Traffic on UK roads reaches record high

Written on November 28, 2016

According to the latest government figures, traffic on Britain’s roads reached a record high for the year ending September 2016.

More than 320 billion vehicle miles were travelled on the UK road network in the 12-month period, which was a 1.2 per cent increase on the previous year-on-year figure. It was also a 1.8 per cent improvement on the pre-recession peak seen in September 2007, and the figures indicate that rolling annual motor vehicle traffic has now increased for 15 successive quarters.

Car traffic also increased by 0.9 per cent as part of the rise, reaching a record 249.4 billion vehicle miles. This was a 1.2 billion increase on the pre-recession peak ending in September 2007.

Van traffic saw one of the biggest rises, with a new peak of 48.2bn vehicles representing a 3.8 per cent increase on the pre-recession figure. Van traffic has been a consistently high-performing area, with an average increase of 4 per cent each year.

HGV also increased, reaching 17.1 billion vehicle miles; this was a 3.4 per cent increase year-on-year. On average, HGV traffic has risen by 2.3 per cent each year. This didn’t represent an all-time peak, though, with the figure of 18.2 billion vehicles measured in June 2008 still the pinnacle.

Road types also saw higher numbers, with motorway traffic increasing by 2.5 per cent to reach 67.7bn vehicle miles. Over the last six years, motorway traffic has continued to grow by an average of 1.7 per cent each year.

‘A’ road traffic increase by 2.1 per cent, largely as a result of traffic on the more rural roads of this type, which rose to 93.1 billion vehicle miles: an increase of 2.8 per cent. Urban ‘A’ road traffic also increased, but not as much, reaching 50.2 billion miles; a 0.9 per cent increase.

Minor road traffic has continued to be stabled for the past six years, with measurements of 44.4 billion vehicle miles and 64.7 billion vehicle miles being taken from minor and urban minor roads respectively.

The government figures are impacted by a number of different factors, including population, personal travel choices and demand for goods and services. It’s believed that the impressive new figures stem from growth in both the population and the UK economy in the same period.

TfL agrees to compensate fleet owners

Written on November 24, 2016

Transport for London (TfL) has agreed to pay compensation to the van owners who were wrongly advised to change their vehicles.

The managing body issued inaccurate information to van owners regarding compliance changes to London’s Low Emission Zone, and as a result a number of companies unnecessarily paid to have their vans upgraded.

Dr Jane Martin, the local government ombudsman, issued a report on the matter this week. In the report, TfL were noted as having made “several fundamental errors in notifying owners” including failures to make adequate checks or to give prominent warnings that owners should carry out their own checks.

Five owners made complaints to the ombudsman, and a further 30 made direct complaints to TfL. All of the owners will be compensated by the body.

TfL had claimed that the vehicles owned could not be used in the Zone after January 3rd this year unless the drivers were prepared to pay a daily charge of £100, and a further £500 penalty if the charge was not paid. As part of the notification, TfL advised either modifying the current vans in order to meet the new requirements, or purchasing new vehicles.

However, the information given was incorrect, with the relevant vans being either already compliant with the scheme, or not within its scope.

One of the companies – a scaffolding firm – scrapped or replaced three of its vans and part exchanged four others during the relevant period. However, once the purchase of seven new vans had been completed, the company owners discovered that TfL had apparently “changed its mind” about the vans, and decided they were “now compliant”.

Dr Martin acknowledged that TfL had carried out research on which vehicles were likely to be affected by the Low Emission Zone, and had tried to contact owners in order to notify them. However, because some of the information sent out was incorrect, the vehicle owners were burdened with the unnecessary expense.

Dr Martin said: “Prior to commissioning the DVLA to send out notification letters, it [TfL] did not complete adequate checks with manufacturers about whether vehicles which were manufactured before January 1, 2002, had been fitted out to Euro 3 standard.

“It was aware that some vehicles of the same type had different unladen weights and this was fundamental to whether they were subject to the LEZ restrictions.

“It has told me that at the time the DVLA wrote to vehicle owners full information on the weights of vehicles was not available, was incomplete or not available from the manufacturers.”

69 per cent of company car drivers would ‘go electric’

Written on November 19, 2016

A new survey commissioned by Go Ultra Low revealed that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of company car drivers would happily use an electric vehicle (EV) if they were offered one by their employers.

The research was revealed on November 7th at the ‘Future of the Car’ summit in London.

Only 25 per cent of businesses currently offer electric cars to their drivers, but the survey found that in situations where the option was available, 86 per cent would be open to the idea.

More than 30,000 electric cars were registered in the UK during the first ten months of this year, with around 70 per cent being taken by UK businesses. 940,000 company cars are currently registered to British businesses in the UK, according to the latest government data.

John Hayes, the government’s current Transport Minister, said: “Businesses have a role to play in boosting the numbers of electric vehicles on our roads, and this survey shows that employees want to drive them. Gradually making fleets zero-emission would improve air quality, as well as helping companies reduce their costs.”

Poppy Welch, head of Go Ultra Low, also spoke at the organisation’s event, saying: “Fleets and businesses represent the lion’s share of the UK’s new car buyers, so have the potential to shape the market and accelerate the UK automotive market to be entirely ‘ultra-low emission’.”

Earlier in 2016, Go Ultra Low helped to establish the ‘Go Ultra Low Companies’ initiative, in order to recognise and reward those public and private companies who’ve already begun to offer electric cars to their employees as part of their company fleet.

More than 75 different organisations have achieved ‘Go Ultra Low Company’ status, with businesses and organisations including Transport for London, the University of Cambridge, Britvic and London Fire Brigade among those choosing to participate.

Go Ultra Low is a campaign group set up by both the government and the car industry to help encourage more drivers to switch to electric vehicles. Companies that support the campaign currently include Audi, BMW, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and a number of others.

FTA warns Chancellor to keep UK competitive

Written on November 15, 2016

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned the Chancellor not to hinder Britain’s exports industry, as part of its submission to HM Treasury ahead of this month’s Autumn Statement.

Heathrow Airport’s announced third runway was praised by the organisation as part of the submission, in light of the positive effect it should have on helping the UK to further develop its trade links following the exit from the European Union.

However, the organisation has highlighted the need for UK goods to not become more expensive to export, and for there to be no more red tape involved in the process. The need for companies to access employees outside the UK was also highlighted, with emphasis on the industry’s current staff shortages.

The FTA made its submission ahead of the Autumn Statement, which Chancellor Philip Hammond will make on November 23.

Karen Dee, the director of policy for the FTA, said: “The Chancellor must ensure that UK businesses remain competitive as we move towards exiting the EU.

“This means minimising the burdens placed on businesses moving goods around the world so that British goods are no more costly to export nor burdened with more red tape.
“But beyond this, it means delivering an economic and fiscal environment at home which allows businesses to thrive.

“The logistics industry operates on relatively low margins and is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled labour.

“The Chancellor could provide a real boost by reducing fuel duties; looking again at the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy to ensure that it better meets businesses’ needs; and enhancing investment in our key transport infrastructure networks.

“The UK economy relies on logistics – we hope that logistics can rely on Government.”

The FTA’s submission also called for a 3p per litre cut in fuel duty, guaranteed protection of the road investment strategy and for the rail strategic freight network, a new policy framework and funding for new and improved driver roadside facilities, as well as bigger revenue budgets for improved maintenance on the local and strategic road networks.

Autumn statement must end vehicle rental unfairness, says BVRLA

Written on November 9, 2016

The BVRLA has called for the government to address what it perceives to be the “unfair” tax burden currently being born by the vehicle rental and leasing sector.

The association has asked for cars to be made exempt from recent government proposals to hike taxes on some employee benefits, and has also highlighted a number of other areas in which the government could help the industry.

Gerry Kearney, the chief executive for the BVRLA, said: “HM Treasury must reconsider the company car taxation regime and the impact it has on a major tax revenue-generating sector. Whether it’s the planned salary sacrifice proposals, the incoming 2% company car tax increase from 2017-18 or the decision to push back the removal of the 3% diesel supplement until 2021, our members and their customers have been disproportionally hit with a higher tax burden than other industries, and we’re concerned about what impact these measures will have on demand for low-emission vehicles, not to mention the Government’s air quality and road safety goals.”

The Autumn Statement will be made by Chancellor Philip Hammond on November 23rd, and follows a number of consultations carried out by the government regarding issues in the automotive industry.

As part of its submission, the BVRLA has also recommended the Chancellor review the vehicle excise duty (VED) refund rules, which currently restrict the amount of tax refunded to a company if a vehicle is disposed of in the first year. Rental companies could be heavily affected by the regulation from April 2017, after which they will be unable to get a full refund on any vehicles that emit more than 110 g/km CO2.

Mr Keaney said: “At a time when the UK economy and the automotive market require stability and reassurance from the Government, HM Treasury should revise the refund rules so that when a vehicle is disposed of in the first year, the refund is based on the first year rate, not the standard rate.”

The Department for Transport has already said that it plans to introduce new bands for ultra-low emission vehicles within the company car system from 2020. The BVRLA has already responded to a consultation on the subject, with HM Treasury continuing to look at how best they can incentivise uptake of cleaner cars in the future.

ACFO calls for Government to release company car tax rates

Written on November 3, 2016

The ACFO has called for the Government to reveal its company car benefit-in-kind tax rates on ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVS) until 2028/29, in order to help better facilitate long-term fleet planning.

The fleet representative body has highlighted the need for a long-term plan, citing both natural vehicle lifecycles as well as product availability. They believe that eight years is a sensible term.

The body also believes that benefit-in-kind tax bands for ULEVs should do more to incentivise corporate demand and increase employee take-up rates. Incentivising cars with the most impressive zero-emission ranges was also cited, as was the acknowledgement of the wide range of vehicle and fuel options through the creation of continuous narrower bands.

The World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, which will be introduced next year, was also highlighted. The Procedure has been designed to reflect real-world driving mpg and emissions, and is expected to result in fewer cars meeting the current threshold for being classed as ULEVs – 75g/km.

Further air quality improvements could also be made, the ACFO has suggested, by giving thought to other emissions such as nitrogen oxide (NOx).

The ACFO has also highlighted the potential for different fuel type cars to be recognised as variations, and for the “very different real world emissions that exist” to be acknowledged.

ACFO deputy chairman Caroline Sandall said: “The existing company car benefit-in-kind tax regime, which has been in place since 2002, is easy to administer and straight-forward to understand for companies and employees alike. Therefore, ACFO would encourage a similarly simple band structure that is both fair and transparent for ULEVs from 2020/21.”

According to the ACFO, ongoing support for ULEVs through the existing tax system will be essential to reducing emissions from vehicles and improving air quality.

“The breadth of product in the lowest emission tax bands has historically been limited and, whilst improving, a firm incentive-based long-term tax plan is required to ensure vehicle manufacturers produce ULEVs across a wide range of new car sectors and thus demand rises,” Ms Sandall said.

“Long-term planning is essential to motor manufacturers and fleets and it is only fair to company car drivers that they select vehicles in the full knowledge of what their tax bills will be for the full lifecycle of a vehicle. Currently tax levels are known for four years, but ACFO believes that is not long enough which is why we have called for eight years.”

Used fleet and lease car values reach £10,000 for first time

Written on October 29, 2016

Used fleet and lease car values at the BCA increased by 1.3 per cent during September, reaching above £10,000 for the first time on record.

Values in the fleet and lease sector in particular climbed by £127 during the month, reaching £10,017.

Retained value against original MRP (manufacturer’s retail price) also rose, reaching 42.65 per cent in September, an increase on the 41.7 per cent seen in August.

Year-on-year values rose by £317, an increase of 3.2 per cent, with age falling by around a month and the overall mileage decreasing by approximately 3,000.

The latest Pulse report from the company found that the average headline value for a used car increase to £8,376, which was the third month in a row that a new record was established.

Year-on-year, the headline figure increased by £674, which was the equivalent of an 8.7 per cent increase in average values.

The average dealer part-exchange values was another figure to grow, increasing by the equivalent of 8.7 per cent year-on-year.

Simon Henstock, chief operating officer UK remarketing at the BCA, said: “September saw demand keeping pace with supply, with both the auction halls and online channels being very busy.

“Sale conversion rates were high, typically exceeding 80% during September, meaning there was good churn in the marketplace.

“However, by mid-October our dealer customers were anecdotally saying that retail demand was softening and that will inevitably impact the wholesale sector.

“Professional buyers will inevitably become more choosy, cherry-picking the best presented and most attractive cars.

“It is critical to appraise and value vehicles appropriately and in line with condition, and invest in the appropriate level of preparation to attract the buyers’ attention where necessary.”

Students using mobiles to talk and text at the wheel

Written on October 25, 2016

A new survey commissioned by Ford has shown that many university students continue to drive whilst using their mobile phone, with a significant number also continuing to drink and drive.

Car crashes are amongst the leading causes of death for young people and in Europe young people are almost twice as likely to be killed on the road when compared to the average person.

Of the students surveyed, 43 per cent admitted texting whilst driving, 38 per cent said they swiped through apps and 36 per cent said they’d taken calls whilst behind the wheel. Meanwhile, 60 per cent admitted speeding and 13 per cent said that they’d driven whilst drunk.

The figures varied compared to those who left school at 18, with 45 per cent admitting speeding, 9 per cent admitting to drink driving and 41 per cent admitting to using their phones whilst behind the wheel.

The study of 2,313 people studying at university was created as part of the build-up to university Fresher’s Week, when new undergraduates typically indulge in drinking and partying to celebrate the start of their new university lifestyle.

Through the Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) programme, the manufacturer is aiming to help offer free driving training to young drivers. Indeed, by the end of this year, the programme will have helped train more than 20,000 drivers across 13 countries in Europe.

Jim Graham, the manager of Ford DSFL, said: “Getting to university is an incredible achievement and it is also where many of us make some of our strongest friendships. But we want to make sure these are lifelong friendships and help to ensure that these young people can one day look back with pride on a successful graduation.

“It is crucial students, and all young people, understand the terrible consequences, both for themselves and for others, that taking risks behind the wheel can lead to.”

Hard-shoulder on ‘smart’ motorways requires re-think

Written on October 20, 2016

According to a new poll from the AA, eight out of 10 UK drivers believe that the removal of hard-shoulders on ‘smart’ motorways has made the roads more dangerous.

The AA has already raised concerns over smart motorway safety in a letter to Chris Grayling, the newly appointed Transport Secretary. The insurance firm has also previously raised the issue with Highways England, the Transport Select Committee and the road safety minister.

One of the major concerns for drivers is the lack of lay-bys when the hard shoulder is used as a running lane.

Current guidance from Highways England is for the Emergency Refuge Areas (ERAs) to be no more than 2.6km apart (around 1.5 miles). However, the AA has stated that they believe there should be at least twice as many lay-bys and that they should ideally be twice the length.

Under the current situation, any car breaking down without sight of a lay-by is likely to have to stop in a live-running lane, increasing the chances of an accident occurring. Additionally, if a HGV is parked in the smaller lay-by it makes it almost impossible for a normal car to also safely enter it.

Highways England has reported the problem of drivers parking in the ERAs when no emergency is taking place, and has voiced the possibility that a clearer name is currently needed for the lay-bys.

AA president Edmund King said: “Four fifths of our members think that motorways without hard shoulders are more dangerous.

“Whilst we support measures to improve motorway capacity, we do not think that safety should be compromised. We do not accept that the current criteria of an Emergency Refuge Area or exit at least every 2.6km is safe.

“Breaking down in a live running lane with trucks thundering up behind you is every driver’s worst nightmare. The official advice is to dial 999 which just shows how dangerous the situation can be.

“If drivers can see the next lay-by, they are much more likely to make it to the relative safety of that area even if their car has a puncture or is overheating. If they can’t see the lay-by, they often panic and stop in a live running lane. If more lay-bys are designed at the planning stage it will be less expensive and safer.

“Unprompted, our members came up with some scary names for the Emergency Refuge Areas – which indicates just how worried they are. It is time for the Government to go back to the drawing board and design a scheme acceptable to drivers.”

Fleets face increased costs under new VED regime

Written on October 15, 2016

The Government has been urged by MPs to examine Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to try and incentivise the uptake of electric and ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).
VED was reformed as part of the 2015 budget, changing from a multi-tiered, scaled-approach to a simpler, three-level approach.

The changes will have a substantial impact on fleets. A new car with CO2 emissions of 90g/km and a list price of below £40,000 or less across four years would currently cost nothing to register. Under the new regulations – which will come into force in April next year – an identical vehicle would cost £520 over the four years.

The Treasury have stated that the aim of the change is to try and make VED “fairer for motorists and reflect improvements in new car CO2 emissions”.

If the legislation was left unchanged, more than three-quarters of new cars wouldn’t cost anything to register.

Several MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committees have said that they regret the Government changes to VED, and have said that the reduced incentives for ULEV uptake could be seen as “wavering commitment to road electrification”.

A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “The new VED system still clearly favours the lowest emission vehicles, and the new first-year rates ensure the cleanest cars benefit the most.”

The Treasury did note, however, that the Government continues to keep all taxes under review.

Denis Naberezhnykh, head of ULEVs and energy for the Transport Research Laboratory, backed the judgement of the committee, saying: “We fully agree with the committee’s assessment. The VED system is not adequate to help the Government meet its zero emission targets.”

He also noted that there were a wide range of ULEVs available, from ultra-efficient diesel and petrol models to plug-in hybrids, and that the current system – which is essentially binary – did not represent this variation.

“Key stakeholders across the industry need to get together to push for a review. We’re a company that bases decisions on clear evidence and as far as we’re concerned the Government has not provided the evidence to show that this new taxation structure will work to properly incentivise sales of all ULEVs,” added Naberezhnykh.

Certain models will be strongly affected by the new changes. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, for instance, would lead to costs of £290 over three years – or £910 in the case of high-specification versions.

Toby Marshall, UK director of sales and marketing for Mitsubishi, said: “The VED changes from April next year will have a disproportionately negative impact on PHEVs.

“Government support has undoubtedly helped the segment to grow, but mainstream adoption of this technology is still very much in its infancy and therefore it is too still far early to reduce the financial incentives in place.”