News

£440 million will be invested on green transport

Written on July 30, 2014

The government has announced that it will be investing a total of £440 million into 44 schemes designed to improve green transport across the UK.

The new range of schemes include improved infrastructure for both cyclists and pedestrians, as well as better bus journeys and new and upgraded transport interchanges designed to make it easier for people to switch from one mode of transport to another.

The Department for Transport is providing £64m towards the new schemes in the latest round of its Local Sustainable Transport Fund, with Local Enterprise Partnerships investing more than £100m of their funding.  The LEP had obtained funding from the Local Growth Fund, taking the total to more than £440m.

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said:

“We want more people to choose to travel in a way that cuts congestion and carbon, delivering economic and environmental benefits. This funding will make that choice easier for millions of people across the country, delivering new sustainable transport schemes throughout England.”

To be considered for funding, the schemes had to demonstrate how they planned to boost economic growth, to help reduce carbon emissions, to improve air quality and to help encourage levels of cycling and walking in a bid to improve public health.

The funding is particularly good news for cyclists, with all the new schemes including some measures to help encourage it as a pastime.  This will complement the infrastructure schemes benefitting from the Local Growth Fund.

The government funding is in addition to the £3bn being provided for transport overall through the Local Growth Fund, which also includes £600m for sustainable transport and £700m for packages that benefit all road users.

Company Car in Action praised by fleet industry

Written on July 27, 2014

Feedback from both fleets and vehicle manufacturers to the 2014 Fleet News Company Car in Action event has been overwhelmingly positive.

929 fleet decision makers attended the event across the two days, an increase of 6 per cent over the previous year’s event.  Those in attendance were able to take their pick of more than 300 different cars and vans from 18 different manufacturers representing 25 different brands.

In addition to driving on one of the Millbrook Proving Ground’s three test tracks, attendees were able to attend a DVLA debate held in association with the ACFO that discussed how changes being implemented by the agency will affect their operations. Day two of the event included a seminar discussing best practise for grey fleet policies, i.e. when organisations allow staff to use their own cars for business.

John Pryor, the ACFO chairman, said:

“ACFO was delighted to be involved in Company Car In Action once again, especially with the joint seminar enabling fleet decision-makers to hear directly from the DVLA on a raft of changes in respect of driver licences and vehicle documentation. It is vital that fleet operators are able to hear first hand and have the opportunity to quiz representatives of organisations on issues that directly affect them.

“Company Car in Action is a unique event that grows in popularity year on year. ACFO believes the inclusions of the seminar and debate opportunity added to the must-attend feel the event continues to gain.”

A number of vehicle manufacturers were very pleased with the event.  Jeff Smailes, marketing and administration manager for fleet and business sales for Jaguar Land Rover UK, said:

“Company Car in Action is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our products to a wide range of influential fleet buyers. And it gives us a chance to get potential customers to test drive our vehicles alongside rivals, so they can see just how competitive our cars are.

“With the Jaguar XE sports saloon and the Land Rover Discovery Sport launching in the near future, Company Car in Action is an event that’s only going to become more important to Jaguar Land Rover.”

Jon Hunt, manager for Toyota and Lexus fleet marketing, echoed these views:

“Company Car in Action once again provided the ideal conditions for us to showcase new models such as the new Toyota Aygo and Lexus NX as well as the rest of the product range. With its relaxed environment and high quality of guests it was perfect opportunity for us to engage and we provided more than 500 test drives” he said.

Fleet Operators prepared for Commonwealth Games

Written on July 25, 2014

The Freight Transport Association has declared itself confident that fleet operators in Glasgow are ready and prepared for the Commonwealth Games, with the route network having gone live on the 25th July.

During the games, which begin on 23rd, there is likely to be a heavy increase in the demand for goods and services.  However, the FTA has set that it is well placed to meet these demands as a result of careful planning by the freight and logistics industry.

Chris MacRae, the head of policy for FTA Scotland, said:

“The Commonwealth Games should be great for Glasgow and the freight and logistics sector will obviously play its part in ensuring both that existing business customers of freight are still served as best they can despite the traffic restrictions that the Games bring, and also that the increased demand for freight due to the large influx of visitors is delivered.

“Any event such as this causes strain on the supply chain but freight and logistics businesses are good at working round this to make sure the shelves of shops are stocked with food.”

It had looked for a while that the event might not be managed effectively, with organisers having apparently been slow releasing initial information about the freight restrictions that would be put in place as a result of the games.

As a result of FTA lobbying in both private and public, the Games Route Network (GRN) and LATMPs (Local Area Traffic Management and Parking plans) were made available, allowing fleet operators to get the necessary data that would allow them to manage everything around the games.

MacRae said:

“FTA has worked from day one to ensure our members got the information necessary to help them plan to deliver for their customers – the businesses and citizens of Glasgow – around the restrictions that the Games inevitably impose.”

FTA will continue to provide information to its members throughout the games, and will ensure that logistics can continue to run smoothly.

Street light switch-off is ‘endangering lives’

Written on July 10, 2014

The AA has laid the responsibility for six recent road deaths at the feet of switch-off schemes – those designed by local councils to save money through switching off street lights in certain areas – accusing them of raising hazard levels.

At least five pedestrians and one cyclist have been killed since the scheme was introduced in 2009, with accident investigators at the inquests noting that drivers had little to no chance of avoiding a collision on blacked-out roads, especially where speed limits were 40mph or higher.

For cars travelling at 40mph, the Highway Code notes a typical stopping distance of 36 metres – 12 to react and 24 to brake.  At 40mph, a standard car covers 59 feet per second.

Edmund King, the AA’s president, said:

“There is growing evidence that cost-savings from councils turning off street lights are being paid for with lives. In particular, inquests point to a particular danger on roads with speed limits of 40mph or higher,”

“Many of these inquests clear the drivers of blame, which means these tragic deaths are accidents waiting to happen. For that reason, drivers have no choice but to slow down and switch to full beam on faster town roads where late night street lighting used to make roads and streets safer places to travel. Previously, they may have preferred to drive on dipped beams to disturb residents less.

“With many more councils switching off their street lights for at least part of the night, the street-light blackout tragedy will just get worse. AA research shows that 12% of drivers (24% for 18-24 year olds) set off to or return from work in the small hours.

“At what point will the government take action or help councils to finance the switch to energy-saving street lights: 10, 15, 20 inquests later? Until then, the AA is advising its members to use full beam where councils have imposed a blackout, even in residential areas, except where they may dazzle other drivers, riders and pedestrians.”

Commercial vehicle registrations increase

Written on July 8, 2014

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), commercial vehicle registration in the UK has risen 16.4 per cent from January to June year-on-year.

Total commercial vehicle registrations rose by 25.5 per cent in June to reach a total of 33,941.  The van market also maintained impressive growth, with registrations rising by 33.3 per cent in June, leading to year-to-date volumes rising to 16.8% to 155,532 and rolling year up to 16.0% to 293,428.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said:

“The van market has shown another strong performance in June, yielding higher-than-expected growth for the year so far,

“This has helped the total commercial vehicle market achieve half-year growth of more than 11%, despite a somewhat depressed truck sector. Trucks continued to decline in the first six months of the year in the wake of an extremely strong end to 2013, ahead of the introduction of Euro-6.”

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said:

“June has been a good turning point in the year for the commercial vehicle market, and we have seen a modest improvement in overall sales figures.

“Looking ahead into the second half of the year, dealers are optimistic that the van market will remain healthy.”

UK Drivers anger at plummeting mobile convictions

Written on July 1, 2014

UK motorists are growing in frustration at the failure of the police to catch mobile phone offenders, with recent conviction rates reaching their lowest levels in nine years.

Just over half of drivers polled by the RAC thought that they were likely to get away with texting behind the wheel. Eighteen per cent of motorists thought that offenders would be caught, with the rest unsure.

Recent Home Office figures show that during 2012 just 92,700 fixed penalty notices were issued in England and Wales to drivers for improper use of a handheld mobile phone, a figure 25 per cent lower than that in the previous year.  The record number of convictions came in 2006, when 166,800 notices were issued.

RAC members consider the problem to be the lack of effective policing, with forces increasingly reliant on cameras. 60 per cent of those surveyed believe there to be insufficient numbers of police on the road.

RAC director David Bizley said: “Motorists are tired of constantly seeing other drivers breaking the law and getting away with it so it is hardly surprising that they want to see a greater police presence on our roads to enforce motoring legislation more effectively,”

Traffic police numbers have decrease by 12 per cent in the last five years, according to data from road safety charity Brake.  The largest cuts came in Bedfordshire, where the decrease was measured at almost 44 per cent.

Cameras were used in 84 per cent of speeding and traffic light offences during the year.  Speeding offences have more than halved since 2005, during which almost two million tickets were issued.

The most prolific force in issuing tickets was the London Metropolitan force, who gave out a substantial 20,679 mobile phone offence tickets in 2012.  The next most efficient was the Greater Manchester force, who issued 6,038.

Simon Williams, a spokesman for RAC, said:

“These figures from police forces imply that fewer motorists are using hand-held phones at the wheel which goes against our research which found three quarters (75%) of drivers regularly see other people doing this.

“We worry the reason for the lower number of fixed penalty notices might be due to the reduction in traffic police numbers rather than more motorists sticking to the letter of law.”

Sytner to launch contract hire comparator

Written on June 29, 2014

Dealer group Sytner have announced the launch of a new contract hire comparator that it claims can save SME customers an average of around £50 per vehicle every month.

Sytner Supply was created to work with fleets of up to 75 vehicles, making use of the dealer group’s panel of lenders in order to locate the best deal for each quote from among the 20 different manufacturer franchises that it currently represents.

It’s hoped that the service will take the work out of acquiring new cars for SMEs, covering all the bases between initial enquiry to vehicle delivery at no additional cost.

Programme manager Nigel King said:

“We already have an extensive SME customer base and are aware of the significant amount of time that companies of this kind have to spend in finding the best funding for their new vehicle.

“Having no captive contract hire operation ourselves, we realised that we were perfectly placed to create a service that compares a wide number of funders and takes the legwork out of vehicle acquisition.

“The platform we have created obtains competitive quotes from our panel of lenders and allows us to quickly and easily identify the best available ‘Quote of the Day’ on behalf of our SME customers.”

Sytner Supply has been extensively trialled, with the company claiming that it has so far achieved average savings of approximately £50 per month per vehicle for clients already using the service, compared to the other quotes that they had obtained themselves.

“The SME market is a significant opportunity for Sytner Group and we believe that, through Sytner Supply, we can offer smaller businesses a similar level of advantage to those that we are able to offer to our very largest fleet customers.

“Representing 20 prestigious manufacturer brands and with an extensive network of dealerships, we are able to offer customers a vehicle to match any requirement and in some cases, using whole life cost data, are able to offer a prestige vehicle for less than they would be paying for a mainstream brand.” Mr King concluded.

Government to ban the use of CCTV ‘Spy Cars’ for on-street parking supervision

Written on June 27, 2014

The government will make it illegal to use CCTV spy-cars alone to enforce on-street parking, with the practise of by-post parking tickets, according to communities secretary Eric Pickles and transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

The announcement has been made in an attempt to rein-in over-zealous parking enforcement practises, which are causing people to shop either in out-of-town centres or online.

The ban – which has been called for by a number of different parties – will now become law as part of the Deregulation Bill, following a three month consultation.  Tickets will have to be fixed to the windscreen by parking wardens, meaning that it will become illegal for councils to issue penalty charge notices to drivers using just the CCTV cars that currently patrol the streets.

Parking officers will now be held totally responsible for carrying out essential enforcement, limiting the use of CCTV in order to issue tickets by post to critical routs such as schools, bus lanes, bus stops and red routes.

A number of other measures have been tabled, with the aim being to help local shops, support drivers and help communities develop more of a say on parking policies, including:

  • Trialling a 25% discount for motorists who lose an appeal against a parking ticket at tribunal against the full price of their ticket.
  • Altering guidance so that motorists parking at an out-of-order-meter are not charged if there are no alternative ways to pay available.
  • Introducing the right for local residents and local firms to demand a review of parking in their area, including issues such as charge rates and yellow lines.
  • Reforming operational parking guidance so that it’s less heavy handed with motorists and positively supports local shops, clearly reinforcing the prohibition against parking being used to generate profit.
  • Updating guidance so that the public are aware of when they can be awarded costs at tribunals.
  • Increasing parking transparency so councils have to publish how the income generated from parking charges is being use.

Mr Pickles said:

“CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls.

“Over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable stealth fines by post undermine the high street, push up the cost of living and cost local authorities more in the long term.

“Today the Government is taking urgently needed action to ban this clear abuse of CCTV, which should be used to catch criminals, and not as a cash cow.”

Sidewall damage to tyres costs more than £439 million

Written on June 25, 2014

New research from Kwik Fit has revealed that one in five car owners have had to replace a tyre within the last year as a result of damage to the sidewall.  Drivers across the country are currently spending more than £439m per year replacing what are otherwise perfectly healthy tyres.

The study found that the most common cause of sidewall damage is hitting a pothole.  However, in a number of different cases drivers conceded that the damage was their fault due to hitting a kerb.

Within the last two years, more than half (53 per cent) of all car owners said that their tyres or wheels have suffered damage of some kind, with 22 per cent admitting to hitting a pothole.  11 per cent experienced damage after hitting debris on the road.

Road surfaces weren’t the only cause of problems.  One in ten drivers admitted to hitting a kerb while parking, slightly more than the 9 per cent who hit a kerb while driving.  Women were less likely than men to have hit a kerb when parking (10 per cent of women v 11 per cent of men).

Sheer forgetfulness was another cause for 4 per cent of drivers who said that their tyre wall had been damaged simply due to the fact that it was under-inflated.  Driving any distance on a flat tyre (or even one with low pressure) can cause severe damage to the structure of the tyre wall, so it’s vital for drivers to keep their tyres inflated to the correct levels.

Despite the number of drivers that experienced damage, only one third said that they check their tyre sidewalls every month.  Kwik Fit has urged drivers to regularly check their tyres with three things in mind:

“We recommend that drivers check their tyres every week, and certainly before making a long journey.

“Drivers should check pressure, tread and sidewalls. These factors are all interlinked – the wrong pressure will lead to uneven tread wear and can damage the sidewalls.

“As a result they will shorten the life of a tyre, leading to unnecessary cost, but more importantly reducing the tyre’s road holding performance.”

‘Crash for cash’ accidents up by 51 per cent

Written on June 23, 2014

Fraudulent ‘slam-ons’ – road traffic accidents deliberately caused in order to claim for whiplash compensation – rose by 51 per cent in 2013, according to the latest statistics from Aviva.

The induced accidents have an overall value of more than £10m, and are currently at the highest levels recorded by the insurance firm.

Aviva currently has over 6,000 motor injury claims linked to organised fraud activity, and is calling for stronger deterrents, whilst continuing to highlight the importance of vigilance behind the wheel.

The company’s head of claims fraud, Tom Gardiner, said:

“The fast growth of induced accidents on our roads is cause for serious concern.

“Fraudsters are prepared to put the safety of innocent motorists’ and their families and passengers at risk for their own personal gain. Fraudulent accidents also divert significant public resources such as police, ambulances, emergency services and court time away from real need.

“We believe that convictions for motor injury fraud resulting from induced accidents should result in more custodial sentences that recognise the unique physical harm that this form of insurance fraud poses to motorists, as well as the wider social costs.

“Stronger sentences will deter would-be fraudsters and help to keep roads safer and premiums lower for customers.”

Unfortunately, statistics revealed that at least one motorist has been killed in an accident set up by fraudsters, and this risk seems to be growing.  Data from the Sentencing Council showed that community orders were the most common sentence handed out for fraud offences since 2004.

Aviva believes that these sentences don’t deter crash for cash fraudsters, and it welcomed recent measures introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Gayling designed to crack down on those planning crashes.  The insurance firm have requested that courts strike out claims in which the claimants had been fundamentally dishonest about their injuries.

Under current regulations, when fraudsters exaggerate their claims, they are still entitled to recover the original claim, meaning that there is no deterrent.

There is currently strong public support from the public for fraud convictions to attract stronger sentences.  Two or three respondents to consumer research supported harsher sentences for those convicted of motoring fraud, and almost 9 in 10 felt that custodial sentences would send the strongest message.

“The reach of crash for cash doesn’t stop at the scene of the accident, but impacts a wider circle of victims. Stronger deterrents, such as those announced by the Ministry of Justice, as well as more proportionate sentencing that recognises the very real threat of physical harm to the victim, will serve to further deter fraudsters, protect the public and keep premiums low for customers.” Mr Gardiner concluded.