Government backs online safety benchmarking tool for fleets

Written on February 4, 2016

Public, private and voluntary sector fleets are being urged to adopt a new online benchmarking tool, designed to improve their at-work road safety whilst minimising operational costs and boosting business efficiencies.

Backed by the government’s Department for Transport (DfT), the tool is being delivered as a contribution to the work of the Occupational Road Safety Alliance (ORSA) by the team behind the Driving for Better Business (DfBB) campaign and in collaboration with a number of other fleet organisations.

The free tool will collect data on processes in place to manage work-related road safety from fleets of all sizes and types and measure their success. It is due to be officially unveiled at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) Road Safety Conference on Wednesday 2nd March in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Adrian Walsh, director, RoadSafe, which leads the government-backed DfBB, said: “Benchmarking can be a highly effective way of improving road safety in a corporate setting, knowing what is being done well helps to maintain momentum, but equally important is for fleet decision-makers to understand what can be done better.

“Identifying good practice comparing it across organisations is enormously valuable and encourages often simple but innovative solutions to what may appear to be complex problems.

“There is no doubt that by benchmarking, employers can develop sound business cases to identify where to invest to improve road safety.

“Participating organisations will be able to identify areas of concern and draw on the knowledge and expertise of other employers that are excelling in that particular aspect of safe fleet operation, thus helping to drive continuous improvement, innovation and promote a shared responsibility across work-related road safety.

“In developing the online tool, we have heard from numerous organisations that there is little understanding of where to start collecting road safety data, what information to collect and how best to analyse and interpret the information once they have it.

“This benchmarking solution is designed to assist these processes by proving standardised methods through a secure online platform.”

It is hoped that this solution will be a real step forward from the existing system: Interactive Driving Systems’ Fleet Safety Gap Analysis, which asks 10 online questions to fleets to benchmark their responses against all other participating fleets; providing an insight into the safety of an organisation’s vehicles, its drivers and how they rank against other organisations.

Company vehicle drivers should face tougher penalties for mobile use at the wheel

Written on February 2, 2016

The Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead officer on road policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, has called for harsher punishments for company car and van drivers who use a mobile phone whilst at the wheel of a vehicle.

Davenport believes a two-tier system should be put in place, with other drivers being punished less harshly.

“If you get caught twice on a mobile phone during a set period of time you should receive a short-term ban,” said Davenport.

“If you cannot conduct your professional life or business, that is really going to impact on people and I hope it would be a deterrent.”

Plans are afoot among ministers to raise fines for drivers caught using their mobile devices at the wheel from £100 to £150, whilst increasing the number of endorsement points offenders receive on their licences.

“I am looking at people running up and down the motorways, these are often young men aged 20 to 35. They are professional drivers,” added Davenport.

“If these people are driving as part of their business and they are taking more risks as a result, in return they should face higher enforcement.”

Simon Peevers, spokesperson, RAC Business, agrees that there is a real need to change the behaviour of drivers that persist in using mobile devices at the wheel.

“The fact is there are too many motorists in general that still use hand-held mobile phones while driving and there is a real need to change that behaviour,” said Peevers.

“Whether people are driving for business, going to the shops or doing the school run, the distraction caused by hand-held phone use can lead to disastrous consequences.

“It is right that the Government is currently carrying out a consultation into how to change that behaviour because the challenge has been how to enforce the laws we currently have, which have been in place since 2003, banning all use of hand-held devices while at the wheel.

“It may be that the threat of a driving ban is a better deterrent than points and a fine, and worthy of consideration; but rather than set a higher level of punishment for certain drivers the law should be equal and clear for all drivers and crucially, more effectively enforced.”

Public sector continues to lead plug-in vehicle adoption

Written on January 2, 2016

Public sector fleets have continued to lead the way in adopting ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) according to new information from Automotive Leasing.  The growth in ULEV usage has been helped by the success of the GreenPlan project, according to the LeasePlan UK subsidiary.

The GreenPlan project was launched ten years ago with the aim of providing cost-efficient ULEV solutions in both the public sector and non-for-profit fleets.

Since its launch in 2005, the project had grown substantially, working with 98 organisations to develop environmental solutions for fleets and to help encourage ULEV uptake whilst acting as advocates for the technology.

Solutions tabled have included replacing fleets with new, clean substitutes such as hybrid, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles, as well as implementing new technologies to help drive-down emissions.

The GreenPlan Project has also encouraged the decrease of decreasing vehicle idling, as well as monitoring and managing driver behaviour.  They’ve also worked alongside the Energy Savings Trust in Scotland to help provide educational programmes to drivers.

Automotive Leasing’s average CO2 fleet emissions have fallen by 28 per cent since the introduction of the GreenPlan launch.

The GreenPlan Project has played a large part in working towards Scotland’s target of reducing CO2 emissions by 42 per cent by 2020: the most ambitious target made by any country in the world.

The project has contributed to this in a number of ways.  It has planted over 10,000 trees across 22 acres within the Scottish Highlands to help balance out the 900,000 tonnes of emissions created by the Ministry of Defence Fleet in situations where ULEV solutions simply weren’t possible.

Tom Brewer, the brand director for Automotive Leasing, said:

“We are incredibly proud of the GreenPlan project and its success so far, and are delighted to have worked with so many organisations over the past 10 years to improve their carbon footprint.

“However, we know there is still a long way to go to increase the uptake of ULEV. We are committed to leading the charge in driving down vehicle emissions to encourage a healthier society and environment today, and for future generations.

“This project is still in its infancy, and we look forward to further increasing ULEV uptake, UK-wide, for both current and prospective clients over the coming years.”

Increase in EVs could threaten electricity network

Written on December 26, 2015

New research has suggested that one third of low-voltage feeders – equating to 312,000 circuits across the UK – may not cope with a growth in the number of UK electric vehicles.

My Electric Avenue carried out the study, and found that issues occurred when between 40-70 per cent of customers used EVs. (This was based on the 3.5Kw (16 AMP) charging).  Networks susceptible to problems typically have an available capacity of less than 1.56Kw each week.

In most cases, the findings would mean that underground cables would need to be replaced.  However, My Electric Avenue have been trialling a lower cost solution to the issue, in the form of ‘Espirit’.  This is a technology which can control the charging of EVs when the local electricity grid reaches specified levels of demand.

Incorporating Espirit into networks would mean the first real-life trial involving controlled domestic EV charging to prevent underground cables, substations and overhead lines from overload.

Forecasts have suggested that overall, Espirit could save around £2.2 billion’s worth of reinforcement costs between now and 2050.  Car manufacturers and the energy industry would need to work closely together to meet that target.

Stewart Reid, head of asset management and innovation at the Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution, said:

“There is a solution which is capable of helping us overcome these challenges before they affect our customers.

“With new vehicles due to place even greater demands on our networks, we are conscious of the need for both ourselves and the automotive industry to share our learning, challenges and innovations with one another.

“We are excited at this prospect, which will allow the decarbonisation of our respective industries to continue at pace.”

My Electric Avenue was a three-year project funded by Ofgem designed to investigate the potential impact of EVs on electricity networking.   The project is now coming to a close and is disseminating its research.  The aim is for other energy companies and car manufacturers to learn from the findings.

Government confirms zero emissions 2050 target

Written on December 23, 2015

The Government has confirmed the UK’s commitment to achieving a zero emissions target for all cars and vans by 2050, as part of a climate summit in Paris.

The UK was one of 13 members of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Alliance to make a firm commitment to slashing transport emissions and promoting cleaner motoring. Other members to sign include Germany, Holland, Norway and California.

The agreement includes a firm pledge to make all passenger vehicles by the stated deadline.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:

“The UK already has the largest market for ultra-low emission vehicles in the EU, and the fourth largest in the world and today’s pledge reaffirms our commitment to ensuring almost every car and van is a zero emission vehicle by 2050.

“Electric cars are greener and cheaper to run and we are making them more affordable, spending more than £600 million between 2015 and 2020 to support the uptake and manufacturing of ultra-low emission vehicles here in the UK.

“By leading international efforts on this issue, we are playing our part in helping achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions of more than 1 billion tonnes per year across the world by 2050.”

The ZEV alliance formed in September, with the stated aim of increasing uptake of greener vehicles.

Members of the alliance include a number of US states such as Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregan, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as Quebec in Canada.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said:

“The Government has set an ambitious and admiral target, but it is easy for long-term targets to be set by politicians who won’t be in office by 2050.

“It is imperative that this is followed by a clear and enforceable roadmap on how it is going to be achieved.

“Not only do we need greater research and development spending to drive down the cost of low carbon vehicles, and improve their performance. It is critical that we look at the infrastructure supporting these vehicles as those that use electricity will need to have zero carbon electricity to charge them up to be truly carbon neutral.”

Diesel costs hit six-year low

Written on December 21, 2015

The cost of diesel hit a six-year low during November, with petrol falling below £1 per litre.  Meanwhile, the price of oil barrels also reached a similar low, declining to $40.40 per barrel.

Average costs of petrol also fell, reaching a five-month low. Diesel’s average price was the lowest since late December 2009, reaching 109.48p per litre.

Since this time last year, the cost of filling up a 55-litre family car has decrease by £7.75 when using petrol.  A tank of diesel has fallen even more, with a full fill-up now £8.95 cheaper than last year.

The RAC Fuel Watch report showed that a barrel of crude oil fell by over $3 during November.  The pound did lose a little value to the dollar during the month, in turn impacting the profit margin, with oil traded in dollars.

Simon Williams, the RAC Fuel Watch spokesman, said:

“In the expensive run-up to Christmas, drivers of both petrol and diesel vehicles are benefitting from far cheaper fill-ups than they did at this time last year.”

“While petrol for under a pound a litre has become a reality at the cheapest retailers we would like to see this happen on a non-promotional basis. This depends, of course, on the cost of a barrel of oil staying low and ideally trading down a little closer to $40 for longer – something which is very hard to predict, particularly as OPEC meet tomorrow in Vienna to discuss oil production strategy.”

“There has been talk of stabilising the barrel price which would mean stemming production, but it’s difficult to see how that would work when Iran begins to pump up to one million barrels a day in 2016, following on from its landmark nuclear agreement with the West.”

“The lower forecourt prices we’re enjoying at the moment are a product of the fall in world crude oil prices, which began in September 2014.”

“After a six-year low of $45 a barrel in early February and two instances of going back up to the $60 level twice briefly since, the price has been consistently below $50 since mid-October, reaching a new six-year low in mid-November.”

HMRC oil duty statistics for October showed that combined sales of petrol and diesel increased by 1.9 per cent when compared to the previous period.  The month saw the fifth highest number of litres sold in any month since 1990.

Average used car values remain strong

Written on December 10, 2015

According to information from the BCA, the average value for used cars reached record levels in November.  Yet another strong month in price performance within the used car market was reported.

The average value for used cars sold at the BCA during November rose to £8, 126, which was a £136 rise (1.6 per cent) on the previous month.  This was doubly impressive, with performance against CAP Clean falling by half a percentage point to 96.15 per cent.

A change in the sector mix contributed to the rise, with higher value fleet and lease cars having higher representation during the month.

Year-on-year, the average values rose by £51, and both age static and mileage continued to fall.  Performance against CAP increased by nearly one percent compared to 2014.

The average values for both fleet lease and part-exchange cars both fell back slightly when compared to the record levels in October. Both remained well ahead year-on-year, with fleet & lease value currently the second highest on record.

Issues with condition and presentation have both continued.  Simon Henstock, UK operations director for the BCA, said:

“While average values remain exceptionally strong, this reflects the development of a two-tier market, where the best vehicles sell quickly for often exceptional values, while the less attractive or over-valued cars struggle to attract the same sort of attention.”

“It is important that the less desirable cars are properly appraised and valued in line with market sentiment, otherwise there is a risk they will remain unsold, putting pressure on conversion rates.  Volume sellers particularly need to pay attention to this and reappraise and revalue any vehicles that are proving difficult to remarket, rather than simply adhering to a one-size-fits-all pricing strategy.”

ICFM fleet qualifications could be ‘stamp of approval’

Written on December 7, 2015

The Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM) has expressed a wish for its qualifications to become the ‘de facto stamp of approval’ for fleet management, at the same time as setting itself a membership target of 1,000.

Delegates at the institute’s Fleet 2020 conference were told that membership had grown by 5 per cent in the last 12 months.  This year was also the first in which more women than men had come through the ICFM courses.

ICFM Chairman Paul Hollick said:

“The numbers are growing; we are being talked about and referred to as thought leaders within our industry.

“From assistant fleet managers to fleet directors running the mega-fleets, they are skilled, at the top of their game and driving our industry forward.

“We want ICFM qualifications to become the qualifications required to be a fleet decision-maker. These qualifications will be the de facto stamp of approval that you can do the job and we want to make fleet management a fully recognised vocation.”

The ICFM also plans to build on the work it’s done with other industry organisations, such as fleet representative body ACFO, as well as the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the British Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).  Mr Hollick told delegates that the organisation would continue to work hard in order to ensure that it’s training remained relevant, and developed further subject areas in order to ensure members stayed on top of new topics and initiatives.

Road risk a priority for delivery firms at Christmas

Written on December 1, 2015

Britain’s major parcel couriers have insisted that road risk management is a priority as they prepare for the build-up to Christmas.

It’s expected that retailers will send out 20 per cent more parcels in the last three months of the year when compared to last year, with deliveries expecting to peak with Black Friday on 27th November.

With 20 per cent of non-food sales now made online, the rush of deliveries at Christmas is now considered fairly standard.  It’s expected that, by the end of 2015, retailers will send more than 860 million parcels to British homes, an increase of over 600m, in 2012, according to information from retail body Interactive Media.

The expected festive rush has spawned a huge amount of recruitment by the country’s courier firms, with Yodel alone recruiting 7,000 part-time and full-time staff.

Amazon UK alone is in the process of recruiting 19,000 seasonal workers, with the vast majority of roles in company warehouses and customer service centres.  Royal Mail is also recruiting a similar number of staff in order to help distribute the post during the festive period.

All of the distribution companies have said that occupational road risk management will be a priority for them, with strict employment criteria for employees including regular driving license and vehicle checks as well as insurance clarification for vans driven by owner-drivers and the self-employed.

Four out of five company car drivers admit to speeding

Written on November 30, 2015

New research suggests that around 80 per cent of company car drivers could be speeding, whilst still considering themselves to be law-abiding motorists.

The survey, which was conducted by RAC Business, found that four out of five drivers regularly broke the 70mph speed limit, compared to just 69 per cent of private motorists.

90 per cent of respondents to the survey considered themselves to be a law-abiding driver.

The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2015 suggested that some motorists simply didn’t consider speeding to be a serious driving offence, especially on the motorways.  Two-thirds of company car drivers stated that they believed the speed limit should be increased to 80mph.

Almost half of company car driver respondents said that they regularly hit 80mp whilst driving on the motorways, with 5 per cent admitting to reaching 90.

However, there are several signs that motorists are starting to take more care.  The 81 per cent that admitted to speeding on motorways was actually a lower figure than the 88 per cent last year.

Speeding is typically less of an issue in more residential areas, but a quarter of drivers (23 per cent) admitted to regularly driving at 35mph in a 30mph zone.

Jenny Powley, corporate business sales director at RAC Business, said:

“When you drive as part of your working day and are running late for meetings, it can be very tempting to break the speed limit.

“It’s worth reminding drivers that the risks associated with speeding can far outweigh the time saved.

“After all, driving at 80mph instead of 70mph will only save you six seconds a mile, or 10 minutes over 100 miles.”