Mobile phone use still common on UK roads

Written on November 27, 2014

New research has indicated that more or less every driver has at some point seen another road user using their mobile phone within the last twelve months.

99% of respondents to the AA/Populus survey said that they’d seen a fellow driver using their mobile whilst at the wheel, with one in ten getting so annoyed that they’d beeped the horn, flashed their lights or shouted at the mobile user in question.

Jim Kirkwood, the managing director of AA DriveTech, said:

“The use of hand-held mobile phones is an epidemic amongst drivers who appear to be addicted to using their phone whenever and wherever they please.”

Drivers caught using their mobile phone face three points and a fixed penalty fine of £100, and can be fined up to £1000 if the case ends up going to court.  Many police forces are now giving drivers the option of an educational course instead of points and a fine – the cost of attending the course is usually around £90.

Drivers in Yorkshire and Humberside (and West Midlands) were most likely to react to illegal mobile phone use (13%), with those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the least likely.

A small minority (1%) of drivers made an attempt to stop another driver in order to let them know their annoyance of the mobile phone use.

Mr Kirkwood said:

“Drivers seem to be split into two camps – those who are so against drivers using hand-held mobiles that their blood boils when they see someone doing it and those who just carry on using their phones at the wheel without seemingly caring about the risk.

“While we absolutely don’t suggest drivers take the law into their own hands and confront other drivers, these results do highlight the frustration of many motorists who do recognise the risks if using a mobile phone while driving.”

Six out of ten UK drivers ‘can’t read maps’

Written on November 25, 2014

According to research, the majority of British drivers are incapable of reading a map, and have become far too reliant on their sat-navs.

A new survey released by has shown that UK drivers are now so reliant on their electronic devices that they are often completely unaware of the route they’ve taken in order to reach their end destination.

Interestingly, the same survey showed that 91% of drivers relying on their sat-nav have at some point become lost in the last part of their journey because the device was unable to take them to the exact spot of their end destination.

The survey quizzed 1,150 private and commercial drivers about their sat-nav use, and found that 77% of respondents who use one relied totally on it to guide them.  Two-thirds of respondents no longer bother to look at road signs and 60% said that they aren’t able to read a paper map.

Johny Ratcliffe from said:

“It’s becoming very clear that satellite navigation is making drivers lazy, and it’s got to the point where people arrive at their destination with no clear idea how they got there.”

Another point worthy of being highlighted was the increased danger that can occur as a result of reliance on technology.  Mr Ratcliffe referred to the relatively common practise of drivers suddenly changing lanes because of their reliance on a satnav.

“Over reliance on satnavs makes zombie drivers out of us,” Mr Ratcliffe concluded. “It’s absolutely okay to switch it off and follow the road signs. You might even get there quicker.”

Consultation to be launched on ultra-low emission zones

Written on November 24, 2014

The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have launched a public consultation on new proposals to launch the first Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the world in the year 2020.

The new proposals will require any vehicles travelling within the congestion zone to meet new standards.  The zone would be in effect for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Though many vehicles are already likely to meet the necessary standards by 2020, the Mayor and TfL are also planning to try and increase take-up of low emission vehicles.

The ULEZ should help to improve the quality of air in the London area, making it a more pleasant place in which to work.  Predictions are that ULEZ could halve emissions of both nitrogen oxide (NO2) and particulate matter from vehicle exhaust, leading to more than 80% of the capital meeting the NO2 legal limits by 2020.

NO2 has been shown to cause breathing problems and to increase asthma symptoms, with children and young people most likely to be affected. ULEZ could massively cut down exposure in hospitals, care homes and schools across London.

The majority of traffic entering the ULEZ is likely to originate from outside, meaning that the zone should also benefit the rest of London.

Mayor Boris Johnson said:

“Introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone is an essential measure to improve London’s air quality and reduce NO2.

“Safeguarding Londoners’ health and well-being is a top priority for my administration.

“I understand that people need adequate time to switch to greener vehicles and help is at hand for those who will be hardest hit, but let’s be clear, we need to make these important changes ASAP to continue to improve Londoners’ quality of life and give everyone who lives in or visits the city the cleanest possible air to breathe.”

Interestingly, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has already questioned Londoners having to wait until 2020 in order to enjoy the benefits of clean air.  Head of urban logistics and regional policy director Christopher Snelling said:

“Businesses are already operating some Euro VI HGVs today, despite the costs involved,”

“If TfL provided the right incentives, we could ensure that those vehicles are used sooner in central London, which faces some of the most difficult air quality challenges in Europe.”

The proposals would require vehicles travelling in central London to either meet the following emissions standards, or to pay a daily charge.  TfL will also be working to reduce emissions from its buses, as well as from private hire vehicles and to increase the number of zero emission capable vehicles.  Demonstrator fleets in London will help to boost industry sales and lead the transition towards low emission technology.

Calls for new drink driving limit

Written on November 21, 2014

A new survey by the Institute of Advanced Marketing (IAM) has shown that many drivers would like the proposed Scottish drink-drive limit to be introduced across England and Wales.

The new proposal aims to lower the legal drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood before Christmas, with the result hopefully being a reduction in the amount of drink-driving incidents on Scottish roads.

More than 80% of the 2,632 survey respondents confirmed that they drink alcohol, with nearly half (47%) believing that lowering the limit would indeed cut down the number of accidents taking place across the UK roads.

IAMs director of policy and research, Neil Greig, said:

“England and Wales are now totally out of step with drink-drive limits across the rest of Europe.

“Existing research has shown that between 63 and 116 lives can be saved every year by a lower limit.  Different limits are also a recipe for confusion and the IAM would urge the Westminster government to review its approach as a matter of urgency.”

Around half of the drivers surveyed also said that they would like more thorough police checks to take place.  Only 5%, though, said that they would support an increase in alcohol prices.

New body launched to verifying driver licence data

Written on October 30, 2014

A new trade body has been launched in order to provide fleet users with responsible and secure access to DVLA data.  The Association for Driving Licence Verification (ADLV) was formed as part of the response to the abolition of the current driving licence paper counterpart.

Members of the association are already established in terms of providing driver licence checking through the DVLA’s own Electronic Driver Entitlement Checking Service.  The data provided by the ADLV member companies will help to formalise the grouping and provide employers with a new alternative for validating driver entitlement data for employees.

The ADLV will conduct regular audits of members, and will operate within a strict code of conduct to try and ensure that the DVLA’s data assurance standards are being met.

ADLV members will supply customers with full licence details, and will have the ability to schedule data re-checks and to monitor licence holders dependent on updated driver risk profiles.  They will work on an online batch e-processing basis.

The ADLV’s system will work in contrast to the DVLA’s superior SMDR (Share My Driver Record) system, which requires each driver to register their consent whenever an employer wishes to access their file.

Malcolm Maydock, the newly appointed chairman for the ADLV, said:

“There is a willingness by all the main groups involved to support the formation of a trade association that delivers a best practice approach to driving licence verification for fleets.

“The ADLV addresses these needs fully and has recruited the most experienced and professional organisations in the business to deliver the service.

“Indeed, the ADLV members are very much a proven and trusted quantity.

“Looking forward, the ADLV is currently working closely with the DVLA on new batch and real-time solutions that will replace and enhance the existing services in the near future.”

Jim Kirkwood, the managing director for AA Driving Services, said:

“There are a number of important issues involved here.

“On one hand there’s the safety issue of ensuring that drivers of fleet vehicles have the right entitlements. Then there’s the issue of privacy, as no-one wants to run the risk of exposing extremely sensitive and personal driver data to all-comers.

“We welcome the creation of the ADLV as real progress towards solving these issues, as it ensures appropriate data access governed by strict compliance and protected by effective security, in line with the DVLA’s data assurance standards. In this respect it meets the operational demands of both the fleet and insurance industries.”

Initial members of the ADLV include:

Licence Check; Drivercheck; Licence Bureau; Fleet Claims Administration; DrivingMonitor; AA DriveTech (UK); GB Group; Pinewood Technologies; Admin Business Solutions; Chalcheck; Interactive Driving Systems; Fleet Partnership Solutions; Descartes Systems UK; and Intelligent Data Systems (UK).

BVRLA reminds fleets about tax disc abolition

Written on October 22, 2014

From the 1st October, motorists no longer have to display a paper tax disc.  The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) is already highlighting the potential benefits to arise as a result of the change.

It’s estimated that the BVRLA are responsible for one in every 10 cars and one in every seven vans driving on UK roads, so the impact of the change will be substantial.

As registered keepers for that many vehicles, the BVRLA had to process and distribute hundreds of thousands of the paper discs each year.  As a result, the change in policy could end up saving members millions of pounds in administrative costs.  Indeed, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) estimated that tax disc abolition could end up saving at least £7m every year.

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said:

“We campaigned long and hard to have the paper tax disc abolished. We’ve also been working with the DVLA for months to ensure that our sector is perfectly poised to help businesses and consumers get to grips with the changes.”

To help the UK’s drivers better understand the changes to vehicle excise duty (VED) the BVRLA has published new guidance and material on their website.

VED does still need to be paid, and will be payable in the same ways such as telephone, online or at the Post Office.  Fleets are still able to reassure drivers that VED has been paid – drivers are able to check the vehicle tax status of any vehicle online at

The DVLA will still send a reminder when vehicle tax is due to expire, even though there is not a physical reminder of a vehicle’s tax expiry date.

Vehicle tax is no longer transferable, meaning that fleets cannot now sell vehicles with ‘remaining tax’.  It is the responsibility of the buyer to tax the vehicle before it’s used on the road.  As soon at the tax period runs out, the owner must re-tax it immediately.  The age-old ‘it’s in the post’ excuse is no longer applicable, as the grace period has been abolished.

Fleets will now automatically receive a refund when selling or declaring a vehicle off the road.  The DVLA will issue the refund to the registered keeper from the date of receipt for any time remaining.

Vehicle owners will now be able to pay VED via direct debit.  From November 1st, direct debit will be permissible on any vehicle with valid MOT.  There will be a 5per cent surcharge if fleets choose to pay on a bi-annual or monthly basis.  The direct debit scheme will require a separate mandate for each vehicle.

Failure to tax a vehicle will now result in a £1,000 fine.  Vehicle number plates will now be checked by camera and registrations run through a database.

You can still check the cost of tax by visiting

The use of trade plates will not change drastically.  Leasing companies are responsible for more than one million vehicle disposals each year, so it’s good to report that as long as an operator has paid for a trade licence, it will no longer be necessary to display physical evidence for the vehicle.

Police have ‘almost given up’ investigating car crime

Written on October 20, 2014

A new report from the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) investigation of police forces has reported that car crime is being far less stringently dealt with than before, with more and more crime-reporting and administrative functions being out-sourced.

The report found that victims of car crime were being asked questions by call-handlers in order to assess the likelihood of their crime being solved.

The UK vehicle rental industry currently suffers an estimated 1,500 vehicle thefts each year.  The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has even developed its own Stolen Vehicle Reporting Guidelines to try and help members report thefts and ensure that the police are provided with accurate evidence and information.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and forces up and down the country have been made aware of the new information, but it continues to slip through the cracks.

Gerry Keaney, the BVRLA chief executive, said:

“Vehicle theft or fraud is one of the biggest problems facing the rental industry, but our members are largely being left to fend for themselves,”

“We need police forces to take cases of vehicle crime seriously and adopt a much more ‘joined-up’ approach to working with other constabularies.”

“Rental companies are not time-wasters – they know when a vehicle has been stolen and are prepared to work closely with police to solve these crimes.”

Tyre risks remain for UK fleets

Written on October 15, 2014

More than 11,000 tyre-related incidents took place last winter on the motorways and major roads, according to new statistics.

Punctures and blow outs were amongst the hazards that put motorists at risk in the months between October and December according to a new report from the Highways Agency who are working alongside not-for-profit safety organisation Tyre Safe to promote Tyre Safety Month through October.  Drivers are urged to be aware of the dangers that arise from worn, unsafe and defective tyres.

Stuart Jackson, the chair of Tyre Safe, presented Highways Agency Traffic Officers in the North West with special tyre safety gauges to hand out to drivers in order to provide practical information on the right levels.

The focus of Tyre Safety Month is urging drivers to ensure tyres are ready for wet weather by checking that they have enough tread.  This can easily be looked at by inserting a 20 pence piece; if you can see the outer rim of the coin when it’s been inserted into the main grooves, then the tyre needs to be checked by a professional.

Simon Sheldon-Wilson, the director of customer operations for the Highways Agency, said:

“It’s important to ensure that your tyres are ready for winter and that includes the kind of wet weather we saw last year.

“By checking your tyres at least once a month, you can make sure you have enough tread to control your vehicle in wet conditions and avoid aquaplaning at high speeds which could lead to disastrous consequences.

“There were 11,057 tyre related incidents on motorways and major A roads in England last winter – don’t become a statistic and check your tyres are safe today.”

“Last year was the wettest winter on record. Ahead of any wet weather we may encounter this winter, we’re reminding drivers to check that their tyres’ tread depth is deep enough to manage driving in wet conditions.

“Having adequate tread depth means the tyres will be able to handle wet weather much better, remaining in control and reducing the real risk of aquaplaning.”

Vauxhall to end 100,000 mile warranty

Written on October 13, 2014

Vauxhall has announced that it is to discontinue its 100,000 mile lifetime warranty programme, and will be returning to a three-year, 60,000 mile offering in January.

Tim Tozer, the chairman and managing director, has cited the changing ownership landscape and increased investment in new technology as key reasons for the change. Mr Tozer said:

“In today’s market, 65% of retail sales are supported by a finance package and within that, over 60% are PCPs. This has dramatically changed ownership patterns resulting in fewer customers retaining their cars beyond three years.

“Couple this with a €4 billion investment in high technology powertrains and state of the art new products and it no longer makes business sense to invest in 100,000-mile warranty cover.

“We will continue to focus our investment on providing our customers with a high quality and satisfying experience, both at dealer and company level, throughout their purchase and ownership period.”

Existing Vauxhall vehicles that have the lifetime warranty will still be covered up to 100,000 miles whilst the vehicle remains with the initial owner, though this will be subject to annual validation.

The new three-year/60,000 mile transferable warranty is fully competitive with bench-marked competition according to the manufacturer, and will include AA roadside assistance, Homestart and full European cover within the first year.  Cost effective extension options will be available up to four and five years.

Energy saving trust to host free EV events

Written on October 10, 2014

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) is to host a series of new events focusing on electric vehicles during the next few months, with the majority of events taking place in Scotland. The aim is to try and highlight the potential benefits that could come from integrating EVs into transport operations.

In a recent survey of EV drivers, EST established that the average saving on fuel each year for an electric vehicle is £1,400, and that 85 per cent of drivers who’ve made the jump to an electric vehicle wouldn’t consider switching back to a petrol or diesel.

Scottish businesses are apparently considering the integration of EVs into their fleets in order to access the many financial, environmental and Corporate Social Responsibility benefits that can come from doing so.

Anyone who purchases an electric or plug-in car can benefit from a grant of 25 per cent off the vehicle’s price, up to a maximum value of £5,000 and up to £8,000 for a van.
Organisations are also eligible to apply for a grant of up to £10,000 to install a publicly available charging point through the ChargePlace Scotland project, as funded by Transport Scotland.

Speakers at the events will try and provide information about what support is available locally, including both funding and financial incentives. Test drives will also be included as a part of the event, and businesses will be made aware of how EVs can help cut down on fleet fuel costs.