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Fleet managers unsure of the need for noises on electric vehicles

Firms with a fleet of vans which are protected by commercial vehicle insurance have questioned the need for new technology which is designed to make electric vehicles noisier so that pedestrians will be more aware of their presence.

Academics are testing different systems that copy the sound of a vehicle accelerating and changing through the gears for use in electric vehicles. The system will not be expensive and it may be on sale in the few months.

However, fleets are far from convinced that there is a need to make electric vehicles noisier. In fact just one major company who ordered vehicles from Modec (Britain’s biggest commercial EV manufacturer) during the last three years asked for noise-awareness equipment to be fitted.

Because their vans are being used in massive hangers where a lot of people work, Royal Mail asked for vehicles that produced a beeping noise. The Department of Transport did not require any noise-awareness equipment saying it was all down to their driver’s diligence. Another fleet claimed that quiet vehicles were actually an advantage. Marks and Spencer use an electric vehicle for deliveries in London and they prefer the vehicle to be quiet.

The European Commission is now looking at whether there is a case for a minimum noise standard, this would protect cyclists and pedestrians, especially those whose vision is impaired.

Professor Paul Jennings, the man in charge of experiential engineering at Warwick University, stated “We have the technology that allows us to create in real time the interior sounds of a vehicle but impending legislation covering electric vehicles prompted us to study exterior sound. The result is software that we believe provides a combination of sounds that promise to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in urban and city areas. Significantly, a lot of conventional vehicles are also now very quiet in operation at low speeds, so the system could well have other applications.”

Fleet managers concerned for the future

Most fleet managers say that issues over electric van residual values as well as the finance models which manufacturers intend to use to bring these models to market are their two main concerns.

A recent fleet van conference saw these concerns addressed and the fleet managers were given advice on electric vans and what the future may have in store. According to some people the picture for EVs could be even worse. If battery costs drop by a third during the next three years, which is a probability if the technology advances continue as fast as they have over the previous three years, then an EV may be obsolete in a few years. In addition, it is predicted that an electric van will fall in value at a rate that is three times quicker than a diesel-equivalent. The answer may well be that EV vans need to have a longer life (seven years), because at this point the financial case becomes somewhat more attractive.

But it is not just EV residual values that are holding consumers back, says Janet Entwistle, former managing director of BT Fleet. She stated “You need £20,000 more to run an EV than a similar diesel and if you are outside the congestion zone, it will cost you £30,000 more. It’s a problem: EVs are not yet a viable proposition.”

However, things could be changing for the better. Renault is about to launch its electric Renault Kangoo at a price of £16,990. But the battery will need to be leased separately at a price of £59 per month. In theory it may be a good option as there will be a viable small electric van option next year. But the idea of having to lease the battery separately raises other issues. Some dealers will refuse to set a residual value on an EV unless the vehicle is sold as an entire package.

Other questions are who owns what? What will happen if a fleet defaults on a payment? And what will the insurance company do when a vehicle is in a crash or is stolen, how will they value the battery and what impact will this have on their commercial vehicle insurance. The industry is poised on the cusp of a whole new era in transport.

Council make half a million pounds thanks to new CCTV cameras

A driver has received 15 fines in three weeks for transgressing road restrictions in Bradford city centre. Companies with vans covered by commercial vehicle insurance are warning their drivers to look out for any new road restrictions.

Driver, Richard Garthwaite, is totally ‘stunned’ to find out that he now has to pay a bill of over £900 which is three-quarters of his monthly wage.

Mr Garthwaite has stacked up the fines since Bradford City Council switched on their brand new CCTV cameras which were put there to catch any vehicles that illegally entered parts of Bridge Street and Market Street, an area where only buses, taxi’s and  pedal bicycles are allowed. The gentleman in question normally drives his delivery van to shops in the city centre where he picks up some fresh produce for the deli which he runs. He stated “I think people have been over-penalised. The new road restrictions are really confusing. I’ve been driving the same route for four or five years, but I have been done 15 times in the last three weeks on a 100-yard stretch of Bridge Street. If you got a £30 ticket through the post, you would realise what you’d done wrong and think ‘I won’t go down there again’. But what they seem to be doing is totting it up at their leisure, then saying ‘right that’s been a month, let’s deal out all the tickets’. They could say ‘yes you have been through it six times, but let’s fine you once so you understand what you’ve done wrong’. Instead of that, they are milking it for all it’s worth.”

If he had paid the fines quickly, he would have benefited from an early-payment discount, paying half of the £900. Now the fines have doubled to £60 each – (£900 overall), as he was not able to  pay the fines because they were sent to his old address, something he has admitted was his own fault for not informing the DVLA of his new details.

Bradford city council says they treat each person equally and will not let anyone off because they have several fines. The council have sent out more than 16,400 tickets since the cameras went live on September 20, with the fines coming to a total of nearly £500,000.

Renault wins award for improvements in van offering

Renault has won yet another trophy to add to its already long list of plaudits, this time for its newly-revised van range, and they are delighted at winning the award for Most Improved Van Manufacturer of the Year at the Fleet Van Awards.

Europe’s number one LCV marque was also praised for the New Master in the Large Panel Van of the Year category and they also made the shortlist in category of Small Van of the Year for the Kangoo Van.

Renault is getting very serious about its vans in the United Kingdom. They now have a good range of vans which are very competitive, particularly the New Master which came very close to winning the category it was in, and a network of dealers that are waking up to the needs of fleets. They hope in the future that many more firms will be taking out commercial vehicle insurance on Renault vans when they see what they have to offer. Renault’s range of van-specific initiatives (Renault Pro+ and iCare) has raised the standards as well as giving van fleets a reason to consider Renault as a supplier.

Speaking after the award was won, Darren Payne, Renault UK’s Director, Fleet and Commercial Vehicle Operations, said, “We’re honoured to have received the award for ‘most improved van manufacturer’ and are thrilled that the judges have recognised the work that has gone into revising our entire LCV offering in less than two years. With the unique Kangoo Van range of three distinct models in the compact category, plus the revised Traffic Phase 3 and recently launched New Master in both front- and rear-wheel-drive, we truly believe we offer the ideal range for business customers, large or small. Aside from just upgrading our products, we’ve also worked extremely hard on delivering unique initiatives to ensure that the quality of our customer care matches that of our vans.”

Wearing seat-belts will save hundreds of lives each year

A new report has revealed that a lot of company vehicle drivers are still not wearing a seat-belt when behind the wheel.

The AA has released its Clunk Click report which found that over one third of vehicle occupants killed in collisions on the United Kingdom’s were not wearing seat belts. Results showed that only 69% of company vehicle drivers which include people who drive vans, buses, lorries, a minibus or coaches will regularly wear a seat-belt.

It did not state how many company car drivers fail to wear their seat-belts, but did say there is a lower seat belt wearing rate amongst company car drivers. This same group are also less likely to have seat-belts on late at night or early in the morning. The AA report reveals that wearing seat-belts will more than halve the risk of death in the event of a collision. Almost 300 lives each year will be saved if all vehicle occupants were belted up.

Edmund King, AA President, said “It is astonishing that one third of vehicle occupants killed do not wear seatbelts. In the current safety debate with concerns over road safety funding there is one thing that could be done overnight to save 300 lives per year at no cost – that is every vehicle occupant to belt up on every journey.”

The AA now recommends that the new Coalition Government should seriously consider increasing the penalty for anyone not wearing a seat belt to include penalty points as well as a fine. They also feel that police should carry out more spot-checks particularly on back seat passengers and offer seat belt education courses.

All drivers should insist that each passenger wears a seat-belt belt. All employers who have drivers who drive vans which are covered with commercial vehicle insurance need to be stricter with their drivers who don’t belt up as it is highly likely they are invalidating the policy.

Kwik-Fit continue to be first choice for firms with commercial vans

Kwik-Fit Fleet, the United Kingdom’s biggest independent fast-fit provider, has had their passion for helping businesses cut down their operating costs as well as improving efficiency, rewarded. Once more the company have been named Van Service and Repair Company of the Year.

The award by industry publication Fleet Van sees the company complete a hat-trick of honours this year. The award was presented by Stephen Briers, who is Fleet Vans editor-in-chief, who said “With its seven-days-a-week servicing and repair offering, a heavy investment in training and apprentices and the introduction of many new initiatives such as vehicle health check and free tyres and safety checks that perfectly meet fleets needs, everything Kwik-Fit does helps fleets to reduce costs and improve efficiency.”

Kwik-Fit has now a grand total of 72 awards during its 24-year history. Also this year they have been voted the United Kingdom’s number one fast-fit firm for an amazing 17th year in a row.

Kwik-Fit’s Fleet sales director, Peter Lambert, is delighted that this award establishes them as one of the leaders of the fleet industry. Every firm with a fleet of vans which are all covered by commercial vehicle insurance want a fast and efficient service that is convenient for their drivers. Kwit-fit centres are open every day of the week with late night extended hours and with services available within two days rather than the two week wait from some franchised dealers.

This means vehicle MOTs, servicing and repairs are very attractive to firms and drivers alike. Kwik-fits team of mobile technicians also saves valuable time for drivers as the work is carried out at a customer’s choice of location. This provides businesses with some crucial savings compared to a franchise. Companies are delighted to have access to a range of services that will mean the van is off the road for the shortest possible time.

Council’s low-emission vehicles go on show at public event

Councils throughout West Yorkshire are going ahead with their plans to extend the fleet of electric and other environmentally friendly vehicles. Leeds council recently took a delivery of five electric-powered Transit vans and Wakefield council has an order for seven new vehicles.

Later this week Leeds will be taken over by 30 low-emission vehicles which will be parked on Millennium Square. The council organised this free low-emission vehicle exhibition, which is open to members the public. The event is part a promotion of low emissions vehicles.

The display will show vans used by the council, all of which are covered on commercial vehicle insurance and run by biomethane. The council will be showing off an articulated lorry, a refuse collection vehicle, a hybrid double decker bus as well as cars and scooters.

The council operates a range of low carbon vehicles including two biomethane powered refuse collection vehicles, 19 diesel-electric hybrids, with a further five electric transits that have just arrived.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive board member who has the responsibility for development and regeneration, said he sees this event as an ideal chance for everyone to learn about new technologies.

Mr Lewis said “There is an urgent need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being produced, and reduce the risk of dangerous climate change and poor air quality. Transport is the most difficult sector to reduce emissions, but by introducing new technologies like the ones on display at the exhibition we can really start making steps towards achieving targets.”

The event will include presentations from experts in the field, and its main aim is to promote low emission vehicle technologies. It is hoped that large fleet operators will be encouraged to switch over to the new technologies once they have seen the vehicles in action.

Wakefield Council will be showing off two of their electric vehicles at the Leeds event, as they have also recently been chosen to take part in the Department for Transport Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme.

Van drivers up in arms in Ilkeston

Van drivers in the East Midlands are being left confused and in some cases out of pocket by parking regulations.

It appears that signs in the car parks of East Midlands town Ilkeston, have completely baffled market traders, shop owners and delivery drivers as they have been given parking tickets even though they have paid to park in them.

John Green, a delivery driver in the town, said vans were being ticketed in Queens Street car park in September even though they had paid to park, he explained “I knew that a vans commercial vehicle insurance was different to ordinary car insurance but didn’t realise a light goods tax disc could stop you parking in a council car park.”

The story was picked up by shop owner, Danny Tyldesley, who said “I need my van for work; I can’t run my business without it. I’ve been parking it in the car park on Queens Street for ages without problem. But then I was told by other traders that vehicles with light goods tax discs had started being given tickets.”

The sign in the car parks actually reads ‘parking a vehicle not taxed as light goods vehicle’ under the heading, ‘Contraventions subject to £70/£50 charge’.

Mr Tyldesley believes the signs are misleading and said “The sign doesn’t make sense, the way its written says to me that it’s okay for light goods vehicles to park here but not other vehicles. I’m not asking for free parking, I’ve been happily paying to park here until now.”

Apparently traffic wardens are no longer giving out tickets to van drivers but the council have still to make the position clear. In the meantime light goods vehicle drivers are hoping they can pursue their businesses without the threat of fines hanging over them.

Fear for small businesses as toll increase looms

Van drivers with commercial vehicle insurance could be set for an increase in Humber Bridge tolls after proposed increases across the entire six vehicle categories were announced by Humber bridge officials.

Documents seen by the Grimsby Telegraph also reveal further plans to combine the classifications, making three groups instead of six, and the changes mean that small businesses are set to be the hardest hit.

The Humber Bridge was opened in July 1981 and if the plans are given the green light it will see the bridge being the most expensive toll crossing in Great Britain. The charges would go up by 11% to £3 each way for cars from April 1st 2011.

Many small businesses are already under pressure at the moment because of the current economic climate and increasing the tolls will only make the problem worse. They fear it will kill their trade as it will make it difficult and costly for them to do any business across the river.

Business owners who regularly cross the bridge in their vans have reacted angrily to the new proposals. Ron Rookledge, who owns East Yorkshire Cleaning, said “If I get a cleaning inquiry from over there I go across and do a quote first and then go back and do the job. That means four trips across and that puts additional cost on me. With this extra cost I would try to do telephone quotes but, to be honest, my success rate doing that drops. It might be that I would start looking at not going at all. There is no incentive for small business in the East Riding area, just this additional cost. It’s unfair to businesses and it’s unfair to customers who don’t benefit from fair competition.”

The Humber Bridge Board stated the reclassification of vehicles makes it much easier for drivers and it will simplify the charges. Some vehicles will pay more and some will pay less, there will be some winners and some losers. The board also claims it has been forced to apply for the toll increases as they have to pay off its £330 million debt to the government.

Motorists no longer using the motorway service station

Drivers in the United Kingdom have condemned motorway services for having sky high prices and extremely poor service. Millions now drive past motorway services unless they have to use the toilet.

Market analysts, Mintel, recently carried out research of 2,000 drivers who think that the motorway service station is losing well over £10 million a year because drivers are now avoiding these service areas and stopping at cheaper alternatives.

A spokesman for Mintel, said “Full service restaurants have continued their decline in popularity amongst travellers as time pressure increases. It is the grab-and-go options which have proved popular in recent years, consequently resulting in coffee shops being the most frequented catering outlets at motorway service areas.”

The survey showed that a quarter of motorists have not made a single visit to a motorway service area at any point during the last three year and only 42% who do stop at the service area will buy some food or a drink. Even then it is not a full meal that they are buying, it is more likely to be some chocolate, crisps and a coffee to take away. A fifth of motorists now take their own food with them because of the prices charged at service areas.

Traditionally a motorway service area was used as the perfect stopping point for van drivers with commercial vehicle insurance to get a hot meal and stretch their legs. In the 1960’s when motorway service areas opened for the first time, each one had a café which was designed for truck and van drivers. Unfortunately these are no longer around and have been replaced by chain franchises. For all commercial vehicle drivers, stopping at the motorway service station is very much a last resort. Even the fuel is more expensive at the service area.

Mintel have estimated that motorway services will decline even further in the future as more and more drivers take the choice of avoiding them unless they need the toilet, make a phone call or just stretch their legs.

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