The van and truck industry is once more at the centre of a vehicle recall storm as the Ford Windstar minivan is recalled over a possible axle fault.
Fortunately for UK drivers they are not concerned just yet, but the US manufacturer announced on Friday that 575,000 vehicles in the USA and Canada were being recalled over fears that corrosion of the rear axle could actually cause the component to break, and lead to potentially fatal consequences. It is thought that it could be a design fault with the rear axle that causes it to collect debris, such as rock salt or slush from the road surface in bad weather that leads to the corrosion. Ford has informed the National Highway Transport Authorisation (NHTSA) that the model concerned is being recalled.
The NHTSA had earlier announced that it had been told about two accidents linked to the problem and had received over 200 reports about the axle fault. Ford are contacting owners of the 1999/2003 models that are affected privately and inviting them to take their vehicles to a Ford or Mercury garage where if, after inspection, the rear axle is cracked it will be repaired. Axles that are showing no sign of distress will have reinforced brackets placed on them at a future date.
Windstar drivers are well accustomed to recalls, as over the last few years they have become almost as regular as getting commercial vehicle insurance quotes. Various Windstar models have been recalled for a speed control deactivation switch, wiper motors, fuel line clips, seat belt buckles, windscreen glass, auxiliary air conditioning and power window wiring.
As the push for greener vehicles envelops the commercial vehicle industry, one van manufacturer is concerned that the present government may not be doing enough to encourage the sale of electric vans.
Iveco, the bus and coach manufacturer, have called on the Coalition Government to do all it can to provide greater help and encouragement in the way of financial incentives to fleet companies in the UK. They say without financial assistance many companies may shy away from the greener, electric vans as the technology is still expensive to purchase, even without the commercial vehicle insurance that must be purchased also.
Iveco’s Product Director, Martin Flach, suggested that the UK adapts a similar approach to some EU countries where a payload allowance of 300 kg is given to owners to offset the heavier weights of the electric vans due to their batteries. He went on to warn that unless governments had clear, well thought out strategies to encourage their use, they would never achieve large numbers of sales.
A spokesman from the Government run Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) said “Most vans are sold to business users, so benefits through the tax system may be a more appropriate way to support this market. These are in place already and include exemption from Van Benefit Charge, Enhanced Capital Allowances and no VED.”
Iveco, a Fiat company, have just launched an electric version of their popular Iveco Daily van and are keen to promote its capabilities.
Already the present government is considering whether to implement the £5,000 grant for private buyers of electric vehicles announced by the previous government and due to come into force next year.
The home delivery arm of Tesco are to introduce speed monitoring which will allow the company to map the speed of its delivery vans to the actual speed limit of the road the van is on.
It will enable them to identify when and where the drivers are exceeding the speed limit and allow them to take appropriate action. A speeding event will be triggered once the road limit is exceeded by 10%. The speeding system, using a combination of Microlise telematics and Navtech mapping data, will provide a report on the driver which will show the road speed limit, the speed of the vehicle, what time of day it is and the longitude/latitude, which can be dropped into Google maps to give an exact location. It will also provide the registration of the van and the nearest Tesco store location. Tesco are in the process of training its drivers to make them fully aware of the new system ahead of its launch which they hope will be in October.
Tesco took the decision to use this system rather than GPS, as this system is more accurate and it also uses data that the driver will be able to see. Initially Tesco will target drivers that are exceeding speed limits by the biggest margin and also the drivers who are persistent offenders. Once they get the number of speeding drivers down to a manageable level it will then ask store managers to control the process and take action. Tesco anticipate that there will be a reduction in fuel usage and fewer accidents as the behaviour of the fleet changes. Tesco also believe that it will cut down the number of claims on the commercial vehicle insurance policies.
Cliff Cheeseman, Tesco fleet operations manager, said ”When we were talking to the unions about this it didn’t seem fair to take data from something that the driver couldn’t see, i.e. the GPS. But they can see the CANBUS system as it is taken from the speedometer.”
One of the UK’s most loved (and used) vans celebrated its 45th anniversary this weekend, and there appears to be no stopping it.
Worldwide, over six million models have been sold and in the UK alone over two million van drivers will have applied for commercial vehicle insurance to drive a Ford Transit since it first rolled of the production line in the UK in 1965. Born in the middle of the swinging sixties, at a time of miniskirts, mini cars and films such as The Sound of Music the Ford Transit is still going strong.
The anniversary celebrations took place in Birmingham and were launched by another icon of the 1960’s, Sir Henry Cooper, the famous boxer. Sir Henry was often photographed at the time loading or unloading a Ford Transit that was used in the family greengrocer business in London.
A special edition Transit has been commissioned for the anniversary, the Sapphire. The Sapphire went into production at the Southampton plant earlier this year and markets at around £15,000. Special features on the Sapphire include; cruise control, silver painted grille, automatic wipers and a trip computer. Van drivers will also be pleased with the hill launch assist on the new model, a boon for delivery drivers.
At the moment the Transit is built in three others places which illustrate its world wide appeal; Nanchang in China, Hai Duong in Vietnam and Kocaeli in Turkey.
Fleets need to take a structured approach to managing the first electric vehicles being used as company cars and vans, according to Fleet software market leader CFC Solutions.
In the future when firms start using electric cars and vans, they are worried that the businesses will treat the first electric vehicles as environmentally friendly novelties, when what they really should be doing is learning about how they operate, the limitations, and of course, the financial benefits as quickly as possible. A lot of money will have been spent on new vans along with the commercial vehicle insurance that comes with it. The technology behind the electric vehicles will be new to almost everyone in the fleet industry meaning the level of attention should actually be more then that of a normal van.
Neville Briggs, managing director at CFC, said: “Early adopters of electric cars and vans are likely to be organisations that have a strong environmental bias and are making a corporate statement by being among the first customers. However, fleet managers must ensure that these vehicles are not treated as novelties. Rather they are transport assets like any other that a company may own or lease. They should be subject to the same kind of managerial scrutiny with accurate information gathering about their performance and cost with regular reporting taking place. Fleet managers should be learning everything they can about the real world range of these vehicles, charging speeds and cost, effects of driving styles and maintenance regimes.”
Concerns about CO2 and pollution could mean that the future of the van as the business transport tool of choice will depend on the fleet changing to electric vehicles, so employers will have to learn to manage them effectively. Current battery technology of electric vehicles has a range of around 100 miles per charge. A recharge will take at least a three hours or even an overnight. This makes them suitable for some fleets but not all.
There is good news for van drivers after it has been revealed that a reduction in fuel consumption of between two and three per cent will be possible, with the latest van tyre from Giti Tire. A saving of this kind could well cover the cost of commercial vehicle insurance over a year. When compared with its predecessor, the new EX achieved the saving through a 10% weight reduction and 15% rolling resistance. The manufacturers say that the production technologies and the materials they have used in the brand new tyre, have enabled them to get these better results.
Managing Director, Richard Lyons, said “With these benefits we present the tyre trade with a convincing argument to position the GT Radial Maxmiler EX higher on the pricing scale than its predecessor, enabling dealers to achieve attractive margins whilst providing their customers with superb value for money.”
But it is not just the benefit at the petrol pump that will attract purchasers to the new product, as Giti Tire also say the new tyres will have improvements in driving comfort, rolling noise and also handling in wet conditions. The silica-based tread compound and bead design will improve both mileage saving and safety. The tyre has been developed especially for the European market. A Commercial van will often be subjected to extreme conditions for express delivery services. A combination of the heavy load and high speed puts severe strain on the sidewalls, treads and steel belts of the tyre. The new tyre bead design and sidewall will generate lower heat when the van is out on the road. At the moment they are currently available in 21 varieties with further dimensions in development.
Eddie Young, head of the Giti Tire Technical Centre says “With the GT Radial Maxmiler EX we developed an innovative commercial van tyre that combines maximum safety reserves with above-average handling characteristics and high comfort, in my opinion, there is nothing that can stop our new tyre from becoming a success.”
As the race to provide low carbon emission vehicles gathers pace, yet another experimental fuel will be trialled by two local authorities at opposite ends of the country.
Sheffield City Council in South Yorkshire and Camden Borough Council in London will be seeking commercial vehicle insurance on vans powered by hydrogen fuel at the turn of the year.
South Yorkshire based company ITM Power, have signed deals which will see the above mentioned councils take part in the Hydrogen On Site Trials (HOST) in 2011. The trial will consist of two Ford Transit vans testing ITM’s portable electrolyser system which will convert electric power into hydrogen gas using a portable refuelling system.
The councils will get one week’s free use of the vehicles and the Hfuel system, with an option to lease them over a longer period. They join the Forestry Commission, DHL Supply Chain and London Stansted Airport who have already agreed to take part in the trials.
Graham Cooley, the chief executive commented: “The HOST trials will form an important role in demonstrating the potential of ITM’s HFuel technology to the local authority logistics sector marketplace over the next year and we expect companies from other sectors to be joining the HOST scheme in the near future.”
A spokesman for Sheffield Council said the trial fitted in well with the council’s policy on low carbon technology and placed the South Yorkshire city at the forefront of testing clean fuels in the battle against climate change.
Van drivers in the South West, are being urged to take extra care with their security measures following a spate of robberies from vehicles in the area.
Avon and Somerset police force, have revealed that over 30 van related thefts have been reported in the last few weeks. The thieves appear to be operating from vans themselves and are targeting building sites, building suppliers and large DIY stores.
Eye witnesses say the thieves are caucasian males and are dressed as building workers, wearing fluorescent jackets to blend in with the tradesmen buying or delivering supplies to the depots. It also seems likely they are a professional outfit as some of the crimes are committed in a matter of seconds, tradesmen are returning to their vans within minutes and finding their tools and supplies gone.
Avon police say several areas of Bristol have been hit by the crimes including, Filton, Thornbury, Eastville and Downend. In the latest incident the thieves actually made away with a Mercedes van while the driver was out of the cab delivering a parcel.
Van drivers in the area should take all sensible security precautions. Always turn off the engine when getting out of the vehicle, always lock the van when making a delivery and if materials are carried on the outside of the vehicle try and park in a highly visible area near the front of the shop. Not only do these measures make sense, they are usually a requisite part of a commercial vehicle insurance policy.
Van drivers can also make the thief’s job more difficult by visibly identifying their tools and possessions with permanent marker pens; this makes the stolen goods more difficult to sell on.
Van drivers, looking to embrace the new technologies that provide more environmentally friendly vehicles, have a new option to consider when making a new purchase.
Vauxhall motors have released its first new van to have stop/start technology this week. The new Corsavan ecoFLEX should prove to be a big success for city drivers especially, as this is where the stop/start technology will operate most successfully.
The principle behind stop/start is really commonsense. When a driver gets stuck in traffic, within seconds of the vehicle being put in neutral and the clutch depressed the engine automatically cuts out, thus saving precious fuel as well as stopping emissions escaping into the atmosphere. The rest of the vans systems such as air conditioning, steering and braking are still available. Drivers will also have a button on the dashboard to disable stop/start when appropriate. Vauxhall estimate that fuel consumption in city traffic will be about 18% down compared to the vehicles predecessor.
The Corsavan ecoFLEX has other new features to attract customers. The model is Euro 5 compliant and has a particulate filter, which catches harmful chemicals before they are released into the atmosphere. Vauxhall say that these features, plus the stop/start option mean the vehicle has reduced emissions by over 10%. They say the van should achieve an average 70mpg and have also included a new high powered battery, an enhanced starter motor and an electric power management system.
The ecoFLEX start/stop is priced at just over £11,000, so van drivers should get a reasonable commercial vehicle insurance quote when they decide to buy.
New van registrations in July turned out to be surprisingly good as they continued to rise on month by month figures.
The July figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders organisation (SMMT) showed that although car sales showed a worrying drop in sales, it seems more motorists will be getting quotes for commercial vehicle insurance, as sales for light commercial vehicles and vans in general continued to surge ahead.
The combined total for new van and truck sales in July amounted to an impressive 20,069. Of these 17309 were van sales with the remaining 2,760 being sales of new trucks. The figures for vans show a very healthy increase of over 25% from July 2009 and bring the sales for the year so far up to 124,579. This represents a 17% increase on the year to date figures from 2009 and just keeps the rolling year figures in positive growth by 0.1%.
The truck sales showed a 9% increase from July 2009 although the year to date figures of 17,826 shows a deficit of almost 13% on 2009. The rolling year sales look even worse as they are 25% down.
Paul Everitt, the Chief Executive of the SMMT, commented “The recovery in van registrations continues with truck figures also up, July was another surprisingly good month for vans, with useful growth. Truck registrations are up too, but against a very poor month last year. Whilst the forecast for 2011 is more positive, the prospects for the rest of the year are gloomy and we expect a near record low for trucks. Fragile consumer and business confidence make the outlook for the next 18 months challenging.”