Over half of young drivers use phones at the wheel

Written on August 30, 2016

According to a new survey from road safety charity Brake and insurer Direct Line, drivers aged between 25 and 34 are taking huge risks by frequently using their mobile phone when driving.

More than half of those surveyed by the companies admitted to either receiving or sending text messages whilst behind the wheel within the last year.

Despite any use of a mobile phone being illegal, more than 40 per cent of respondents estimated sending and receiving text messages at least once a week.

One-in-five drivers in the lower age bracket (18-24) confirmed that they send or receive texts and instant messages frequently whilst driving, with just under half admitting that they often went online or used apps – excluding Sat-Navs – whilst driving.  Almost a third of motorists in this age group claimed to do so several times a week.

Research by Brake showed that texting and other forms of instant messaging are actually more distracting than simply talking on a handset.  The unique form of communication distracts the mind hand and eyes, limiting driver reactions by 35 per cent according to the research.

Zoe Carvin, a teacher and mother of two, was killed when a text-reading driver hit her car.

Paul Carvin, Zoe’s husband, said:

“When Zoe died it was because someone did something stupid. It was such a pointless death. Her death affected hundreds of lives. Two children have been brought up without a mother, 30 children lost their teacher, a driver has been jailed for three years; his life will never be the same either.

“Crashes like this devastate families. They are entirely preventable.”

Alice Bailey, campaigns and communications executive for Brake, said:

“Younger drivers, especially those aged between 25 and 34, simply aren’t getting the message about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.”

“Doing any other complex task while driving hugely increases your chance of crashing. We’ve seen recent examples of drivers who have crashed while trying to play games like Pokémon Go or posting Snapchat images while behind the wheel.

“These drivers are putting their own and other people’s lives in grave danger by taking this risk. If a phone has to be used as a Sat-Nav, it must be programmed before setting off on the journey and properly secured. There is no other acceptable way to use a phone while driving.”

New research to explore younger at-work driver behaviour

Written on August 26, 2016

DriveTech has announced substantial new research on the behaviour of younger at-work drivers and is planning to release the information at Fleet Management Live, one of the industry’s major events which will take place at the end of October.

Many organisations are aware of the importance of introducing occupational road risk solutions, but it’s already well known that young people in particular face a higher risk on the road.

The road mortality rate for younger people – classed in this instance as those under thirty – is 69 per cent higher according to a report by the European Transport Safety Council.

Independent market research company Road Safety Analysis will be carrying out the research for DriveTech using data from between 2006 and 2015, taken from STATS19.  This is the police road traffic accident’s own reporting form and will be used to explore multiple variations on how young worker drivers become involved in injury collisions.

The research will explore when, where and why young people crash and will look at their crash characteristics when compared to other business drivers; offering insight on how fleet managers can use the information to improve their business practises.

All of the information will be released at the Fleet Management Live 2016 event in the form of a public whitepaper.

David Richards, the head of marketing and research for AA DriveTech, will be presenting the research at the event.  Mr Richards has more than a decade’s worth of experience in driver road safety and training.

AA DriveTech has already carried out a range of research in a number of ‘at-work’ driver demographics, including car, van, truck, bus and coach and it’s hoped that this research will compliment that.

Drivers warned against stopping for non-marked police

Written on August 22, 2016

Essex Police has warned motorists to avoid pulling over for anything other than a fully-marked police vehicle, following two robberies in the area.

A second theft took place between junctions 27 and 28 on the M25 mid-afternoon on July 25th.  A Ford Mondeo used a blue flashing light to get a grey Volkswagen Transporter van to pull over.

Three men – one holding handcuffs – then asked the driver of the Volkswagen to get out of his vehicle.  Two of the men then got into the van and drove off, with the Volkswagen driver unable to get the registration of the Ford.

A similar incident occurred between junctions 7 and 8 on the M11, when a white Mercedes Sprinter van was stolen by four men in a silver Ford Mondeo, who stopped it under the guise of being police officers.  One of the men had a firearm, though the two drivers of the van were left at the side of the road unharmed.

DCI Stuart Smith from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate is leading both investigations, and said:

“In a direct response to these incidents occurring a direction has been given to our officers that they should not, unless in emergency circumstances, be in an unmarked car and attempt to stop a driver.

“We have taken this decision to safeguard motorists in Essex while these offenders remain outstanding.

“Our victims have told us that the suspects are purporting to be police officers and are wearing body armour to further enhance this deception in order to steal these vans.”

Anyone who is asked to pull over by an unmarked car appearing to be a police vehicle is requested to call 999 immediately to verify whether or not the vehicle is genuine.

Anyone with information on either of the incidents above should contact Essex Police as soon as possible.

Major London fleet bans diesel

Written on August 15, 2016

LoCITY Champion, the City of London Corporation, has decided to ban diesel vehicles from its procurement process.

The public authority is one of the leading organisations shaping LoCITY and will no longer lease or purchase diesel models when replacing parts of its 300-strong fleet in the future.

The corporation has already cut its transport NOx emissions by over 40 per cent since 2009 through the employment of newer and cleaner vehicles.  It has also been able to cut PM10 emissions even more, achieving a 50 per cent decrease in the same time period.

It has recently started encouraging businesses to limit their deliveries within the Square Mile and to start making better use of hybrid electric cars.

LoCITY was launched in January this year.  The industry-led programme was set-up with the aim of reducing emissions from commercial vehicles within the city.  It is currently working with organisations across the capital, including the City of London Corporation themselves, as well as a number of others.  LoCITY is also working with the 32 London boroughs, not to mention a range of notable businesses in the area.

Fergus Worthy, project manager for LoCITY, said:

“The City of London Corporation is leading the way in helping to reduce emissions and improve air quality for all Londoners, so we welcome its decision not to acquire any more diesel vehicles where a non-diesel alternative is available.

“As a LoCITY Champion, the Corporation is setting a great example for other local authorities, businesses and operators to follow.

“I would encourage anyone interested in following its lead by changing their own procurement processes to get in touch with LoCITY and benefit from our advice, Working Groups and resources.”

A number of different stakeholders are involved in LoCITY, including central and local government, freight and fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers, trade bodies, providers of fuel and infrastructure as well as planning and procurement officials.

The City of London Corporation is a FORS Gold operator and a market leader in terms of helping to lower emissions in the capital.

Government launches consultations on fleet taxes

Written on August 8, 2016

The Government has issued consultations on three areas of tax policy that substantially impact the fleet sectors: salary sacrifice schemes, lease accounting and company car tax treatment of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV).

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has already welcomed the news, noting the potential for more clarification in each of the three main areas.  It’s hoped that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will be able to better understand the fleet industry’s views as a result.

In terms of ultra-low emission vehicles, HMRC and Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) are looking to find out more about how the current company car tax system can be adjusted in order to meet the needs of lower emission fleets whilst still encouraging uptake.

Gerry Keaney, BVRLA chief executive, said:

“For some time we have been calling on the Government to increase the number of ULEV tax bands and narrow the CO2 gaps, so that greater incentives can be provided for those choosing the cleanest vehicles.

“The Government is right to explore whether zero-emission range could be used alongside CO2 emissions to produce a more effective set of company car tax bands, but it needs to ensure that any new system does not become too complicated.”

The rising costs of salary sacrifice schemes is also a concern for the Government, who are considering limiting the contribution advantages for both Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions that are currently available through the schemes.

Mr Keaney added:

“These schemes offer a valuable way of rewarding and retaining staff, particularly for many public sector organisations who have had to struggle with long-term pay freezes.

“The vast majority of staff receiving this valuable perk are in the basic income tax bracket and salary sacrifice schemes provide them with a unique opportunity to drive a newer, cleaner and safer car than they would otherwise.

“The new car sales generated by salary sacrifice schemes give a valuable boost to the UK economy and provide a more sustainable alternative to the older, more polluting grey fleet vehicles that staff might otherwise use for business travel.”

The other major issue for the Government is how lease accounting rules will impact tax treatment of leased assets and the ways in which tax legislation will need to adapt as a result.

Mr Keaney said:

“We will be working closely with HMRC to ensure that these long awaited new lease accounting rules result in a simpler and fairer tax treatment of leased assets, particularly for low emission vehicles that should be entitled to enhanced first-year capital allowances.”

Councils granted £2 million fund to improve journey times

Written on August 3, 2016

A new fund giving councils the opportunity to take advantage of emerging technologies in order to improve driver journeys was launched this month.

The Department of Transport (DfT) has invited local authorities to apply for their share of the two million pounds in a bid to help develop their projects.

There are a number of potential technologies available to aid authorities, including vehicle communication tools as well as roadside sensors capable of giving drivers real-time traffic information.

Councils are also expected to look at how technology could help aid in warning drivers of changing weather and traffic conditions, giving them the opportunity to plan ahead.  This should allow for safer, quicker and more efficient journeys across the board.

Westminster City Council were a participant in a similar scheme and used the funds to build an app that allowed local drivers to find empty parking spaces in central London and to pay for the space directly.

Councils will need to apply for the funding by the end of September.

Roads Minister, Andrew Jones, said:

“I want to deliver better, more enjoyable journeys and this £2 million fund will help councils invest in new technology to enhance the experience of driving.

“Britain has a proud history of innovation and I am delighted that councils will be able to use this money to develop systems to make journeys easier and safer.”

Bids are expected to be between £30,000 and £300,000 and councils requesting funds will be required to contribute at least 5 per cent of the costs for their project.

The deadline for applications is Friday 30th September, with the winning bids to be announced in November. Schemes are planned to be completed by March 2018.

Leeds City Council use ELV’s to cut fuel bill

Written on July 29, 2016

Leeds City Council has become one of the first around the UK to invest in electric vehicles, with forty-two ELV’s being added to its fleet.

The combination of cars and vans will add to and replace the current vehicles in its fleet and will be used mainly for delivering council services through the city centre, where it’s hoped the reduced emissions will have the biggest impact on improving air quality.

The vehicles are expected to offer fuel savings of around £24,600, whilst travelling a combined 450,000 miles a year around the city.

Lucinda Yeadon, executive member for environment and sustainability at Leeds City Council, said:

“Making the switch to electric vehicles means we can cut emissions from our business as usual operations and make not insignificant financial savings too.”

The council is also taking other steps to help promote ELV’s. They are now offering any ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) drivers a free parking permit within the city. More parking is also being created specifically for electric vehicles within council car parks.

The council is working hard to help ensure that any new developments are fitted with suitable charging points for the new vehicles.

Sustainable transport has continued to be a focus for the city council. In recent months, they’ve continued to encourage people to use appropriate vehicles wherever possible, and have also carried out work to remove barriers for the transport industry in the hope that ULEV uptake will continue to increase.

Finally, the council is in ongoing discussions with a number of city bus companies in order to help them maximise their positive contribution to the environment.

Land Rover demonstrate off-road autonomous vehicle

Written on July 25, 2016

Jaguar Land Rover has demonstrated new research technology that could potentially allow autonomous vehicles to drive themselves off-road.

The new multi-million pound research project was set up in order to try and make autonomous cars as practical as possible, by allowing them to operate effectively in a range of real-life driving environments.

Tony Harper, head of research at Jaguar Land Rover, said:

“Our all-terrain autonomy research isn’t just about the car driving itself on a motorway or in extreme off-road situations. It’s about helping both the driven and autonomous car make their way safely through any terrain or driving situation.

“We don’t want to limit future highly automated and fully autonomous technologies to tarmac. When the driver turns off the road, we want this support and assistance to continue. In the future, if you enjoy the benefits of autonomous lane keeping on a motorway at the start of your journey, we want to ensure you can use this all the way to your destination, even if this is via a rough track or gravel road.

“So whether it’s a road under construction with cones and a contraflow, a snow-covered road in the mountains or a muddy forest track, this advanced capability would be available to both the driver AND the autonomous car, with the driver able to let the car take control if they were unsure how best to tackle an obstacle or hazard ahead. We are already world-leaders in all-terrain technologies: these research projects will extend that lead still further.”

The scientists and researchers at Jaguar Land Rover are making use of next-generation sensing technology in order to give the cars the ability to sense potential danger faster than a human driver. The sensors used are always active and could give the vehicle level of artificial intelligence that would allow it think for itself and plan routes on any surface.

This technology combines camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR sensors, and allows the car to have a 360° view of the world around. It’s believed that the sensors are advanced enough to even detect surface characteristics, allowing it to take into account factors like the width of a tyre when driving in rain or snow.

“The key enabler for autonomous driving on any terrain is to give the car the ability to sense and predict the 3D path it is going to drive through,” added Harper.

“This means being able to scan and analyse both the surface to be driven on, as well as any hazards above and to the sides of the path ahead. This might include car park barriers, tree roots and boulders or overhanging branches, as well as the materials and topography to be driven on.”

Ultrasonic sensors can scan up to five metres ahead of the car, giving it the opportunity to change its terrain response settings before it drives onto a new surface. This would be ideal in driving from grass to tarmac, or from snow onto concrete.

Fleets reluctant to adopt alternatively powered vehicles

Written on July 19, 2016

A new in-depth survey from Sewells Research & Insight has revealed that practical obstacles are currently preventing feats from taking on more alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs).

Though there is mounting pressure for fleets to adopt low or zero emission vehicles, fears over the higher cost, long recharging times and the uncertain residual values of the cars themselves continue to stop fleets from increasing their uptake.

Interestingly, the research also showed that petrol is making a comeback at the expense of diesel. The emissions test scandal, combined with fears over the impact of nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions on the environment, are believed to have had substantial impact on this.

The Fleet Market Report 2016 covered a number of areas, with Sewells noting that fleets were prepared to adopt alternatively fuelled vehicles, but only in small numbers. Companies estimated that the number of AFVs in their own fleets would rise to around 1.5 per cent within the next year, 2.5 per cent within three years and 4.7 per cent in five years.

Though this would actually represent a market share increase of 213 per cent, it would still leave 95 per cent of company cars reliant on fossil fuels.

81 per cent of fleet decision makers, meanwhile, said that range issues were a primary obstacle to them increasing their uptake of AFVs. 77 per cent called for the charging times to be decreased and 73 wanted to see more recharging points available before they increased their investment.

40 per cent of fleets did note that their drivers would be open to accepting AFV’s. However, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is pursuing a policy of doubling the speed at which it increases company car tax; and this is leaving a number of drivers with the choice between a higher tax bill, or a vehicle that simply isn’t sufficient to get the job done.

It’s likely that the issue will become more pressing, as local authorities are expected to introduce more and more ‘clean air zones’, with hefty charges in place for drivers using vehicles contravening the regulations.

Car fleet sales rise as retail registrations fall

Written on July 15, 2016

Though retail registrations have declined again, the number of new fleet vehicles being registered has continued to grow.

There was a very minor fall in overall demand during June – of less than one per cent – but fleet registrations followed the recent trend, with an increase of 4.5 per cent. This drove the market heavily, helping to combat a 4.5 per cent drop in the number of private registrations.

Business sales overall were down 25 per cent, but the combined number of registrations for fleet and business were up 1.9 per cent.

2016 has seen the best ever performance in terms of car registration, with 1,420,636 cars being registered in the first half of the year.

Every vehicle fuel type has seen growth, with diesel and petrol registrations increasing by 2.3 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) have also seen growth in the last few months. Indeed, take up was 21.3 per cent higher year-on-year compared to 2015. This year, AFVs have accounted for 3.2 per cent of the overall new-car market.

Mike Hawes, chief executive for the SMMT, said:

“It is far too soon to determine whether the referendum result has had an impact on the new car market. The first six months saw strong demand at record levels but the market undoubtedly cooled over the second quarter. It’s important government takes every measure to restore business and economic confidence to avoid the market contracting in the coming months.”

Rupert Pontin, the director of valuations at Glass’s, said:

“The June new car registration figures are not a great surprise bearing in mind the political instability during the course of the month.

“To be 0.8 per cent behind June 2015 may be seen as quite a positive for many and to be running at 3.2 per cent above the same period year to date in 2015 is indicative of where Glass’s forecasted the market for 2016 to be 6 months ago.

“Unfortunately our data shows that pre-registration activity has increased by 9.5 per cent over the same period last year and this is further supported by anecdotal evidence from a number of key industry contacts concerned at the tactical activity demanded by certain manufacturers.

“However, despite the scare tactics employed by both sides of the political spectrum the industry is still in a reasonably good position as it stands today.”