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Newbury high street is to become almost traffic

Buses and vans will no longer be driving through Newbury town centre when the Parkway development is officially opened in October. The council in West Berkshire have rubber-stamped many significant changes to the traffic flow through the town during a meeting of their executives.

The changes include removing the taxi rank from the Market Place, the pedestrianisation will be changed to 5pm instead of 6pm and the Park Way Bridge will become two-way. These changes will see Newbury town centre become almost traffic-free during the day, with the only exceptions being emergency vehicles, security vans dropping off and collecting cash and postal vans which will be covered by commercial vehicle insurance.

David Betts, head of the council’s transport, said “Negotiations have taken place with representatives from the taxi association’s right up to the time of the executive meeting; such was the council’s desire to make sure the changes were right for everyone. We will not be pleasing everybody at every point. If we tried to do that we would never get anything done. This is the best scheme going forward for the town centre.”

Overall local residents are delighted with the commitment to removing the buses as well as the unnecessary vans and they welcome the change to the pedestrianisation. The issues raised by the taxi firms have been taken on board and as recompense a number of new taxi points will be allocated. These changes have followed 12 months of talks with local organisations, including the Newbury Retail Association and the West Berkshire Disability Alliance.

Under the proposals no private vehicle will be able to use the Park Way Bridge at all, with traffic instead using the designated A339, with the bridge becoming exclusive to buses, bicycles, taxis and emergency vehicles. The change to the pedestrianisation zone time means that taxis and cars will be able to use the roads in the town centre during the evening.

Parts supplier keen on saving vans

As the austerity measures imposed by the Government start to impact on businesses across the UK, one van parts supplier is beseeching van owners not to scrap their vehicles unless it is really necessary.

Multipart, a major parts supplier to LDV vans, has launched a “save our vans” appeal, hoping to reduce the number of LDVs being written off by insurance companies. They are hoping to extend the scheme to all 80 UK dealers of LDVs and believe the system will enable engineers to quickly assess if the van can be saved even if it means passing some of the repair bills on to the end user.

They estimate that over 100,000 van drivers are still getting commercial vehicle insurance on LDVs with the main body of owners coming from Local Authorities, Schools and Charities. Multipart believes that the resilience of the vans in the past is now threatening their future. Many of the vans have had expensive modifications fitted because owners knew they would get value for money because of the vans longevity.

Multipart’s Marketing Director, John Cascone, explained further “The value of these modifications is particularly relevant when major crash repair is required and too often perfectly repairable vehicles are being written off as being not viable to repair.

“Large fleet operators such as the Royal Mail look for up to seven years out of their LDVs. Many vans are in service with cash-strapped local authorities, schools, charities and the military and they too will want to obtain the optimum economic life they can from them.”

It is expected the scheme will be up and running at all dealerships early in the New Year.

Security van drivers attacked in Birmingham

The ever present danger to van drivers working for security firms and the need for commercial vehicle insurance has once more been highlighted in dramatic circumstances in a Midlands city.

In the space of a couple of hours two security vans were attacked on the same street in Birmingham. The two incidents resulted in police arresting two men and holding another as both incidents continue to be investigated.

The first incident took place on Coventry Road in the suburb of Sheldon and involved a Group 4 security driver being attacked as he made a delivery to a bank. The driver was knocked to the floor by his attacker who then tried to make off with a box of cash. The robber had not anticipated the reaction of other bank customers, who in a valiant display of public spiritedness managed to overcome the assailant and held him until the police arrived.

Just a couple of hours later police were called to a virtual carbon copy attack further along the same street. This time the security van driver was attacked as he came out of a local food supermarket. He was assailed by a man who appeared to be armed and forced him to hand over a bag containing cash. The robber was then driven off at high speed by an accomplice who was waiting nearby. The getaway car was soon involved in a motor accident and police were able to arrest the two crooks in nearby Amington Street.

The two incidents follow on from similar attacks on security men in Coventry a few weeks ago and will provide justification for the new gunshot tracker technology brought in by the West Midlands city in an attempt to stop the burgeoning use of firearms in crime.

Van Drivers under pressure from weather and politicians again

As snow once more hits regions of the UK, van drivers come under pressure from various sources.

Overnight snow in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales has led to van drivers once more struggling to earn a living in what is for many, their busiest time of the year. The two main motorways in Northern Ireland were closed to commercial vehicles overnight and the M4 in South Wales was reported to have tail backs up to 20 miles this morning. Scotland which has suffered more than anywhere else in the last fortnight was under a fresh blanket of snow this morning and several industries reliant on the Christmas trade now fear the worst.

The plight of the whisky distributors and distilleries in the north of Scotland is having a knock on effect all over the UK. The whisky factories in Scotland have had to stop production as the bad weather meant that supplies could neither get in or out of their plants. As a result  many firms in the rest of the UK who include whisky in their products are struggling to fulfil orders. Firms specialising in Christmas hampers are particularly badly affected.

The backlog in deliveries has brought into question the performance of private delivery firms across the UK with many politicians and traders accusing private delivery companies of not even trying to get through the bad weather.

It is anticipated that some entrepreneurs will be looking to get commercial vehicle insurance on their vehicle and try and pick up business from companies who have proved themselves not up to the job.

Whatever the outcome of this the immediate weather forecast is predicting more traffic disruption as the wintry weather closes in.

Fuel prices set to hit new high

Just as van drivers across the UK thought that December couldn’t get any worse, industry experts warn of another big blow for drivers.

After a horrendous three weeks of winter weather which has seen van drivers spending nights trapped in their vehicles, miles from home and without much hope of concluding their deliveries, several motoring organisations are forecasting even more bad news for the transport industry over the next 24 hours. The Automobile Association (AA) is warning that petrol prices may well hit an all time high today. They are forecasting forecourt prices of 122p per litre in places across the UK this week.

Currently the record is 121.6p per litre which was achieved last May but with the price for crude oil hitting new highs, and the Government increase in VAT due in January, 121.6 may almost sound reasonable a few weeks down the line. To make things even worse the Government is planning another hike in fuel tax in the New Year.

For those running a business from their vehicle the planned price rise will of course impact more than most, with van drivers already seeing other costs such as commercial vehicle insurance testing their business profit and loss accounts. It is certain that for some, the increased fuel costs could prove the last straw.

Edmund King, President of the AA, speaking of the increases said “It comes at a particularly bad time for drivers who have struggled with appalling winter weather and often seen their fuel drain away while stuck in snowbound traffic jams.

“Although the wholesale price of petrol has risen sharply in the past fortnight, there is a growing feeling of helplessness among drivers with winter travel disruption and ever-rising fuel costs.”

Volkswagen Transporter wins award… Again

With the motoring awards season in full swing, German motor manufacturer Volkswagen have something more to celebrate.

The latest version of the groups Transporter van has been given a top accolade from its peers in the van industry. The What Van awards of 2011 have named the transporter “best small van” while its sibling the much vaunted Volkswagen Caddy was given a “highly commended” in the same category.

It will come as no surprise if the latest award for the Transporter persuades even more van drivers to get a commercial vehicle insurance quote on the model that was only launched last January. Since its inception the little van has been accumulating awards all year long.

It has already won “Best Medium Panel Van of the Year” from Fleet Van news. “Best Medium Van” from Van Fleet World and “Best Medium Van” and “Standard Panel Van” from iVan, yet another vehicle publication.

It is thought the new engine and improved fuel efficiency capability gave the Transporter the edge over its rivals with What Vans Editor, Paul Barker, describing it thus “Excellent engines, cabin and a great drive add up to a winning combination, so the new Transporter is easy to recommend.”

It is just another day in what has been a triumphant year for Volkswagen vans. The Caddy has achieved cult status in some parts of Europe over the last 12 months which is reflected by Volkswagen announcing that sales for their vans worldwide over the last year surpassed a third of a million, with not surprisingly the Caddy turning out star performer.

Volkswagen won’t be having it all their own way in the bigger van market the coming year however, as Ford have just announced they have started shipping the zero emission all electric Ford Connect Transit over to Europe this week.

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.

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.

Miniature van sale planned to aid ambulance

They are not the sort of vans that need commercial vehicle insurance, but the vans owned by Stan Walton and his club members are going to be involved in life saving work.

Stan, from Peterlee, County Durham, is a model car enthusiast and treasurer of the North East Die Cast Club, (NEDCC). He has galvanised members of the club into action to make a special collection of miniature vans depicting a local emergency vehicle to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAA).

Stan explained “We get asked to make models for all kinds of people and they can fetch a decent price when they go on sale. We made three to start with and they went on sale at the Bowburn Toy Fair and were sold straight away.

We are all great supporters of the work the air ambulance does. We buy in the models then design the transfers ourselves, print them off and put them on the vehicles. The models we have already produced have generated so much interest.”

The GNAA does not receive any government funding so relies on the good will of the public and charities in the North East to keep it in the air. It is hoped the model ambulances which will cost around £20 each will prove to be popular with the public at the toy fair in Chester-le-street on October the 9th, where they will be launched.

The NEDCC are confident the vans will sell well and they can add the GNAA to the list of charities they have helped, as they have raised money for the Help for Heroes charity in the past. they can refuse to pay landlords who are making a profit from housing benefit.

London councils housing spokesman, Sir Steve Bullock, said “Cracking down on the worst excesses of a small minority of landlords is welcome. However we must make sure that any action that takes place does not have the devastating side-effect of pushing poorer people in the capital out of their homes.”

Footwear choice a safety essential

Van drivers may be surprised to know the difference footwear can have on their driving, and women van drivers may be at more risk than men.

A survey carried out by the AA for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) found that different footwear can have a big effect on driving safely, especially where braking times are concerned. Of the 18,000 members surveyed 25% said that at some time their choice of footwear had made them feel they were not in full control of their vehicle. Tests carried out at a crash centre in Derby concentrated on the braking speeds achieved when wearing a variety of different shoes and other footwear. Wedges, flip-flops, trainers, wellingtons/boots and high heels all came under scrutiny.

Using a stationary crash simulator the difference in braking speeds between the trainers, which came out best and the wedges, which fared worst, was about a quarter of a second. This may not sound much but at 50 mph the difference equates to over five metres in stopping distance, which as any van driver can tell you is the difference between stopping safely and crashing into the vehicle in front and a claim on ones commercial vehicle insurance.

Wedge type shoes were also identified as possible problem makers, by causing the driver to get their feet stuck under or between the pedals. When drivers were asked about footwear 27% of those who had experienced a lack of control said they had been wearing flip-flops at the time.

Already in some parts of Europe it is illegal to drive in flip-flops but as yet the Highway Code in the UK does not specify any particular footwear as being illegal. The results of this survey may change that in the coming years.

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