London Mayor begins to form air quality plans

Written on June 30, 2016

The new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is planning to canvass fleet operators in a bid to help tackle the quality of air in the capital. There are a number of issues that the mayor is looking to manage, with the expansion and earlier introduction of the ultralow emission zone (ULEZ) one of his main priorities.

The world’s first clean air charging zone was originally planned to be introduced in September 2020, but it’s possible that the start date will now be a year earlier. There are also plans in place to double the originally planned size of the zone.

Mr Khan has proposed that the zone stretch from the north to the south circular roads: under the previous design, the zone was to only apply to the current congestion charge area. Plan charges were £12.50 per day for drivers of non-compliant cars, but the mayor has expressed a wish to add an additional premium for the most polluting vehicles from 2017. There are also plans in place to research a new diesel scrappage scheme for the city.

Mr Khan said: “I have been elected with a clear mandate to clean-up London’s air. The previous mayor was too slow on this issue and the Government has been hopelessly inactive. We need to speed up our efforts.”

It’s believed that almost 10,000 Londoners die each year as a result of pollution and London does not currently meet legal requirements for pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Around 60 per cent of the NO2 emissions in the city arise from transport, with cars contributing 28 per cent, vans nine per cent, HGVs 18 per cent and buses/coaches 16 per cent.

Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) also shows that London currently breaches safe levels of pollutant particles known as PM10.

Fleets operating outside London are already being urged to take a closer look at the mayor’s clean air proposals and it’s believed that they could soon form the overall blueprint for how vehicles are managed in other areas of the UK.

Ashley Sowerby, managing director at Chevin, said: “A key point to note is that the new suggestions are envisaged as happening much more quickly than previously. The additional congestion charge could happen in 2017 and the extended emissions zone by 2019.”

Logistics operator confidence at four-year low

Written on June 24, 2016

According to a new report from Barclays and Moore Stephens, optimism among logistics operators has fallen significantly in the first half of 2016, with levels measured at just 51.8 compared to 61.9 in the second half of 2015.

This represents the fourth successive drop in the biannual UK Logistics Confidence Index survey, which was first introduced in 2012. As well as this, the calculation made in the first of this year is the lowest figure since the index began.

On the positive side, almost 70 per cent of respondents said they expect their turnover to increase in the next year and the same number said they were confident enough to be planning investment in capital expenditure over the next six months.

Another point to be taken from the index is the increasing pressure logistics operators are facing from customers eager to enjoy lower prices: pressure that is actually coming during a period of both rising competition and increases in costs.

In order to try and combat this, logistics businesses are focusing more on value-added services and technology to try and both retain existing customers and attract new ones.

Such is the importance of value-added services that it has been cited a number of times as a key driver of contract wins: almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents believed the trend important enough to highlight, a three-fold rise in figures in the first half of 2015.

Value-added services include last mile delivery, returns management, pre-assembly, labelling, co-packing and even basic manufacturing: all services that potential clients could really benefit from.

Technology is another major opportunity for the sector, and was cited by 16 per cent of respondents: again, this was double the number citing the opportunity last year. A number of potential service and efficiency benefits come with increased use of technology, including both the ability to track drivers digitally and to gain increased insight through data analytics.

Rob Riddleston, head of transport and logistics at Barclays, said: “Confidence in the UK logistics industry has taken a knock from price pressure and increasing competition.
“Under such pressure, the high level of planned capital expenditure is welcome news and reflects the sector’s pressing need for investment in technology.

“It is also encouraging that the role of technology is recognised as a route to both control costs and improve service levels and investment in this area is a key trend for the sector.”

Hands-free phones is distracting as handheld devices

Written on June 20, 2016

Research from the University of Sussex has found that driving whilst talking on a hands-free phone has the potential to be just as distracting as using a hand-held mobile.

Road safety charity, Brake has used the research as a springboard to call for the Government to once again analyse the laws around mobile phone use whilst driving.

The study was published in the Transportation Research Journal and showed that drivers engaged in conversations sparking their visual imagination suffer in their ability to spot and react to potential hazards.

Their focus when asked about a subject that require them to visualise narrowed and they became less able to see hazards: even hazards they were looking directly at.

Having any conversation that requires visual imagination creates competition for the brain’s processing capacity, meaning that drivers can miss potential dangers they might otherwise have seen. Researchers claim the evidence shows more of the brain’s resources are used for conversations than was previously understood.

The study is the latest to look at the increased risk that occurs when mobile phones are used by those driving. Previous research estimated that up to 22 per cent of crashes could be caused by some form of distraction and that drivers who use their phones (or perform any other kind of secondary task) at the wheel can be three times more likely to crash.

Studies also shown that using a mobile phone at the wheel can be more dangerous than drinking certain kinds of alcohol. For instance, driver reaction times were found to be 30 per cent slower when using a hands-free phone than they were when driving with a blood alcohol level of 80 mg alcohol per hundred millilitres of blood: the legal limit in England and Wales.

What’s more, the reactions of mobile phone using drivers were found to be 50 per cent slower than those driving under normal conditions.

Lucy Amos, research advisor for Brake, said: “Distracted driving is a major cause behind road crashes; pulling the drivers’ attention away from the road and its potential hazards, potentially leading to fatal outcomes.

“This new study is only the latest of many which adds weight to extending the existing legislation to cover all mobile phone use within a vehicle, not just the use of hand-held mobile devices.

“We call on the Government to take action and remove the clear and present danger of mobile phones on our roads.”

Fleets require greater awareness of sleep disorders

Written on June 14, 2016

New research has found that eight-in-ten fleet owners believe they would benefit from an increased awareness of sleep disorders, with one particularly devastating disorder being named.

Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) currently affects around 10 per cent of the driving population, but occurs more frequently amongst those who drive for a living. Unfortunately, awareness of the condition is still very low amongst businesses that rely on their fleets and, in turn, their drivers.

The research was carried out by RAC Business and the OSA Partnership Group in April and found that more than half of businesses (57 per cent) believed they had very little awareness of the condition or the importance of detecting and treating it in their staff.

More than 500 UK businesses were surveyed and 80 per cent of them felt that their company could benefit from increased awareness of the symptoms, as well as potential treatments and a general view on how the condition affected sufferers.

Middle-age men are the most likely demographic to suffer from the condition, especially those that are overweight and studies on the condition have shown that drivers with untreated OSAS could be up to nine times more likely to have an accident when behind the wheel.

A number of highly effective treatments are available on the NHS, however campaigners are concerned about the number of undiagnosed cases. It is also possible that those managing the condition would be unwilling to come forward and admit to it, for fear of losing their licence and as a result their livelihood. Indeed, the RAC business survey found that 80 per cent believed drivers would be unlikely to raise any concerns with their GP or the DVLA.

In response to the concerns, the OSA Partnership Group – supported by RAC Business – launched a new initiative in January 2016 to help ensure that professional drivers diagnosed with the condition were fast-tracked for treatment. The initiative also tries to ensure drivers are back on the road within four weeks, but cannot guarantee this: it only provides recommendations for GPs and the fast track is not a legal requirement.

The partnership group has now called on the Government and the Department of Health to prioritise both the diagnosis and treatment of OSAS: it’s believed that fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel could account for as much as 20% of road accidents in the UK.

Jenny Powley, corporate sales director for RAC Business, said: “What our research shows is that there is clearly a demand for more information and greater awareness among businesses about this condition, which can have devastating consequences if left undiagnosed, both for the driver and other road users.

“When you consider the significant number of commercial drivers affected, and the wider consequences if a driver has an accident due to falling asleep at the wheel, it must surely be a public health priority for the Government, and they have a role to play in ensuring employers are aware.”

Fleet and business growth continues to drive new car registrations

Written on June 9, 2016

According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), fleet and business growth has continued to drive new car registrations for the second month in a row.

Year-on-year private sales have actually dropped for a second consecutive month, but May 2016 saw a 7.1 per cent increase in fleet and business registrations. Fleet business registrations also increased on a year-on-year basis by 4.9 per cent.

Demand for diesel cars was superior to petrol models, with demand increasing by 5 per cent for the former and decreasing by 0.6 per cent for the latter. Uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles also rose, outstripping the market quite substantially: registrations increased by 12.1 per cent.

The total number of cars registered so far in 2016 has now reached 1,164,870: a 4.1 per cent rise year-on-year. The easing of growth in May – which saw the second consecutive month of sub-3 per cent growth – has already been taken as evidence of the market’s increasing stability following the record numbers seen in 2015.

Last year, UK new car sales hit an all-time record, with trade industry figures showing a total of 2.63 million vehicles – a 6 per cent increase on 2014 – being registered. This was the fourth consecutive year of growth according to the SMMT, with a number of factors – stronger consumer confidence, special deals and cheap finance – all believed to have contributed substantially to the high levels of consumer performance.

Registrations in 2015 outperformed the previous record – 2.58 million cars – seen in 2003. The global financial crisis affected the industry quite heavily, but since then it has continued to recover.

Mike Hawes, chief executive for the SMMT, said: “The new car market in May remained high with compelling offers available on the latest vehicles, but the low growth is further evidence of the market cooling in the face of concerns around economic and political stability.

“Whether this is the result of some buyers holding off until the current uncertainty is resolved or a sign of a more stable market for new cars remains to be seen.”

British cars among the ‘best maintained’ in the world

Written on June 3, 2016

UK fleets and motorists spend around £21.1 billion each year on servicing and repairing their vehicles, making British cars among the best maintained in the world, according to a new report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The SMMT conducted the first ever industry analysis of the automotive aftermarket in the UK, and the report was published this week. Titled – appropriately – The Importance of the Aftermarket to the UK Economy, the report was put together by independent research consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

It showed that an average of £695.39 was spent on car maintenance each year in the UK, a substantial increase on the £621.62 spent elsewhere in the world. The report also stated that there are far fewer cars in states of disrepair than in many other markets around the world, and that there is less excess pollution on the UK’s roads as a result.

A number of other factors go into making the industry a success, including a strong franchised dealer network and a high percentage of independently owned businesses. Indeed, in terms of sectors, the UK aftermarket carries the highest number of independently owned businesses in Europe at 64 per cent. As a result, consumers always have plenty of options when it comes to getting their car serviced, and can also shop at a variety of price points.

The latter is especially valuable: parts and labour costs from independent businesses can be as much as 65 per cent and 45 per cent cheaper than from chains.

The report also highlighted the significant contribution to the economy that the aftermarket makes. £12.2 billion is directly contributed to the economy each year, and the industry is responsible for more than 345,000 British jobs. It’s estimated that by 2022, the automotive aftermarket could be worth more than £28 billion and be responsible for over 400,000 jobs.

Mike Hawes, chief executive, SMTT, said: “The UK’s aftermarket is one of the most competitive in the world and plays a critical role in keeping Britain’s 30 million-plus cars roadworthy.

“Robust competition and a strong independent sector have helped reduce the cost of vehicle ownership in the UK and provided greater choice to consumers. For this growth to be sustained, however, the sector must stay abreast of evolving vehicle technologies and changing mobility patterns.”

The UK aftermarket is currently the fourth largest in Europe, with more than 30 million vehicles making use of regular servicing and maintenance work. The size of the industry is also likely to overtake France in 2022, becoming the third largest. The industry is also the eighth largest sector of its kind in the world; larger than those found in Brazil, Korea, and even India.

Government outlines £2m fund to promote hydrogen vehicles

Written on May 18, 2016

Fleets in both the public and private sectors will be eligible to get 75 per cent off the cost of hydrogen-fuelled vehicles thanks to a new £2m Government fund.

The Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) Fleet Support Scheme has been set up to allow local authorities, police services, fire brigades and private companies to bid for funding in order to add hydrogen-vehicles to their existing fleets.

The fund was launched by the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and has the potential to increase the number of hydrogen fuel cell cars and vans on the UK’s roads by 100 by next spring.

In 2014, the government committed an additional £5m for 12 hydrogen refuelling stations, with Transport Minister Andrew Jones launching the second of the stations on May 10th. All 12 stations are expected to be opened by the end of 2016: the first step towards a national network.

Mr Jones said: “We are always looking at new ways to make the vehicles of the future cleaner, and hydrogen fuel cells are an important part of our vision for almost all cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2050.

“This funding, along with the growing network of hydrogen refuelling stations opening in England, will help businesses and the public sector to get on board with this exciting technology. This is further proof that we are leading the way in making journeys cleaner and protecting the environment.”

The subsidy should allow businesses to cover up to 75 per cent of the costs for the new vehicles bought by April 2017.

The market for Hydrogen FCEVs is still relatively new but is already beginning to gather pace, with vehicle manufacturers so far introducing a small number of models and global production currently limited to a few thousand units. The UK is one of only five launch markets for the unique market: both Hyundai and Toyota have already released their debut FCEV models.

Tony Whitehorn, CEO, Hyundai Motor UK, said: “When we made the ix35 Fuel Cell commercially available we were blazing a trail, and we made a commitment to help in the development of the refuelling infrastructure – the fruits of which can clearly be seen with this, and other station launches happening this year.

“We also know how well received the ix35 Fuel Cell is with our existing fleet customers so we’re very happy to be involved with the government’s new £2m fund to encourage more businesses to switch to hydrogen.”

EU data regulation aims to protect driver privacy

Written on May 13, 2016

A new set of data protection regulations have been introduced by the European Parliament to try and protect the privacy of drivers in light of the increase in connectivity within company car and van fleets.

In future, drivers will need to provide a much higher level of consent, and the definition of what currently constitutes personal data will also be changed. There will also be far tougher sanctions for those falling foul of the rules.

Businesses operating fleets will have two years to comply with the new regulations, which were introduced in order to combat issues arising from connected products and services, in which vehicles are included.

Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, said: “Individuals must be empowered; they must know what their rights are and know how to defend their rights if they feel they are not respected.

“The new rules will ensure that the fundamental right to personal data protection is guaranteed for all.”

Connectivity is becoming increasingly common in both cars and vans, with sat-nav units and apps like Google Maps being used to plan longer journeys.

Experts predict that 90 per cent of new cars will be connected by 2020 and that real-time information will be shared on a mass scale as standard.

Though manufacturers have been keen to highlight the huge potential economic and environmental benefits of the technology, there are obviously a number of issues that will need to be dealt with.
Erik Jonnaert, Secretary General for the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) noted there were “many challenges on the road ahead”.

The new regulations are included under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which currently only apply to personal data. However, because the definition of personal data is also changing, it’s considered likely that much of the data produced by fleets will be included.

Legal expert, Stephen Appt, said: “Data that identifies drivers indirectly would be considered personal data.

“This legal framework will not only apply to data in the EU, it will apply to everybody supplying goods and services to the EU.”

Driver consent for data-sharing services will become crucial: consent must be ‘unambiguous’ and confirmed by some form of ‘statement or clear affirmative action’.

“Pre-ticked boxes will not constitute consent,” added Appt.

DfT releases latest motoring strategy

Written on May 9, 2016

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published its latest Motoring Services Strategy, with the aim of improving the digital services currently available for fleets.

The 27-page report explores work in the DVLA, DVSA and the VCA and makes a number of potential suggestions and proposals for the continued development of the department. Particular reference was made to account responses that occurred at a consultation held towards the end of 2015, with the BVRLA among those contributing.

Five key commitments of the report include:

• The reform of the Drivers Medical Group. This decision was substantially influenced by the Glasgow Bin Lorry deaths of 2014.
• The simplification of driver record updates.
• The increase and development of relationships with commercial users, including professional fleets, as well as the introduction of new digital services.
• The possible merging of both DVSA and DVLA call centres.
• The improvement of current LGV licencing processes.

The DVSA will soon roll out a new Operator Excellence scheme for trusted fleet operators: this will be based on the current earned recognition pilot scheme.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive, BVRLA, said: “When we responded to the consultation in January this year, we urged the Government to think about fleets as well as customers. It is therefore pleasing to see Lord Ahmad pledge to work with commercial fleets and drivers to promote best practice.

“We welcome the news that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will work to introduce new improved digital channels for accessing their services. We will be pushing for this to include the ability for fleets to pay Vehicle Excise Duty for multiple years, and to apply for bulk refunds online.”

The report admitted that some of the current services were “not designed with fleet managers in mind,” and also noted that the bodies were now more committed to strengthening relationships with corporate users at a “practical level.”

The strategy also detailed a commitment to move HGV testing to a mixed economy inclusive of both public and private provision.

James Firth, the Freight Transport Association’s head of licensing policy and compliance information, said: “We are pleased that Government has committed to have a proper look at allowing non-government employees to examine the LGV annual roadworthiness test – many FTA members have been asking for this for some years.”

Automated vehicles should require ‘driving tests’

Written on May 6, 2016

A new report from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has called for ‘driving tests’ to be introduced within EU safety approval rules for automated and fully-autonomous vehicles.

The ETSC said that the EU has yet to answer the range of research and regulatory questions that will need to be considered before both automated and autonomous vehicles can be sold.

The report called for the promised safety benefits to be given priority, with one of the main potential issues being the ability of the cars to follow national road rules in 28 different EU countries. It’s for this reason that a ‘comprehensive’ driver test will need to be introduced.

A number of questions over how autonomous vehicles will be able to interact within other human-driven vehicles remain, as well as how they will interact with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Antonio Avenoso, executive director for the ETSC, said: “Automated vehicles are already starting to appear on Europe’s roads, but regulators are still stuck in the slow lane.

“It is crucial that we get a much greater understanding of what the real world safety benefits would be, and what new risks would be introduced before these vehicles are put on sale.”

The ETSC has called for short-term measures to be introduced, including the mandatory installation of effective and proven driver assistance systems including both Automated Emergency Breaking (AEB) and over ridable Intelligent Speed Assistance in all cars. They’ve also called for a new EU framework to be developed in order to approve future automated technologies and autonomous vehicles.

EU driving license regulations will also need to be updated in order to reflect the natural need for drivers to be able to safely take back command from automated systems. Another claim is that EU rules on road infrastructure safety need to be revised in order to include requirements for automated and semi-automated vehicles, such as unique and clear road markings.

‘Gear 2030’, a high-level expert group tasked to address future development of the automotive industry, was launched by the European Commission’s industry department.