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Parking honours go to females

It may come as a surprise to a large number of male van drivers working on the roads of the UK to discover that the fairer sex are deemed to be better at parking their vehicles than men.

That is the result of a survey carried out in National Car Parks (NCP) across the country, and commercial vehicle insurance providers confirm that males do have more scrapes in car parks than females.

The survey was conducted in car parks across the UK where CCTV cameras recorded the actions of motorists over several weeks. The survey showed that women fare better than men in almost every facet of parking a car. Admittedly female drivers were slower at negotiating around the car parks but this gave them a better view of where empty spaces were and allowed them to find a space more quickly. They also managed to park straight and in the middle of the parking bay more often than men, and reversed into spaces (generally considered the correct way) more often than men.

The researchers marked drivers out of a score of 20 and overall figures gave women drivers 13.4 while males could only manage 12.3. However, the results were questioned from several quarters with one male van driver saying: “The real test of a person’s parking ability comes when they have to parallel park in a busy street with very little room to manoeuvre and at the same time being aware of working to a schedule, not parking up in a shopping mall.”

James May, a presenter on the TV show Top Gear, said “Parking in the centre of a bay is not always the best policy – especially if a neighbouring car is parked too close to the dividing lines. You have to take into consideration the cars parked next to you – you ought to be judged on how central you are to them.”

The researchers disclosed that on average we will park our cars thousands of times in our life and that women will spend a total of 12 days completing the manoeuvres whilst men will spend 9.

Manufacture of electric vans would create new jobs

The plan for an electrical vehicle manufacturing operation in Gwynedd, Wales which could create up to eighty-five new jobs has been revealed. Businessman Iain Falconer wants to become the United Kingdom’s leading supplier of commercial electric vehicles and he is already in talks with three major fleet owners.

Mr Falconer wants to supply 12,500 electric vans and pick-ups over the next three years and talks over the details of a brand new factory unit in Minffordd are nearing completion with the Welsh Government, which owns the site. Iain Falconer has big plans for his company Better by Miles and estimates the factory will be up and running by the end of the 2012. He is using his lifetime’s expertise in the motor industry to fit bespoke battery units to the chassis of the vans. Computer-simulated results will be used by Better by Miles to equip vans with battery packs that are appropriate to their intended use.

Better by Miles was established twelve months ago and is a dealer for DFSK Loadhopper. The Loadhopper is the first of at least two DFSK light commercial vehicles heading for these shores in what is the first Chinese vehicle brand to be introduced to the United Kingdom. The Chinese company, who once supplied components for Bedford and Suzuki vans, now manufactures their own mini vans and have already sold 360,000 in Asia. There is a likeable charm to the basic Loadhopper, and it is expected that fleet managers will soon be looking online for van insurance quotes as the Loadhopper will successfully fill a large gap in the UK light commercial vehicle market.

Mr Falconer said: “The problem with off-the-shelf electric vehicles is that their mileage and carrying loads are not suitable for every user. One vehicle may offer a range of 60 miles and carry half a tonne. But that is no good if you need to do 120 miles between charges and carry a box of flowers. We will be able to equip vehicles with batteries that are right for the job and change them if their use alters.”

Peugeot Looking for a New Partner for Commercial Vehicles

Vehicle manufacturer, PSA Peugeot Citroen is seeking a new partner for light commercial vehicles to replace Italian peer Fiat, as they are withdrawing from the companies’ existing venture in 2017.

Chief executive of PSA, Philippe Varin said that PSA wants to share the cost of developing and manufacturing replacements for its Citroen Jumpy and Peugeot Expert vans assembled at a plant shared with Fiat.

He said, “We are looking for solutions for our future utility vehicles,

“In our industry it is hard to develop them alone, so we need to find the right partner.”

In northern France, Fiat is pulling out of the Sevelnord venture when the current partnership agreement ends in 2017. Varin refused to comment on potential replacements for the Italian car maker.

Varin was speaking at the group’s Poissy plant near Paris, about the margins of an event marking the production launch of Peugeot’s new 208 small car.

Europe’s second largest vehicle market, PSA, said it expected to produce 550,000 of the 208 small car in 2013, the model’s first full year.

Manufacturing chief, Denis Martin said that it will account for 40% of Peugeot’s brand deliveries in Europe. Production will be split amount two French plants and a third in Trnava, Slovakia.

The vehicle maker lost market share in Europe last year and released a series of slumping sales and profit warnings of the outgoing 207 and Citroen’s equivalent C3.

The company is relying on the 208 to help close an increasing gap with European market leader Volkswagen.

It’s not just manufacturers in the motor vehicle industry that are struggling to keep their head above the water. Other companies in the industry are also struggling, like commercial van insurance providers, breakdown services, windscreen repair companies, commercial vehicle dealerships and service and repair centres.

Road pricing scheme will help UK hauliers

Van and lorry drivers in the UK will soon be faced with another charge as the Coalition Government plans to introduce a road pricing scheme, however, this time they will be quite pleased about it.

It is an attempt to give British hauliers the chance to compete equally against foreign firms who up to now have been able to bring their trucks and vans onto UK roads without having to pay any charges. The scheme which will fall into line with EU guidelines will typically affect drivers who have commercial vehicle insurance as it will be aimed at hauliers and heavy goods vehicles, but importantly for UK drivers the charge will be refunded to drivers from the home countries.

The fee is expected to be set at around £10-12 a day which is equivalent to what many UK drivers pay when they drive on the continent. Roads Minister Mike Penning said: “Each year there are around 1.5 million trips to the UK by foreign registered lorries – but none of them pay to use our roads, leaving UK businesses and taxpayers to foot the bill. A lorry road user charge would ensure that all hauliers who use our roads are contributing to their cost, regardless of where they are from – helping UK hauliers to get a fairer deal and increasing employment and promoting growth in the UK.”

The Department for Transport has not decided how to implement the scheme yet but it is thought they could use satellite technology via a tracking device in the vehicle, or a sticker system which is read by scanners placed in strategic places. Whichever system is used it is anticipated that hauliers in the UK will have to pay the charge but will then be recompensed via their road tax or even fuel duty.

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association welcomed the proposal saying: “It is about time that foreign drivers encountered similar charges in the UK that our drivers encounter abroad. We welcome competing on a level playing field.”

Manufacturers are delighted with the Coalition’s grant extension for electric vehicles

Nissan and Renault have both welcomed the news that the Coalition Government has decided to extend the electric vehicle grant scheme to vans. The decision will allow companies to get thousands of pounds off the purchase price of a low emission vehicle and should boost sales markedly.

The Government’s decision makes the commercial vehicle scheme even more generous than the car scheme as van drivers will get 20% discount up to a maximum of £8,000 as opposed to cars £5,000. Renault has only just launched its 100% electric Kangoo Van ZE and they feel that this news puts them in a prime position to make the most of this latest boost for low-emission driving. The keenly priced van will cost from £16,990, excluding VAT and monthly battery hire, and will now be even more affordable, putting it within only £1,000 of its diesel counterpart. At this price Renault hopes companies will make the switch to an EV van before looking online for a cheap van insurance quote.

The Government announcement also comes at a time when Nissan are carrying out tests on their prototype zero-emission all-electric delivery vehicle in London. FedEx and Nissan have joined forces to evaluate how the NV200 electric vehicle copes with the rigours of daily duties in the capital. The NV200 van will be produced in Japan and will go on sale later this year.

James Wright, managing director at Nissan Motor (GB), said “The announcement reinforces the Government’s commitment to improving air quality in cities and reducing carbon emissions. This grant, coupled with lower running costs and tax benefits, will make switching to an electric van a very attractive option for businesses. Having actively lobbied for the inclusion of commercial vehicles in the Plug-In Car Grant scheme over the past year, we’re delighted that the Government has acted and made this announcement.”

Van Drivers Top the Charts with Manoeuvring Vehicles

Van drivers pull off the best vehicle manoeuvres, according to a recent survey by Swinton.

When 1000 drivers in the UK were asked to rate their ability to perform difficult vehicle manoeuvres, over 68% of the drivers scored themselves a five out of five.

48% said they could perform any vehicle manoeuvre flawlessly, which suggests that young male drivers may show signs of being over confident when they are behind the wheel.

Only 12% of van drivers scored themselves low for their ability to reverse round a corner, with the majority rating four out of five.

Many drivers cannot use their rear view mirror, as many vans are fitted with bulkheads made of either wood, mesh or metal which can sometimes hinder visibility, leaving drivers to rely on wing mirrors when driving.

Confidence is important for all drivers, although being able to judge the size of your vehicle is also important, especially on main roads. The result of underestimating the amount of space needed to park a vehicle could be damaging another vehicle, which can lead to increased premiums on commercial van insurance.

Commercial Vehicle Manager at Swinton, Phil Moss, said, “Van drivers spend a lot of time in their vehicles driving to jobs across the whole of the country, so this in itself would give the driver more practice at doing manoeuvres such as parallel parking, reversing round a corner and even turning a vehicle round in a tight space. The fact that vans are considerably larger vehicles than the average car also works in a van driver’s favour – it’s more difficult so if you can master manoeuvres in a large vehicle, then doing the same in a smaller vehicle should be much easier.”

Local firm shows their commitment to the area

One of Darlington’s most visible businesses is increasing their presence in the North-East, as they target growth despite the downturn sweeping the area. Northgate Vehicle Hire has branded commercial vans that are used by tradesmen not just locally but also up and down the UK.

The company is about to finalise a deal for additional premises in the town as part of their on-going restructuring programme. This will bring about eighty administrative jobs to Darlington, as the company continues to centralise operations under the Northgate banner. Eighteen months ago they began the process of bringing twenty-two separate businesses together in order to deliver a better service to their customers across the country.

Bob Contreras, the company’s chief executive, said “We are now better placed to succeed; light commercial vehicles are the lifeblood of the UK economy. But we cannot underestimate the challenges that our customers face in the current economic climate. If they are struggling that impacts upon our business. This is a difficult environment and there are no signs of a catalyst that will inject growth into the economy. Most companies are looking to the future with caution.”

Northgate are now a long established company with three decades of experience in fleet solutions and service delivery, providing service to customers across the United Kingdom and Ireland. The customer base is diverse and ranges from blue chip corporations and local authorities right down to a small business. Whatever the size of the company, Northgate always advise customers to take a little time and search online for van insurance quotes and not to just take out the first policy they come across.

The company employs almost four-hundred mechanics, many of whom have come through their engineering apprenticeship programme. An indication of just how valuable the Northgate training programme is can be gleaned from the fact that in the last twelve months thirty young apprentices have joined the company and only one has dropped out.

South Yorkshire Company in the vanguard of new technology

Sheffield based clean fuel company ITM joined forces with more famous names this week as they were nominated to be one of the thirteen companies who will work alongside Government departments to thrust the UK into the forefront of Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology.

The company who already have experience in producing energy for hydrogen powered vans will now be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Vauxhall and Toyota in the UKH2 Mobility project, but they won’t be overawed. They already have a reputation for developing and patenting ion exchange products and claim to be masters at producing carbon free power.

It is hoped that within a couple of years, thousands of van drivers will be organising commercial vehicle insurance on vans powered by the hydrogen fuel cell and most importantly made in the UK. Graham Cooley, the Chief Executive of ITM, said “This is a very significant event for hydrogen in the UK. It’s all about overcoming the chicken and egg problem – you can’t roll out the vans without having the fuel. We have to co-ordinate this and we are going with the UK Government. We have all signed up to it, and that shows a real commitment. You need that joined up thinking. ITM will be part of the organisation that plans the roll out. We are getting feedback about what van manufacturers want from our product.”

There is no doubt that hydrogen powered commercial vehicles would certainly clean up the motor industry. According to experts the only by-product generated when creating hydrogen, is oxygen and the only by-product of burning hydrogen is water. The scheme will be funded by £400 million of Government cash and in return they hope to see a UK vehicle manufacturing industry that leads the world in carbon free motoring.

Lucky escape for driver who ignored warning signs

Police in Scotland have this week released CCTV footage showing what happens when commercial drivers ignore traffic signs.

The footage will make every van and lorry driver in the UK shudder when they see just how fortunate the driver and other motorists have been. The incident took place on the Forth Bridge on December the 28th but has only just been released by the police. On the day in question the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) had closed the bridge to all traffic but cars, due to storm force winds that were making driving conditions almost impossible. The Met Office had advised FETA that conditions would remain the same for the coming hours and in fact other bridges in Scotland were forced to close completely.

The signs were clearly visible but the lorry driver obviously thought he knew better. The CCTV clearly shows the wind “grabbing” hold of the vehicle and tipping the trailer to one side, the lorry rights itself only for another gust of wind to tip the trailer the other way, the driver loses control of the vehicle and hits the central reservation and then amazingly a blast of wind actually blows the trailer back to an upright position and allows the driver to continue on his way. Behind him cars are slewed all over the road as they brake to avoid running into the unstable lorry. Fortunately police officers and bridge authorities were waiting on the other side of the bridge to arrest the driver.

A spokesman for FETS said: “The clip shows quite clearly why restrictions are necessary in high winds. It was lucky that no-one was killed or injured, and if they had been, the driver’s van insurance would have been invalidated. It is a good demonstration of what can happen when drivers ignore instructions.”

Green subsidy now available for vans

Motorists looking to buy one of the new breed of zero emission vans will be delighted with news announced by the Transport Minister Norman Baker yesterday.

On a visit to the North East the minister confirmed that the £5,000 Government subsidy on electric cars would continue until 2015 and that electric vans would now also be eligible for the grant. The news will be welcomed by small businesses across the UK and many delivery firms and couriers will seriously look at taking out commercial vehicle insurance on an electric vehicle for the first time.

Speaking at the Gateshead Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation the Minister said: “The UK is on the brink of a critical transformation in road transport. We are beginning to see a real shift from high carbon to low carbon motoring and the Government is doing everything it can to accelerate this process. The facilities I have seen today are exactly the sort of innovation that we need to ensure that the benefits of motoring can be realised for future generations without compromising our carbon reduction goals.”

Mr. Baker took a trip round the performance track which adjoins the Nissan Car plant in a Smith-Edison electric van and was impressed by the smooth action of the vehicle. He confirmed that less than 1000 people had applied for the subsidy last year and extolled manufacturers to keep up the good work and said the coming years will see a big take-up in the new technology. To reinforce his views the Charge Your Car project initiated by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles Plugged in Places scheme announced the North East has now got 300 plug in stations available to the general public.

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