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.

City Link job losses confirmed

Written on January 16, 2015

City Link has confirmed 2,356 job losses following the failure of an eleventh hour bid to buy the courier firm.

371 employees will be kept on in order to deal with any remaining parcels and to wind down operations.

There had been brief hope that a rescue deal would go through, but Ernst & Young have now released a statement noting that the unnamed consortium ‘offered no money up front and significantly undervalued the assets to be acquired’.

Ernst & Young did offer alternative terms to the consortium, terms that would be considered ‘standard and common’ given the circumstances, but the offer was declined.

Jon Moulton, founder of City Link owners, Better Capital, made an apology to the staff affected, but said that there had simply been no alternative but to put the business into administration.

Administrator Hunter Kelly said:

“It is with regret that we have to announce substantial redundancies at City Link, which ceased accepting new parcels on 24 December 2014.

“The company endured substantial losses, which ultimately became too great for it to continue as a going concern and City Link entered administration following an unsuccessful sale process.”

City Link was founded in 1969, and was originally purchased by Better Capital in April 2013 for just £1.

Half of motorists suffer damage to their vehicles in car parks during 2014

Written on January 13, 2015

Half of motorists have sustained damage to their vehicles in car parks within the last year, according to new information from the AA.

Claims for cars that had been damaged in car parks actually increased over the pre-Christmas period, which was likely a result of so many car parks having been filled to capacity.

19,887 drivers were surveyed as part of the AA-Populus study, and just over half (51 per cent) stated that they had suffered some form of damage to their car whilst it was parked.

Two-thirds of those surveyed (66 per cent) said that they would make an effort to notify the owner if they themselves caused such damage, whilst eight per cent admitted that they would probably drive off, especially if the incident hadn’t been seen by anyone.

Janet Connor, managing director for AA insurance, said:

“Parking a car can be extremely trying, especially if spaces are on the tight side – after all cars are getting bigger but car parking spaces aren’t.

“But that over half of drivers have suffered some car damage in a year is extraordinary and it shows just how hazardous car parks are.

“It’s very easy to make a parking error and scrape another car or carelessly open a door, chipping the paint of a neighbouring vehicle. Unfortunately many people are either unaware they have caused damage or just don’t bother to report it.

“And if the damage is substantial enough to justify making an insurance claim it’s likely that the driver will lose some or all of their no-claims bonus if a claim can’t be made off the person who caused the damage.

“There’s nothing more infuriating than returning to your car to find that it has been damaged.”

Claim records from the firm show that the majority of car park claims are collisions with other vehicles as well as with inanimate objects such as bollards, lamp posts or trolley shelters.

“Even at slow speed substantial damage can be caused by reversing into another car or striking a concrete pillar or bollard,” Connor added.

59 per cent of the car park scrapes occurred at a supermarket, and only seven per cent took place at a workplace car park.

DriveSafe calls for increased road awareness

Written on December 19, 2014

Charity, DriveSafe has called on all road users to be more mindful of cyclists following a 10 per cent increase in the number killed or injured on UK roads in the last year.

The Birmingham-based charity was “appalled” at the latest figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) that showed 3,530 cyclists were killed or suffered serious injuries in the 12 months leading up to June.

In the same time period 9,000 drivers and car passengers were either killed or seriously injured.  This figure was also an increase of four per cent, as was the seven per cent increase in motorcyclists suffering the same fate (with 5,510).  The figures for pedestrians changed little at 5,570.

Overall, 1,760 people in the UK were killed in road accidents.

Fay Goodman, founder of DriveSafe, said:

“The latest road accident figures are appalling and can’t simply be explained away by increased usage of the roads in warmer spring weather this year, as the Department for Transport has suggested.

“We need not only slower traffic speeds, safer routes and better policing, but also greater courtesy, consideration and understanding between different road users.

“Lives are being shattered by motorists who text at the wheel, cyclists who ride side by side on busy roads and pedestrians who don’t always look when they cross the road.

“That is why we are urging companies to send their employees on driver safety courses and campaigning for road safety to be made part of the national curriculum.

“We want children to be able to go to school safely by foot or bike so that we can also tackle the problem of obesity, ease the strain on the NHS, and reduce congestion around schools.”

DriveSafe is currently encouraging drivers to make an increased effort to look out for cyclists, with the winter evenings drawing in and temperatures falling: both of which are known causes of visibility issues.

The charity currently has 10 top tips for helping motorists avoid close calls with cyclists:

  • Ensuring a full clear field of vision when the sun is low
  • Having extra sunglasses with you in case of the same situation
  • Allow extra time before leaving to clear any ice and snow from the car
  • Regularly checking to ensure all your lights are working
  • Checking that your tyres have enough tread (at least 3mm is recommended for winter).
  • Taking notes of any blackspots in advance
  • Matching your speed to the conditions
  • Taking extra care when manoeuvring your car when roads are slippery
  • Taking more time to look out for cyclists at junctions and in low light
  • Be aware of cyclists moving up the side of the car.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has published a document setting out the work logistics companies are currently carrying out to improve safety on Britain’s roads.  For more information, click here.

HGV changes to be introduced to deliver fairer deal

Written on December 16, 2014

Rules governing HGVs are to be modernised across England and Wales, according to an announcement by Transport Minister, Claire Perry.

The Government are planning to raise the national speed limit from 50mph to 60mph for lorries travelling on dual carriageways, following on from the increase in the single carriageway limit introduced earlier this year.

Ms Perry said:

“It is really important that speed limits for lorries reflect the needs of a modern transport network and improved vehicle technology.

“Britain has one of the best road safety records in the world and I am determined to ensure this continues. This change is about ensuring rules for lorry drivers’ speed limits are in line with other larger vehicles on our roads, creating a fairer and more proportionate system.”

The current legislation was first set up in the 1980s, and will be updated.

The road safety charity, Brake has already expressed disappointment at the government’s aims, with deputy chief executive, Julie Townsend saying:

“This decision runs against work to more effectively manage traffic speeds and reduce casualties and emissions on our roads.

“As with the decision to raise the HGV speed limit on single carriageways, the Government is making a leap of faith in spite of the legitimate concerns of road safety groups.

“The Government itself admits that, at best, there will be no economic or road safety benefit. At worst, it risks increasing deaths and serious injuries on our roads if the largest vehicles are allowed to reach higher speeds more often.

“The relationship between increased speed and increased casualties is a proven one, so why take the risk?

“Increasing the HGV speed limit on single and dual carriageways sets a dangerous precedent, sending a message that if traffic laws are persistently flouted, the Government would rather change them than get tough with the law-breaking drivers putting everyone at risk.”

Fuel tax trap warning issued by TMC

Written on December 15, 2014

The decrease in oil prices could potentially lead to a fuel tax trap for road users, according to fuel and mileage specialists, The Miles Consultancy (TMC).

Last week’s Autumn Statement saw the Chancellor rule out any rise in fuel duty before the General Election next May.  It’s therefore expected that above-inflation tax rises will take place at some point in the second half of 2015

Oil prices fell below $75 per barrel last week, which was the benchmark that the Government set for a return to above-inflation prices when they introduced the Fuel Price Stabiliser regime in 2011.

Paul Jackson, the managing director for TMC, said:

“Reviving the duty escalator would be a huge gamble by the next government. It would be a bet on oil prices staying low, thus offsetting the negative impact of higher tax on economic growth.

“But global oil supply remains precarious despite the current boost given to US domestic production from fracking. Even a modest uptick in world demand for oil will quickly send the price back up again. Raising fuel duty risks hitting fleets with a double-whammy.”

TMC has urged existing fleets to capitalise on the falling fuel prices by focusing on efficiency and productivity before the expected rises take place.

“The reason for lower oil prices is not a glut of new crude,” added Jackson.

“It’s because major consumers like fleets are much smarter at using in-depth information on vehicles and drivers to get the most out of every litre of business fuel.”

Analysis by the Consultancy showed that, regardless of crude oil prices, the amount paid at the pump is still primarily influenced by tax decisions.  UK pump prices only started to fall in real terms when the Government abandoned the fuel duty escalator in 2011.

The FDE was introduced in 2006, and quickly pushed pump prices 25 per cent higher in real terms than levels which had sparked protests in 2000. Since the FDE was abandoned, the real price of diesel has fallen by 17%, despite oil prices remaining at all-time record highs.

Fuel duty to remain frozen

Written on December 12, 2014

As part of his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne has announced that fuel duty will remain frozen until at least mid-2015. The decision has already been widely welcomed by the fleet industry in general.

David Bizley, chief engineer for the RAC, said:

“The negative impact of fuel duty on economic growth is now acknowledged by the Treasury.

“With fuel duty already frozen until May 2015, we had feared an early return to the fuel duty escalator system – a deeply unpopular practice which led to a series of fuel duty hikes – but, for now, it appears that is not going to be the case.

“While we are currently enjoying low pump prices as a result of the lower world oil price this may change quickly, and it will be reassuring to fleet managers that the taxation scheme is not about to change.”

Though the news of the freeze has been welcomed, there are some within the motoring sector who think that prices should have been cut rather than left as they are.  Andrew Hodgsen, a senior manager with Strategic Fleet Consultancy at Lex Autolease, was one of the first to voice his concerns:

“British businesses are burdened with some of the highest fuel prices in Europe” said Hodgsen.

“Reducing fuel duty would provide them with an immediate cashflow boost as they look to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the recovering economy.

“Unfortunately the Government’s decision not to reduce fuel duty means they remain saddled with this costly overhead.”

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), was also disappointed, having been hoping for a cut of at least 3p per litre. Mr Burnett noted that as a result of current low oil prices, duty now accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the price of a litre of fuel.

Mr Burnett also criticised the chancellor for not addressing either plug-in grants or electric vehicles in the statement.

“The financial incentive of a plug in grant has made electric vehicles more affordable for businesses and motorists in general,” he said.

“Rather than remove this grant in 2017 or when vehicle sales reach 50,000, we would have preferred to see a phased reduction to ensure the fledgling electric vehicle industry is not damaged by a sudden drop in sales.”