fraudulently overcharged its customers for repairs by inflating the consumer cost of windscreens and other measures. If true, its repair policy could be found to be in breach of both the Fraud Act 20116 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

A statement from Europcar said: “The company is co-operating fully with Trading Standards in its investigations. We can make no further comment at this point.”

According to Europcar’s financial results for the first half of the year, the vehicle rental firm has set aside a sum of £40m in order to deal with possible litigation.

Pro-forma invoicing involves hire companies issuing a document to drivers containing terms and conditions of the hire. Although considered an informal request for payment, it contains a clause to ensure that vehicle damage can be invoiced in advance of the repair being completed. This helps a rental company to better manage cashflow, especially in regards to VAT obligations upon raising the invoice.

A British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) spokesperson maintains that the organisation remains supportive of pro-forma invoicing.

“BVRLA members are required to provide justification for all charges raised and demonstrate a method of calculation for such charges,” they said. “They are not required to repair the damage and may refer to a damage charge matrix.”

The BVRLA refused to provide any comment as to whether the industry should distance itself from pro-forma invoicing as a consequence of the Trading Standards investigation.

In 2014 Siemens moved away from pro-forma invoicing. Paul Tate, commodity manager at Siemens, said: “It’s possible the investigation will bring a spotlight back to this rental damage issue, which has always been a hot topic for fleets. I don’t think pro-forma invoicing has been challenged in a court of law, [but] I think it’s right that the topic is discussed. Rental companies are using this to sell additional services, too, like damage waivers and zero excess.”

He continued: “Some rental companies will charge for damage they don’t put right at the time.

“What we say is, if you don’t repair it, you forgo your right to charge for the vehicle repairs. We spend £2.5 million a year on 2,000 rental cars and so the charges that were coming through were substantial.”

Paul Tate suggests that rental companies should calculate accurate repair costs after the repair has been completed, splitting obligations between who caused the damage.

He said: “If one of our drivers put a small dent in a door, Siemens would be sent a fee, but the rental company won’t repair the dent there and then. Then when a different customer has the vehicle and puts another dent in the door they’ll be charged a fee too.

“When the rental car comes to the end of its time on the rental fleet, let’s say six months, it will then be repaired before the vehicle is de-fleeted. The cumulative damage is then banked up pro-rata.”

He also recognised that many within the industry regard this method as too complicated to administrate. Rental companies would rather avoid repairing cars as damage occurs if the damage is small enough that it won’t affect the vehicle’s operation. This reduces downtime and allows companies to extend the asset’s lifespan during its window of operation.

Jason Moseley, director at the National Body Repair Association (NBRA), indicated that the investigation will highlight a growing problem of big corporations applying pressure to bodyshops to work with “opaque practices and poor commercial terms”.

Moseley said: “Terms are agreed with bodyshops like labour rates, discounts on parts, discounts on paint and another 10% discount on everything they do.

“It’s bargain basement for the bodyshop, the middle man gets a discount and the consumer doesn’t get passed on the benefit of that discounted work. That’s the main problem with this; the consumer isn’t seeing what’s happening behind these deals.”

The BVRLA has refused to comment on Moseley’s remarks.

Tate’s advice to fleets was to ensure drivers inspect their rental vehicles carefully before using them. He said: “Make sure you pick up on any damage and report it immediately with photo evidence and an image of the odometer to prove the car hasn’t been driven.

“If you don’t do this, as soon as you drive off in the car and miss any damage, you will be invoiced for it.”

Connected car data should be freely accessible, say fleets

Written on August 8, 2017

According to a recent Fleet Technology survey by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), the majority of fleet managers and leasing companies believe vehicle manufacturers are obliged to provide free access to connected car data.

Around 70% of respondents to the survey said that manufacturers have an obligation to share their connected vehicle and driver data, with up to 86% saying that no payment should be required for access.

These results follow a position paper by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which states that unless vehicle manufacturers have entered into specific legal agreements with the registered keepers, or have an explicit contractual obligation to share it, then any user data collected by connected vehicles can only be shared with the express consent of the vehicle user. In other words, manufacturers do not have an obligation to provide their vehicle data to registered keepers by default.

A majority (57%) of fleet managers felt that they should control access to personal data collected through connected vehicles, while up to 62% of leasing companies saw it as their own responsibility.

The survey also showed that both fleet managers and leasing companies desire the freedom to use their own telematics systems to monitor driver behaviour, independent from the systems of car manufacturers. A large majority (79%) stated they were concerned that vehicle manufacturers may restrict access to telematics data, with 89% saying manufacturers should allow the installation of third party telematics devices as long as they meet security standards.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “Our sector had a very clear message that we wish to build on the telematics offer that leasing, rental and fleets are utilising today, and we perceive there being a real risk with this restriction of data by the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in terms of being able to do that and be competitive in the market.”

Documents produced by the industry bodies including the SMMT do not pay enough heed to the current applications of telematics in the fleet sector, Keaney suggested, despite “ensuring equal access” taking up a “significant” part of the BVRLA’s negotiations with manufacturers.

SMMT proposals state that the company car driver who signs the terms and conditions for the connected vehicle services “must be put at the heart of any data consent process”.

Regarding data-sharing by drivers, the BVRLA survey found that most motorists were happy to share their data if it helped to: diagnose or prevent future faults (95%), automatically notify a breakdown company (93%) or help a manufacturer to identify safety or warranty issues (82%). However, they were less keen on sharing information about driving behaviour and performance (44% ‘not comfortable’) or about their location, weather conditions and vehicle performance (36% ‘not comfortable’).

Interestingly, up to 53% of fleet managers and leasing companies stated they were unclear on exactly what data manufacturers will be collecting. Fewer than half of respondents (47%) agreed that manufacturers were willing and/or able to inform them about what data is being collected.

Vauxhall, owned by General Motors, is one manufacturer which has been willing to share data with its vehicle leasing and fleet managements customers. Kenneth Malmberg, business development lead in Europe for infotainment and telematics at General Motors, states that the manufacturer does not “sit and retrieve hoards and hoards of data”.

“The only data we take from the vehicle is shown on the OnStar fleet manager page,” he said.

“There is probably about 600 elements you could take off a vehicle and I don’t think any one company needs the 600 elements so we have set packages.”

Any data beyond these set packages would need to be discussed on a “case by case basis,” he said.

Keaney added that the BVRLA’s negotiations with a number of OEMs had been “far more constructive and open” than the SMMT’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicles paper suggests.

“So we remain very confident to be able to find our way through this,” Keaney said.

It is possible that the fast space of autonomous vehicle development may force the hand of car manufacturers to share their data in a more standardised manner.

Jay Parmar, director of policy and membership at the BVRLA, suggests that data access is an essential component of autonomous driving in the UK and that “it needs to be carried out in a standardised way”.

“I think Government may push OEMs to work together. If we are to have autonomous driving we need to make sure the infrastructure is able to communicate with the car and the cars are able to talk to each other in a standardised way,” he said.

New ‘smart motorway’ opened on M3 in Surrey and Hampshire

Written on July 31, 2017

An £174m upgrade to a stretch of the M3 has opened, providing a fourth lane of motorway between Farnborough in Hampshire and the M25 London Orbital. The new ‘smart motorway’ has transformed the hard shoulder into a fourth lane along the 13.4-mile stretch between the fringes of the capital and Farnborough.

Work first began on this ambitious project towards the back end of 2014 and the upgrade has been completed on schedule according to Pranav Devale, project manager, Highways England.

“This new stretch of smart motorway will tackle congestion and improve journey times for the 130,000 drivers who use it every day,” said Devale.

“Smart motorways add vital extra capacity, improve journey times and maintain high levels of safety. Drivers will also see better information about conditions on the road ahead and enjoy smoother journeys on the fully resurfaced road – as well as the smart motorway upgrade, we have also been carrying out the most extensive maintenance on the M3 since it was first built in 1971 in parallel with the smart motorway works.”

Nevertheless, more education about the benefits of smart motorways appears to be essential after recent AA research found that almost two-fifths (38%) of drivers won’t drive on hard shoulders converted into running lanes for fear of encountering broken down vehicles.

Edmund King, president, AA, said: “Drivers are fearful that, with the current lack of Emergency Refuge Areas, they will come across broken down vehicles and have little chance of avoiding collisions.
“We need more education for drivers using smart motorways and clearly they do not trust the schemes in their current state.”

Further work to test and commission the M3’s new smart motorway technology will continue for the time being, with plans in place to open the fully upgraded road to traffic towards the end of July. Throughout the testing period a 50mph speed limit has been put in place for safety reasons.