Commercial vehicle manufacturers are always pleased to hear that their efforts in creating innovative vehicles have paid off, especially when it is the customers who have voted them as the best. Drivers of light commercial vans are generally extremely discerning when it comes to what vehicle they choose to purchase, and they take into consideration a number of factors including what the van insurance quotes are, the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and its overall safety.
This is why Ford will be pleased to hear that they have won two awards at the 2013 Trade Van Driver (TVD) Awards for the Ford Transit Custom and the Ford Ranger. The Ford Transit Custom claimed victory in the “Best Medium Van” category, with judges claiming it as “a quantum leap forward” over its predecessor. The van was also commended for its fuel efficient engine line-up, advanced wheel technologies such as SYNC, intelligent design and Ford’s in-car connectivity system. Meanwhile, the Ranger won “Best 4×4 Truck” due to its ability to cope with rough terrain, robust appearance, car-like ride and handling and variety of different Ranger models available.
Discussing the awards, Trade Van Driver Magazine editor Matthew Eisenegger said: “Trade Van Driver magazine prides itself on offering a true reflection of the thoughts and feelings of its readership. With the awards now in a second year, it is great to see some products taking the accolade for a second time, as well as new products scoring a first win.” Meanwhile, Ford sales director Andy Barrat said: “The awards for Ford’s exciting commercial vehicle range keep on coming. We’re delighted with Transit Custom’s very healthy sales start, contributing to Ford’s overall 21 per cent share of the UK CV market for the year to date.”
“Ranger continues to sell remarkably well having nearly doubled its presence in the pick-up segment to 16.6 per cent so far this year, compared with 2012.” In the past twelve months Ford has received fifteen awards for the Ford Ranger and the Ford Transit Custom, including International Pick-up Award 2013 and Van of the Year 2013, proving that the company are extremely well established in the commercial vehicle market.
Fleet managers are being advised to embrace technology if they are to combat the increasing levels of congestion on the roads of the United Kingdom. The Department for Transport (DfT) predicts that by 2030, the number of vehicles on the road will have increased by between 25% and 30%.
The Automotive Council has published a report recognising the increasing role of intelligent transport systems used by fleets, such as real-time vehicle tracking and they also predict that these will need to interact with both new and emerging technologies. Nearly 84% of goods bought online are delivered using the UK’s road network by vans which are protected by commercial vehicle insurance and it is vital that the transport networks do not become clogged or gridlocked. Effective transport infrastructure, which enables drivers to move freely around the country, says the report, is a necessary ingredient of a successful economy.
Transport secretary Justine Greening said “We’re making great headway on the environmental impact of road transport. Improvements in fuel efficiency and the development of hybrid electric vehicles mean that, despite an increase in traffic, CO2 emissions are set to fall significantly over the next 25 years. But perhaps our biggest challenge, given its economic, environmental and social cost, is making sure we tackle congestion. That means we all need to focus on solutions – be they managing demand, enabling travellers to make more informed decisions about their journeys and making the best use of existing networks and capacity.”
Currently, the DfT is investing more than £1 billion to tackle areas of congestion and improve the national road network. This is on top of the £2.3bn planned investment in major roads that was recently announced in the ministry’s spending review. The Government is also collaborating with Innovits and MIRA at a research and development centre located in Nuneaton. The team of researchers hope to develop, test and refine future transport technologies. The report emphasises that increasing road capacity while tackling congestion requires everyone to use a more intelligent approach in managing the road network and the vehicles that ply their trade on it.
Automotive software experts Sofico have extended their product offering with the launch of Miles Mobile, a toolkit for the development of mobile websites. Miles Mobile will allow both the fleet manager and the drivers to access information through a web-enabled device such as a smart phone or tablet.
The last few years has seen the fleet market move at such a pace that the decision-makers and their drivers increasingly need to access information whilst away from the office. They need on-demand functionality and this can be delivered through mobile internet channels. The latest forecasts estimate that mobile internet users will overtake those who rely on a traditional desktop internet connection in the next two years. If fleet managers are not careful they could get left behind because having the most up to date technology in a van is just as important as having the best commercial vehicle insurance.
Many company employees are accustomed to having web-enabled devices to access daily workflows and receive important business information from their company and Sofico has further developed its software to capitalize on this growing trend. Sofico specialize in software solutions for automotive and fleet management companies. With over two decades of experience they have developed unparalleled business expertise in the leasing and fleet management industry and they can provide companies with the appropriate software applications for their needs.
Jan Bouckaert, head of business development at Sofico, said: “The rise in mobile internet access and usage through hand held devices, like smart phones and tablet PCs, is causing a paradigm shift in working practices. Leasing companies need to have access to flexible, modern and web-delivered software solutions to provide their customers with the instant and timely information flow they require. We firmly believe that Miles Mobile and the new Driver Toolkit will help them achieve that objective.”
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.
A firm who can turn water into fuel is on the cusp of securing a huge £30m investment. Inova Power has come up with the four-step process which takes hydrogen from water before turning it into power.
Making energy from water which is both safe and clean sounds too good to be true and this is the main reason it has taken a lot of hard work to source investment money for the project. Hydrogen power is the holy grail of the green energy sector and the market for hydrogen in the United Kingdom is currently worth close to £1bn. Inova are delighted to be close to sealing a deal which will help them develop their impressive technology even further.
Managing Director Mark Nailis said: “We are in the final stages. We are close to more than £30m of venture capital for the next-stage development. We are going through the due diligence process now. That will provide the funding for the next stage. We hope to bring it to market early next year and create around 1,000 jobs locally in the manufacture and supply chain by 2014. The skills and the industries are here in the North East in the form of chemical, manufacturing and technology. The next stage for us now is new product development.”
Inova want to use the technology to make fuel more efficient and cut vehicle emissions at the same time. They have also been working with the University of Sunderland to improve the range of all electric vehicles as one of the drawbacks with motorists is the short distance they can drive before the battery needs a recharge. The new technology will see an onboard electric charging system which will at least double the current number of miles a EV can travel between charges. After successful tests on a vehicle at the University of Sunderland, Mark Nailis is due to travel to France to have talks with a manufacturer regarding putting the range extenders into all of their EVs. The company believe the technology will attract many companies who typically cover their fleet with fleet insurance. He is also in talks with supermarkets who are interested in installing the technology in their delivery fleets and their stores where they believe it will enhance their refrigeration capabilities.
Manufactures who are selling new vehicles which feature technology that takes the control away from the driver could create huge problems for the justice system when it comes to deciding on liability in future road traffic accident cases.
That’s the view of many law firms who now believe the new developments, although they are well meaning, may actually result in more accidents and drivers trying to avoid guilt by saying it was the vehicle driving and not them. Law firms are worried that if the new technology is installed in vans covered by commercial van insurance it will increase the number of accidents. This is based on the number of hours a working van spends on the road each week. Many people believe that regardless of how advanced the technology becomes, blame should always lie with the human behind the wheel.
Toyota recently announced their ‘Pre-Crash Safety with collision-avoidance assist’ technology. The high tech gadgetry will perform an emergency stop if the vehicle feels the driver has not spotted a hazard ahead. They have also introduced a sensor in the steering wheel which will constantly monitor the pulse of the driver and will automatically bring the vehicle to a stop if it feels the driver is having a heart attack. Toyota’s system will monitor side roads, oncoming cars and what is directly in front. In this way, the technology will do the work of a good alert driver, constantly assess both risks and dangers and also help with van insurance quotes.
Lee Harris, a Senior Litigation Executive at a road accident specialists, said “While advancements in technology have improved road safety, the concern is that drivers could become over reliant, complacent or worse take even more risk, leading to an increase in accidents. Undoubtedly as more pre-emptive technology is introduced into cars, there will be questions over liability in accidents. Will it be the driver, manufacturer or someone else to blame? Specific laws need to be introduced before accidents like this happen.”
Motorists who receive a parking ticket will now get the chance to see the evidence taken by the ticket warden online within 24 hours of the ticket being issued.
Van drivers will be able to go online and look at pictures before deciding whether to pay the fine or appeal after a London Council launched the unique technology last week. Motorists throughout Twickenham feel the scheme is a good idea because by seeing the evidence it will save time and money on a pointless appeal. Nobody likes getting a parking ticket but at least this way, drivers can now see why it has been issued almost straight away.
Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, added “For too long, councils have seen motorists as sheep to fleece. Too many still act in a predatory and money grabbing way. We are absolutely determined to change this in Richmond. At the moment you don’t get any immediate feedback so yes I think it’s a good idea. It will be easier to appeal it if there are any problems with the evidence. Sometimes traffic wardens give tickets unfairly when they don’t know the rules.”
Company owners with vans covered by commercial vehicle insurance are also pleased about the new scheme as they hope to use the pictures to teach drivers how to avoid what is an unwanted expense in the current climate. If the scheme is successful it is hoped that more councils in the country will follow Richmond who are also going to pilot their new “RichmondCards” scheme from Friday until the end of August. The card scheme will give holders half an hour free parking at all council car parks and street bays, with a 10% discount available on a longer stay. They will hand out 10,000 trial cards at their buildings, car parks and any meetings with local residents.