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Fleet drivers are urged to buy fuel from supermarkets

The seemingly ever increasing fuel cost is still at the top of the list of concerns for fleet managers. Research by the AA shows that more and more of them are instructing their drivers to only use supermarket fuel rather than going to the branded forecourts which are currently more expensive.

The price may only be a few pence cheaper but can make a huge difference to fleet fuel bills. The latest figures on fuel prices shows that the cheapest fuel continues to be found at the forecourts of the major supermarkets. The few pence saved on each litre of fuel means that a company van that is protected with commercial vehicle insurance could see a fuel cost saving of over £100 each year by filling up each time at a supermarket rather than branded outlets. This may not look like much of a saving but to a small firm it is very important. For much larger firms who may have a fleet of 200 vehicles, they can make a much larger saving by steering clear of garage forecourts.

The AA have also warned that some small firms in parts of rural Worcestershire could be forced to close if they do not switch to supermarket fuel. Figures show that Worcester drivers are now paying more now than when the national average peaked four months ago at 137.43p for petrol and 143.04p for diesel. The AA warned that September’s RPI inflation figure means that yet another eight pence may be added to the price of fuel within the next year. Some small firms are even asking workers who do not have a private car to use their own supermarket vouchers that give 5p off each litre of fuel when filling up the company vehicle.

A spokesman for the AA said: “If the Government isn’t prepared to tackle high oil and fuel prices and their drain on the nation’s well-being, it should at least commit to freezing fuel duty until petrol falls at least below 125p a litre and diesel below 130p. If not, even more small businesses, especially in rural areas will be driven off the road.”

Licence withdrawal figures on the increase

As the average age of motorists continues to grow in the UK, there has been a dramatic increase in drivers having their licence taken away from due to failing eyesight.

The latest figures available show that in 2010 just over 4,000 people had their driving licences taken away from them due to failing eyesight, the figure is almost three times the number of the licences retracted in 2005. The figure is only a small proportion of the entire driving population of the UK, it represents 100 drivers in a million, but illustrates the fact that many people over the age of 70 are still driving.

Current DVLA rules don’t require motorists to reapply for their licence until they are 70 years old, from then on they have to re-apply every three years and it is up to them to inform the DVLA of any medical condition that could affect their ability of driving a vehicle safely. However, the law does require any person who feels they have problems with their eyesight to get a professional opinion. If the verdict of the professional is that they do have a problem the driver should notify the DVLA immediately, failure to do so will result in a big fine and more importantly render their insurance, even if it is direct van insurance, invalid.

Experts are calling for a change in the law, suggesting that the impetus should be put on the professional to relate the driver’s condition to the DVLA but it is certainly not a straightforward decision. A report by the RAC Foundation on the problem of older drivers said “Where significant problems with eyesight exist, opticians must surely have a ‘last resort’ duty to inform the DVLA so that appropriate measures can be taken,” but acknowledged in a footnote that “Opticians seemingly do have this duty at the moment, but it is not commonly used, not least because they do not have an appropriate test to use to deduce whether people’s eyesight is fit to drive.”

The report also warned that if the obligation is handed over to the professional it could lead to some older drivers putting off getting medical advice because they are afraid of losing their licence which in some cases will affect their livelihood.

Dark nights warning for vehicle owners

With the long, dark winter nights due to begin next week vehicle thieves will become more active. A provider of stolen vehicle recovery systems is asking drivers to be extra security conscious as figures reveal that their work increases by a fifth during the dark winter months.

Tracker are the number one supplier of vehicle tracking services in the United Kingdom and have well over one million systems installed which give motorists complete peace of mind. Tracker claim their in cab technology enables them to return nine out of every ten vehicles to its owner and the vast majority of these are done within 24 hours.

The Thatcham approved system works like a homing device, with transmitters hidden in one of several dozen places throughout the vehicle. They are hidden so well that the thief will not even know it’s there and if they do find one transmitter it is highly unlikely they will find all of the others. As a bonus, in the current difficult times, anyone who fits a tracker system may also benefit from a discount on the van insurance premiums. Used by all United Kingdom police forces, tracker will inform the police of the location of the stolen vehicle even if it is hidden in a garage. Firms with vans that are protected with commercial van insurance are taking advantage of the fact that it only takes a few minutes to make the vital but simple changes. If a van is stolen the owners will want it back as soon as possible.

Stuart Chapman, Tracker’s police relationships manager, said “Our figures confirm that the winter’s extra hours of darkness allow more time for thieves to break into vehicles unseen, with November, January and February being the worst months. In 2010, 84% of all the stolen cars recovered by Tracker were taken using the owner’s keys and this danger increases during the winter. Added to this, on frosty mornings many people leave their car unattended with the engine on to defrost the windscreen, making their cars a prime target for thieves. We urge motorists to keep their keys safe at all times and think twice to avoid frost jackers.”

Essex gets another drive-through Tesco supermarket

Van drivers in Essex are delighted that Tesco have opened another drive-through supermarket in Basildon, and customers are queuing up to check out a scheme which could be expanded throughout the United Kingdom.

The new idea allows all pushed-for-time motorists a chance to make a quick stop while staff load their pre-ordered shopping into the vehicle. Tesco bosses officially opened the permanent drive-through last week, and the new venture has created fifteen much needed new jobs for local residents. The first customers who rolled up at the Mayflower Retail Park to collect their orders were delighted with the new service that saw none of them need to step out of their vehicle. To use the new scheme shoppers have to place their orders online before booking a time slot for picking up the order.

Gina Elliott, manager for Tesco Basildon, said “This is designed for customers who find waiting in for a delivery can be an inconvenience. It removes the need to negotiate the store and checkouts, and is ideal for parents with children in tow or commuters returning home from work. By having the collection point in the car park and away from the main store, customers can drive in and out easily with no congestion. As a result of this expansion we have recruited new staff from the local area to join our great team which in the current economical climate is very exciting.”

The drive-through is proving very popular with drivers who typically cover their vehicle with online van insurance. After a days work, the drivers can pick up the shopping on the way home without the hassle of going into the supermarket. The drive-through is open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 4pm on Sunday. With £2 automatically added to the shopper’s bill it is still cheaper than having to pay for the normal delivery service. Tesco is the only supermarket using drive-through windows at present and this new one is the fifth to open in Essex.

TV show highlights desperation of van drivers

A recent TV programme has illustrated the problems many van drivers are encountering with the high cost of fuel, and how some are reckless enough to chance having the van they have covered with commercial vehicle insurance confiscated because they are using red diesel to save money.

BBC’s Panorama programme highlighted the number of commercial drivers who are losing their livelihood and their vehicles because they have used illegal fuel. The drivers almost all said they used red diesel simply because they could not afford the cost of regular diesel, and, it was done in a bid to save their business from going bankrupt. With the cost of diesel approaching £1.40 per litre, and the cost of commercial van insurance increasing, and another fuel duty increase in the pipeline for January, experts believe many more companies will be tempted to take the risk of losing their business altogether in a bid to survive.

A spokesman for online motoring organisation Fuel Card said: “The BBC’s Panorama programme highlighted again the issue that we, as transport businesses, are facing on a daily basis – the price of fuel is crippling our industry. The UK’s already hard-pressed fleet industry simply can’t sustain such massive increases to the day to day running of their businesses.”

Many professionals allied to the transport industry will be hoping the Commons Debate on fuel prices forced by the 100,000 signatories of the fair fuel campaign will give them some respite from further fuel duty increases, but the present financial position of the country does not augur well and while cheap illegal fuel may be tempting, the penalties when caught are draconian and should be avoided.

Workers continue to escape driving bans by using loophole

Two commercial van drivers from Leeds are still legally driving on the roads of the United Kingdom despite having clocked up 27 and 28 points respectively on their licences. This is despite the maximum number of points before a ban is imposed being for most drivers 12pts.

Driving charity Brake worked with a vehicle insurance company and found that around 44% of motorists who get to 12 points or more on their licence are not being banned. In Leeds one driver who has 27 points for offences including speaking on a mobile phone and driving without insurance is still holding a licence, and another who has 28 points for offences such as speeding, using a mobile and dangerous driving is also still driving his vehicle lawfully.

Brake claim that motorists are increasingly escaping a ban by claiming it would cause them exceptional hardship. By saying a ban would be detrimental to their livelihood they are more than likely given a fine instead of getting the usual six-month ban. Drivers with commercial van insurance obviously fall under this category but the road safety charity believe magistrates are being too tolerant. The Charity has called on the Coalition to stop people using this loophole to make sure that more motorists who reach 12 points are given the correct punishment.

Julie Townsend, Brake campaigns director, said “Clearly when the points system was designed, it wasn’t intended that nearly half of drivers with 12 points would evade disqualification. It is outrageous these individuals, who rack up offence after offence, are allowed to continue driving, causing enormous risk to the public. Drivers who repeatedly flout traffic laws have shown complete disregard for the lives of other road users. They have also had ample opportunity to desist breaking the law before reaching 12 points and facing disqualification.”

Case dropped after criminal decides not to testify in court

Businessman Steve Coupland was shocked to find out that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) insisted he was charged after he fought off a violent burglar who was attempting to break into his van.

But after a year long fight to clear his name, the case against him collapsed after the criminal Matthew Higgins refused to go to court and give evidence, claiming he got what he deserved. Steve Coupland had never been in trouble with the police before the incident but after seeing his van – which he protects with commercial vehicle insurance – targeted on thirteen occasions, decided to tackle the burglar, who fought back with a crowbar.

Mr Higgins has an history of violence, but he ended up being badly beaten and both men were arrested by police when they arrived. Prosecutors refused to accept that Mr Coupland, was lawfully defending himself and his van and he was charged with causing Grievous Bodily Harm. However the CPS was forced into a humiliating climb-down when Mr Higgins refused to testify. Mr Coupland was cleared as there was no evidence offered on the day of his trial. The father of three runs a cleaning company and he denied grievous bodily harm as he was convinced a jury would see sense. He was ready to tell the court how hours before the incident he had spoken to the police about another attempted break-in on his van the previous night.

Steve said: “I’m over the moon it’s finally over. This case has wasted a lot of time and money. I have worked hard all my life and have never done anything wrong. I was just protecting my property. I was facing years in prison, but I was determined to fight it. They said I had gone over the top, but I had to do what I had to do to stop that happening to me. The system is weighted in favour of the criminal – they would have preferred me to bring him in for a cup of tea and hand over my wallet.”

Local councils to spend less on road maintenance in effort to balance the books

Just over 50% of local authorities are cutting their road maintenance budgets for the next year as the austerity cuts demanded by the Government take hold. Cuts of up to £17 million will be made as local councils reduce spending in an attempt to save money.

The findings in the research has led to warnings from the leading vehicle breakdown and glass repair companies that drivers safety may be at risk from the deteriorating road network which may not be repaired. The biggest cut will be in Kent where the county council will be cutting its road maintenance budget from £90m to £74m. Liverpool plan to cut £1.4m and Nottingham is expecting to make a 20% cut from their budget. Only three authorities (Birmingham, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire) say they plan to increase spending. Over 100,000 motorists each year have to deal with a cracked windscreen which was caused by either a pothole or a poorly maintained road.

Matthew Mycock, the managing director at a windscreen replacement company, said “Cuts in the road maintenance programme will inevitably mean potholes go unfilled and cracks are left unrepaired. This will cause discomfort and inconvenience to drivers, damage to their vehicles and even jeopardise their safety. Every day, we hear from our customers that travelling around parts of Britain is becoming a nightmare because of the state of the roads and this is not likely to improve in the foreseeable future.”

A recent poll of firms with vans that are protected by UK van insurance, found that the number one issue for them was the poor state of the roads and 80% feel that repairing the roads should be the top priority for the national road budget.

Longer Artics to be seen on UK roads as trial gets the go ahead

After a surprise announcement by Roads Minister Mike Penning yesterday, hauliers in the UK may now be purchasing commercial van insurance for longer vans and trucks.

The minister said that a ten year trial involving longer articulated Lorries would commence shortly. The trial will see 900 Lorries with an extra 2 metre length allowed on the roads and a further 900 with an extra length of just 1 metre. Both sets of vehicles will still be limited to the current weight limit of 44 tonnes.

The trial will be welcomed by many operators who point out that the extra vehicle length could in some instances mean fewer vehicles are actually on the roads, and that the savings in fuel bills will amount to millions of pounds across the sector. However, the trial has not been welcomed by all, with many in the industry saying the Government has played into the hands of the big corporations who will be the only hauliers in the industry who will be able to afford the new trucks.

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Maria Eagles, said many villages across the UK will be horrified that even bigger lorries will be rattling through their streets and the Freight on Rail (FoR) group were said to be appalled by the decision.

A spokesman for the group said: “The longer trucks could have lower safety standards than existing HGVs and would put lorry industry interests ahead of road safety and carbon reduction. The DfT report down-plays safety implications which include more susceptibility to crosswinds & greater tail swings. The research states that new active steering technology due out in 18th months time would make vehicles safer but states that it does not favour mandating this technology.”

Fleet buyers rally September car sales

Buyers with an interest in motor insurance quotes are proved to be the major players in new car sales last month, according to figures from one of the UK’s most reliable sources of motoring activity.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) report a big uptake in the purchase of new cars by businesses saved September from being a disaster for new vehicle registrations. September is traditionally one of the best months for car sales with customers looking to buy a vehicle with a new registration plate, however, private sales last month dipped by almost 10% compared to August and the news has certainly started ringing the alarm bells in some quarters.

Paul Everitt, the chief executive of SMMT, said “The continued weakness in UK domestic demand and the uncertainty across European economies had also led to the SMMT cutting its forecast for 2012 sales from 2m cars to 1.96m.”

He went on to urge the Coalition Government to play its part saying: “It is important Government acts to sustain an investment-led recovery and implements measures to encourage more private sector investment in R&D, skills, new plants and machinery.”

In total, over 330,000 cars were sold in September, 3,000 less than September 2010 but the percentage of private sales was hugely down which must be a worry not only for the industry but for a Government that is relying on growth in all sectors to stimulate the economy. The number of sales for zero emission cars such as the Nissan Leaf are still slow and it is for certain that motor manufacturers have yet to convince the public that the new breed of cars are the way forward for the industry.

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