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Vans top the bill at conference

The forthcoming Freight Transport Association’s Utilities and Civil Engineering Conference will give commercial vehicle contractors particularly involved with the utilities sector, a chance to get to grips with the new and impending changes regarding transport legislation and enforcement issues.

Managers and contractors in the utility sector are being presented with new and complicated compliance factors and challenging legislative issues that come about primarily because of the range of different transport fleets used in the sector, and the backup role of commercial vehicles in the carrying out of the personnel’s duties.

The conference will take place on the 23rd of June in Coventry, West Midlands and will pinpoint the safe loading of vehicles, van compliance and the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Van Excellence code which is designed to raise standards across the whole sector and has already been embraced by many of the bigger fleet companies.

The editor of Commercial Vehicle Engineer, Tim Blakemore, will chair the event which will also offer information on, alternative vehicle technologies, safety inspections and checks for small trailers and plant vehicles, outsourcing maintenance cover, theft prevention best practice and technological advances in vehicle safety.

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) will give comprehensive presentations on its work with the utilities sector concentrating on its recent roadside enforcement campaign (van drivers should be aware that commercial vehicle insurance is compulsory), trends in MOT passes and updates on the current position of the VOSA testing regime.

The cost of registration for the conference ranges from £150+VAT up to £375+VAT depending on membership of certain organizations.

Van drivers warned about insurance cover

In a recent survey commissioned by a motoring group, it appears that the time van drivers spend trying to get a competitive commercial vehicle insurance quote, could well be a waste of time as many of them invalidate their insurance cover routinely every day.

According to a study by the Fuelcard Company 21% of the van drivers interviewed said they left their van unattended while actually delivering parcels to customers and often with the keys in the vehicle and the engine running. It may well be that the drivers saves a couple of minutes on every delivery but he definitely runs the risk of jeopardising both his insurance and in many cases his livelihood.

An industry expert said “An astonishingly high number of delivery drivers are invalidating their van insurance every single day. Delivery drivers often leave their keys in the ignition to save time starting up the engine and to prevent the battery from going flat. However, it’s vital that drivers remember to remove keys from the ignition and lock their van every time they stop to make a delivery. Commercial van drivers are also likely to have expensive satellite navigation systems and mobile phones in their vans which could also be grabbed quickly by an opportunistic thief. If a van is stolen as a result of the driver leaving it unattended with keys in the ignition, insurance providers are unlikely to pay out for either the vehicle itself or any goods being transported.”

It would appear the old saying “more haste and less speed” could well be a motto many van drivers could adopt for more than one reason.

Van Drivers tipped off

Van drivers in a North Western town are coming to terms with the news that they are no longer welcome at some of the local council’s tipping sites.

Council bosses in Wigan, Lancashire have decided to exclude vans, trailers and vehicles requiring permits from using two of the tipping sites in the borough. Apparently Household Waste Recycling Centres are becoming congested as the local population have enthusiastically grasped the “green” message of recycling to help the environment.

Dr Gail Robinson the council’s manager of Waste Disposal and Recycling observed “Whilst I am really pleased that recycling at our HWRCs is increasing, I regret that Frog Lane and Orrell sites are now closed to vehicles with trailers or permits. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but we must put safety first.”

She went on to say “Once again I would like to thank residents for their continued support for recycling. We keep all our sites under review and want to ensure we use them at their most efficient and safest at all times.”

The council have other sites which still allow vans and trailers, namely Kirkless, Chanters Industrial Estate and Slag Lane, The borough’s recycling centres and their opening times: Kirkless, Makerfield Way, Higher Ince, WN2 2PR: Monday-Friday 8am-8pm; Weekends and Bank Holidays 9am-6pm;

Frog Lane, Wigan, WN6 7LB: Monday-Thursday 7.30am-5pm; Friday 7.30am-4.45pm; Saturday 7.45am -4.30pm; Sunday 8am-4.30pm;

Rear of Orrell District Office, Orrell Road, Orrell, WN5 8LY: Monday-Friday 8.30am-5pm; Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays 10am-4pm

Slag Lane, Leigh, and Chanters Industrial Estate, Arley Way, Atherton: daily 8am-9pm.

Van drivers are reminded to check that their commercial vehicle insurance policy covers them for towing a trailer.

Van drivers at risk from Legionnaires Disease

According to a report issued by the Health Protection Agency for England and Wales, van drivers have something a lot more serious to worry about than the price of their commercial vehicle insurance.

The report suggests that windscreen wiper water is a major cause of Legionnaires disease. The disease is somewhat rare in the UK with around 350 cases reported last year, but the researchers feel that 20% of these could have been caused by the stagnant water in windscreen wiper systems.

The discovery came about when a survey of Legionnaires disease victims highlighted the fact that men who made their livelihood from driving were 5 times more likely to catch the disease. Further research pinpointed those most in danger were van drivers, those who drove through industrial vicinities, and people who spent a large amount of time in a vehicle or had the vehicle window open for long periods.

Regional Director of the HPA South West, Dr Isobel Oliver said that more research would be required but it seems that by simply adding screen wash to the water the danger is dissipated. A pilot study by the HPA revealed traces of Legionella was found in one in five cars that did not have screen wash, but in no cars that did.

An expert in bacteriology, Professor Hugh Pennington asserted that adding screen wash was a really good idea and went on to comment “This is a bug which lives in the environment and will take advantage of warm water systems that are not cleaned out.

“Legionnaires’ is rare but it kills people and it’s an extremely unpleasant disease. If you can prevent it with something this simple then it’s a no brainer really.”

Stay of execution for older vans

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has decided to defer a decision to include large vans into regulations controlling London’s Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) until 2012.

Originally it was planned to instigate phase 3 of the LEZ later this year but instead the Transport For London (TFL) executives have decided to launch a public consultation into the inclusion of vans into the LEZ in January 2012. The document stipulates that the “oldest, most-polluting larger vans” (i.e. those between 1.2-tonnes and 3.5-tonnes GVW) must meet at least Euro-3 emission standards to enter London without charge. The reason behind the change of heart is the current challenging financial position many traders find themselves in at present.

The news will be welcomed by any van owners, as the proposed charges for non compliance threaten to make any Commercial Vehicle Insurance quote seem like chicken feed. The rate to enter the capital with a non compliant van will be £100 per 24 hours with a charge of £500 per day if the toll is overdue.

The director of congestion charging and traffic enforcement at TFL said “The proposed deferral of the LEZ phase affecting larger vans to 2012 allows more time for owners and operators of vehicles to prepare for this change in what has been a challenging economic climate. Vans and minibuses are responsible for a significant proportion of the emissions that cause air pollution in London.”

Natalie Chapman the Freight Transport Associations head of policy for London warned that one side effect of inclusion would be a drastic fall in the value of second hand non compliant vehicles but insisted that most freight traders would not be affected, saying “The incorporation of vans into the LEZ is not a big problem for the vast majority of our members. Given that all vans built after October 2001 are built to Euro-3 standards anyway, this will really only impact van operators with fleets of more than 10 years old.”

LPG vehicles, just as clean as electric?

Fleet managers at some of the UK’s biggest companies will have an extra consideration to make this year when it comes to contract renewal, as a new company is offering LPG vans to business customers who are interested in cutting fuel costs.

Auto LPG Vehicle Hire (ALVH) are a new company with just three vans at the moment but are looking to rapidly expand their business when consumers realise how much more economical LPG vehicles can be.

At the moment the company is renting the vans out to local businesses and council authorities in a bid to convert them to the new technology, and at the same time giving them the facts that matter about LPG. ALVH point out that there now over 1400 LPG refuelling stations in the UK and for the Berlingo driver who converts to LPG there is a 75% saving on fuel every time he fills up.

In a bid to get consumers thinking about the possibilities of using LPG vans. The company has a introduced a very completive rental rate, with added extras such as free commercial vehicle insurance, no congestion rate for London and are offering to convert conventional vans to LPG. ALVH are keen to see LPG vehicles compared alongside electric powered vans as a cleaner, green alternative to petrol vehicles.

Oliver Roberts speaking on behalf of ALVH said “Electric cars are still an unproven vehicle; the LPG option has been proven to be cleaner than the equivalent fuel and much more cost effective”.

Electric vans introduced to fleet pool

Nottingham City Council will be getting quotes for commercial vehicle insurance on electric vans from now on, as they announce they have purchased two electric vans to complement their electric pool cars.

The Nottinghamshire Council have procured the vans to enhance their commitment to providing a transport fleet that is primarily based on low carbon emission vehicles. The vans which were purchased from Smiths Electric Vehicles fit in very well with the initiative as they are zero carbon rated.

Further good news for council tax payers in the area came when the council revealed the vans purchase price was comparable to that of a conventional van because of funding provided by the Department of Transports Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme. The scheme is designed to support and encourage public sector organisations such as councils to gradually replace their fleets of conventional vehicles with greener low carbon models in a bid to reduce CO2 emissions and at the same time develop a framework for the UK’s own low carbon technology industry.

Nottingham City Councillor Jane Urquhart commented “The vehicles will operate city wide, providing added environmental benefits in city parks and open spaces. They will also have added value on the city’s night shift due to the reduction in engine noise and, along with our recent purchase of electric buses for the centrelink service, will contribute to our aim to reduce our fleet carbon emissions.”

It is believed the first of the vans will be allocated to one of the city’s latest initiatives namely the Park Ranger scheme while the second will start life in the fleet pool awaiting placement.

Change will not be for the best if you do not tell your insurers

In a report out today van drivers are being warned that they must declare any modifications made to their vehicle or the commercial vehicle insurance policy they have could well be invalidated.  The modifications may be performance or cosmetic related but could affect the yearly price of the insurance policy.  If the owner does not tell the insurance company of the changes, insurers quite often will not pay out on any claim made.

Some of the most popular modifications made to work vans that should always be passed on to insurance companies include; fitting inside and outside frails which are used to secure items to the van, having refrigeration conversion by insulating and lining the vans load area along with having the doors changed so that a much better seal is added and, having a tow-bar fitted which will increase the vans capacity. Even having alloy wheels should be reported to your commercial van insurance company as it will make the van much more attractive to thieves, thereby increasing the level of risk and therefore your premium. It is important to declare even very simple changes to the van such as signage. And remember that under the Road Traffic act, to withhold or make a false statement is an offence.

Phil Moss, a Commercial Vehicle Insurance Manager said: “Van drivers who are planning to modify their vehicles should always inform their van insurance provider to keep their policy valid. Modifications can sometimes have an impact on insurance premiums, but it is important to remember that the most important extra that any van driver can buy is adequate van insurance cover.”

If you are in any doubt, a quick call to your insurers will put your mind at rest. So if you change the exhaust system, alter the engine in any way or have your engine chipped, be aware if you do not declare the changes as you may not be covered.

Electric Vans get the green light

News that the North American commercial vehicle market will soon have its first fully Electric Van is bound to cause excitement and expectation amongst van drivers here in the UK.

The Ford Transit Connect electric van will go on sale next spring and the company that is to oversee final assembly in the USA is AM General, not the likeliest of partners in assembly of environmentally friendly vehicles as they are best known as the producers of the Humvees and Hummers, some of the heaviest fuel using motors in the business.

The new vans shell will be manufactured in Turkey and then sent over to the USA for Michigan based company Azure Dynamics to install the electric driving system, it will then go on to Detroit and AM General LLC for the final assembly. Apparently this is not the first time AM have been involved with alternative fuel vehicles as a spokeswoman for the company said they had produced electric Jeeps for the US Postal Service a generation ago and since then had worked on a project with vans running on compressed gas.

The new Transit’s appearance will be the same as the ordinary vehicle although it will be powered by a Lithium-ion battery pack and although pricing has not been finally agreed, Jennifer Moore speaking on behalf of Ford Motor Company said that AT&T had already purchased two of the vehicles. Azure Dynamics confirmed the van will be one of the first fully electrical vans to be offered to the commercial market. What impact this will have on commercial vehicle insurance at this moment in time is uncertain.

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W E Bedford Insurance Services Ltd, Argent House, Argent Court, Hook Rise South,
Tolworth, KT6 7LD is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
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