Road death prosecutors making poor decisions in majority of cases

Written on March 2, 2015

According to new research by the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and the Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the quality of decision making in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was considered to be sub-standard in over half of the cases analysed.

A new report has shown that service to bereaved families was in many cases considered to be ‘poor and short of its own guidance’.

The report has made a huge number of recommendations for the CPS in order to ‘reinvigorate its approach’ in cases of both road death and injury.  This includes the increased need for specialist prosecutors in certain cases.

The findings of the study have echoed the negative experiences of many bereaved and injured road crash victims who obtained support from road safety charity Brake through its helpline. The charity has urged the CPS to implement the suggestions made in the report, something they didn’t do in 2008.

Brake, who are 20 years old this year, have worked with every police force across the UK in order to offer support to injured and bereaved road crash victims, and have since played a role in training police family liaison officers.

Julie Townsend, the deputy chief executive at Brake, said:

“Crown prosecutors and police investigators do difficult and hugely important jobs. It is vital they fulfil their roles as professionally and consistently as possible, to ensure devastated victims of road crime feel informed and supported, and that justice has been done. Brake has been at the forefront of supporting crash victims for many years, and we know that many are left feeling betrayed and distressed by their experiences of the justice system.

“We are very encouraged by the significant progress that has been made by police forces in liaising with road crash victims, and hope they will continue to improve and provide victims with a passionate and dedicated service. However, as is made painfully clear by this report, the service being provided by the CPS is inadequate, in terms of decision-making and communication with victims. The CPS needs to implement the HMCPSI recommendations as a matter of urgency.”

Emission rules ‘stifle’ new technology, claim KPMG

Written on February 25, 2015

New research has indicated that car manufacturers are currently being forced to focus on optimising internal combustion engines ahead of researching and building new technology.

Accountancy firm KPMG claims that European Union legislation governing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is currently diverting investment away from innovation in the industry.

The company’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2015, which surveyed 200 senior employees, found that nearly half (49 per cent) consider ‘optimisation of the internal combustion engine’ to be one of the major issues for their company.

The figure is an increase on the 40 per cent measured last year.

John Leech, UK head of automotive for KPMG, said:

“The drive to optimise the internal combustion engine is fuelled by growing environmental pressures.

“In the UK, manufacturers are principally focused on the EU CO2 rules, which set targets for vehicle manufacturers that correlate with vehicle weight.”

By contrast, only three per cent of those surveyed said that they were working on self-driving cars.

Speaking to Fleet News, two manufacturers said that whilst the combustion engine was taking up a lot of their time and energy, this investigative process still complemented other technological developments, such as the ‘next generation’ hybrids.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is a leading supporter of the new government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) which is headquartered at Warwick University.  Costing £500 million to set-up, it’s been established specifically to help develop cleaner internal combustion engines, as well as new manufacturing technology for electric motors.

A JLR spokesman said:

“For us, there’s much more to come from the internal combustion engine – and that includes the growing potential of hybrid engines and mild hybrids.”

“JLR has doubled investment in powertrain management over the past five years. This has manifested itself most clearly, so far, with the Jaguar XE which has emissions of 99g/km. But these developments are in conjunction with what we’re doing to create self-driving cars.”

Ford announces new research for autonomous vehicles

Written on February 23, 2015

Ford has announced new research designed to drive innovation in both mobility and autonomous vehicles, and also to help solve future transportation challenges around the globe.

The manufacturer will contribute to the government-sponsored UK Autodrive initiative, which is currently researching ways of integrating driverless and connected cars into day-to-day life.  They will be working alongside other manufacturers to help study the different ways in which new technology can be integrated.  They will also work to provide two prototype cars with vehicle-to-vehicle communication in order to test the effectiveness of an innovative public transport system.

It’s believed that vehicle-to-vehicle connective technologies will contribute substantially to the development of autonomous vehicles around the world.

A number of Ford’s vehicles already have a number of semi-autonomous features including land keeping aids, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist, pedestrian detection and active park and traffic jam assists.

Further development is being carried out on the idea of a full fleet of Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicles, with the manufacturer now shifting the idea of autonomous vehicles from research into vehicle development.

Another area of focus from Ford is the Personal Mobility Experience Innovation project, which will bring together a number of experts from the Ford world in order to study business models from different industries to learn how they could be applied to the automotive industry.

The project will also be charged with identifying how approaches from companies like Apple and Amazon can be used to deliver enhanced car-ownership experiences.

Pim van der Jagt, executive technical leader for Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said:

“This is an exciting time because while we are confronting real challenges to mobility as the world becomes more crowded and urbanised, we are also in the midst of a technological sea change that will help us find solutions,

“This project is about tapping into the best thinking from other industries and sectors to deliver new mobility solutions.”

Electric vehicle orders pass 1,000

Written on February 12, 2015

Alphabet has passed 1,000 orders for their electric vehicles, indicating that the sector is slowly growing.

Since the start of 2015, the company has already taken over 150 orders, an increase of 20 per cent over the total number received during the whole of last year.

Interestingly, the news came just one month after the company announced it was expecting to exceed 2014 orders by 24 per cent during the next year.

Since their EV consultancy service, AlphaElectric, launched in November 2013, Alphabet has seen increases in sales of both electric cars and their light commercial vehicles (LCVs), with a number of organisations seeking to lower their total fleet costs.

As a result of the positive growth, the company has been able to invest in their eMobility team and services, which cover fleet analysis, vehicle selection, charging and mobility solutions.

David Bushnell, an eMobility Consultant for Alphabet, said:

“It’s been a great start to what is already looking to be a significant year in EV adoption.

“We expected orders of EVs to double in 2015, but initial figures suggest that we could see an even greater increase.

“We’re only one month into the year and already we’ve taken one fifth of the total amount of orders that we took in the whole of 2014.

“With continued investment in both charging infrastructure and purchase subsidies for EV buyers, EVs have now become a viable option for many businesses.

“As well as a growing interest in electric cars, we’re also seeing rapid growth in the use of electric LCVs, and only expect this trend to continue as infrastructure improves and prices fall.”

Highways Agency executive to step down

Written on February 10, 2015

Graham Dalton, the chief executive for the Highways Agency, will be leaving his post in the summer after seven years in the position.

Throughout his spell in charge, Dalton has led the agency through times of both financial constraint and growing ambition.

Mr Dalton said:

“It has been a privilege to lead the Highways Agency through such an exciting time.

“I am leaving the business in good shape with a great team of people and an unprecedented five year fixed investment plan.

“Highways England, which will come into being in April following Royal Assent of the government’s Infrastructure Bill, will need a chief executive who can commit to delivering the first Roads Investment Strategy which runs to 2020.

“I will work with chairman Colin Matthews to ensure an orderly handover to my successor in the summer.”

Mr Matthews noted that Graham had led the Highways Agency to a point where they are now able to “confront the fresh opportunities and challenges in the government’s Road Investment Strategy”, and that he had been a “successful” CEO.

The Highways Agency is responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of the English strategic road network.  The new Infrastructure Bill – which is currently going through The House of Commons – will require delivery of over 100 new road schemes between now and the end of the next parliament.

Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, said:

“I would like to thank Graham on behalf of the Department for his sterling service both to the Highways Agency and the government.

“Over the past seven years Graham ha‎s worked tirelessly to oversee the delivery of vital upgrades on our strategic road network, including the dualling of the A11, the introduction of the Dart Charge and the smart motorway network and improvements on the M25, M6 and M62.

“‎A road network that is safe, well-constructed and keeps Britain moving is vital to a growing economy. Graham will be handing over an organisation that has the interests of motorists right at its heart.”

Company car drivers focus on increasing fuel economy

Written on January 30, 2015

Company car drivers are becoming more and more likely to drive slower, to turn off the air con or to avoid heavily accelerating in a bid to try and cut down their fuel bill, according to new research by RAC Business.

The survey, conducted as part of the RAC’s Report on Motoring, found that an overall 40 per cent of company car drivers were accurately changing their driving behaviour in order to help improve their fuel economy.  This figure is impressive, given that only 27 per cent of private vehicle owners take the same approach.

Overall, two-thirds of company car drivers said that they monitored the fuel consumption of their vehicle, compared to less than half (44 per cent) of private vehicle owners.

David Aldridge, RAC Business Services director, said:

“Fuel prices have dropped significantly over the past few months, but filling up the tank can still represent a huge chunk of a business’s expenditure.

“Adopting a fuel-efficient driving style could add up to savings of thousands of pounds every year across a fleet of vehicles while also contributing to a reduction in emissions.

“It’s encouraging to see company car drivers are being proactive about fuel efficiency, especially when they’re unlikely to be personally liable for the cost and you might think would care less because it’s not their own personal vehicle.”

Last month HMRC cut the company fuel allowances across six categories to as low as 11p per mile for diesel and 13p per mile for petrol.

The RAC research also highlighted how company car drivers are able to achieve better fuel efficiency as a result of the available current in-car technology that’s available.

“Technology can help drivers keep track of their fuel efficiency and vehicles themselves are becoming more sophisticated at self-monitoring,” added Aldridge.

“The increasing use of telematics could also be altering driver behaviour.

“When your speed and journeys are being monitored by your company, inevitably this will have a knock-on effect on how efficiently you drive.

“At the RAC, we saw huge savings in our company fuel bill when telematics was rolled out across our fleet.”

UK car registrations reach UK high

Written on January 26, 2015

Almost 2.5 million new cars were registered in the UK in 2014 – the highest figure in a calendar year since 2004.  Fleet and business registrations accounted for a substantial part of the market at 52 per cent.  This equated to 1,296,936 units, an 8.9 per cent increase on the 1.2 million cars registered during 2013.

SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, said:

“UK new car registrations returned to pre-recession levels in 2014, as pent-up demand from the recession years combined with confidence in the economy saw consumer demand for the latest models grow consistently and strongly.”

Even more impressively, 2014 was the fourth strongest performing year in history, with only 2002, 2003 and 2004 seeing more cars registered.  As a result of this positive performance, the UK remains the second largest market in the European Union, behind only Germany.

Every month in 2014 saw an increase, with December’s 8.7 per centrise the 34th consecutive month of genuine growth.  Interestingly, there was also a substantial increase in the plug-in car market, where volumes quadrupled from 3,586 in 2013 to 14,498 in 2014.

Mr Hawes continued:

“The year was particularly strong for alternatively-fuelled vehicles as increased choice, coupled with a growing desire for reduced costs and greater efficiency, resulted in a quadrupling of plug-in car registrations over 2013.

“With a variety of new plug-in models expected in 2015, this area of the market will continue to grow significantly. For the market as a whole, we expect a more stable 2015 as demand levels off.”

With fleets seeking lower running costs, the demand for more efficient cars has increased, and the BVRLA has expected to see average CO2 emissions for lease fleets decrease below 120g/km of CO2 for the first time during the upcoming year.

BVRLA Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney, said:

“2014 was a great year for the retail and fleet motor industry. New fleet registrations hit a seven-year high, up nearly nine percent on 2013, and we saw consistent growth in the fleet leasing sector, with volumes up around 6%.

“We expect to see a further, steady increase in new leasing volumes this year. Demand for vehicle finance continues to grow – particularly from consumers, SMEs and salary sacrifice customers.”

One in seven drivers ‘risk lives’ to correct satnavs

Written on January 24, 2015

According to new research, more than one-in-seven UK motorists have admitted to making risky driving manoeuvres in order to correct their mistakes when following the instructions from their satnavs.

The survey – which was issued by road safety charity Brake and insurers Direct Line – also found that one-in-14 drivers (or seven per cent) had experienced a near miss such as having to brake suddenly or swerve because they had been distracted by a satnav.

The figures were even higher for younger drivers, with one-in-10 drivers aged between 17-24 admitting to at least one near-scrape.

Brake are keen to emphasise that, when used effectively, satnavs can actually increase safety by giving drivers the ability to navigate without looking away from the road.  However, there is some evidence that relying on a satnav can also increase speed and make drivers less observant.

Julie Townsend, the deputy chief executive for Brake, said:

“Remember, the satnav is there to help you keep focused on driving rather than worry about directions, but it’s not there to make all the decisions for you.

“Driving is an unpredictable activity, so you still need to look at signs, particularly those warning of hazards or speed limits, and watch for people and unexpected problems.”

As part of its Drive Smart campaign, Brake has called on drivers to make a new year’s resolution to be more alert and to keep their eyes on the road.

Research has shown that almost no drivers are able to multi-task at the wheel without their driving being affected.

Brake has appealed to the Government to regulate the use of features that can pose as a dangerous distraction to drivers.

Townsend added:

“For many drivers there is an increasing array of technological temptations that can pose a deadly distraction.

“Brake’s advice is set your satnav and radio before you set off, put your phone in the boot and ensure you’re not tempted to do anything that will take your mind or eyes off the road while driving.”

Fuel prices continue to decrease

Written on January 22, 2015

Petrol and diesel prices in the UK have reached their lowest level in five years, with supermarkets in particular continuing to cut the cost of filling up.

The price drops have followed a further reduction in the cost of Brent crude oil to around $55 per barrel.

All of the major UK supermarkets have announced 2p per litre price cuts, with Asda continuing to stick to its national price of ‘no more than’ 105.7p per litre (and 112.7p per litre for diesel).

Andy Peake, petrol trading director for ASDA, said:

“No matter where customers live, they will benefit from the same fuel price with our national price cap of 105.7ppl for unleaded and 112.7ppl for diesel.”

RAC fuel spokesperson, Simon Williams, said;

“With the average price of petrol already at levels not seen since January 2010, this latest cut will send the average price (112p) even lower, which is more great news for the motorist as millions head back to work following the festive holiday.

“We think there is still more room to cut further, perhaps by as much as 5p to 6p by the end of January.

“We would expect other retailers to follow Asda’s example which would bring us ever closer to the £1 per litre average for petrol which the RAC said last month could be a possibility for the start of the New Year.

“Of course it would also be an extremely welcome move for motorists and businesses alike.”

The reduction in the costs of crude oil could continue to benefit consumers for months to come.

One-in-seven currently dodging Dartford toll

Written on January 20, 2015

A month after the new Dartford Crossing payment system was introduced, the Highways Agency has announced that it is currently chasing 300,000 motorists for failing to pay.

Since the 6am-10pm chargeable period was introduced on November 30th last year, around two million crossings have been made.  According to the latest statistics, around 15 per cent of these – equivalent to 10,000 per day – are not being paid for.

Fines are currently being issued to offenders, with the first penalty charge notice for each vehicle including a warning letter giving the driver an extra 14 days in which to pay the original fee.  If they do so, they will not be charged a penalty.  In addition to this, any further crossings made in the same vehicle can be paid at the standard rate as long as the money is sent on time.

Dart Charge project director, Nigel Gray said:

“We want to give all drivers the opportunity to pay and comply with the scheme.

“This measured approach strikes the right balance between being clear to drivers they need to pay Dart Charge and giving them every opportunity to do so.”

One million vehicles are now registered to Dart Charge accounts with journey times indicating improvement according to the latest data.

“The introduction of Dart Charge has been a big change so it is great that the vast majority of drivers have paid the charge,” added Gray.

Under the new system, drivers are no longer required to pay the crossing charge in cash at the barrier.  Instead, they can pay online, by phone or at one of the thousands of Payzone retail outlets around the UK.  Payment must either be made in advance or by midnight the day after the crossing has been used.

The Highways Agency has set up a specific Dart Charge website, which can be found here.