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Council cutbacks to include less gritting during winter

Rochdale Council has announced plans to reduce gritting on the roads of Middleton and Heywood. The cuts will mean some residential roads will remain un-gritted during severe winter weather which could cause more accidents and also increase claims on vehicle insurance policies.

A shake-up of council gritting services will see a number of currently treated areas scrapped and the gritters will only spread salt on priority roads such as routes for schools. Routes deemed unimportant will be stopped as the council bid to save money. RMBC (Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council) have also proposed other winter policy options that include increasing the number of salt bins to include one at each place of worship throughout the borough and the treatment of all routes to churches on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The final decision will be made later this week but there are concerns by delivery firms who have vans protected by commercial vehicle insurance. No gritting, and black ice could result in more accidents and vans being off the road which will cost them money.

David Nicholson, director of Highways, said “The changes will save up to £13,000. Removal of routes from the standard treatment routes will generate savings. The exact savings will depend on the extent of the routes. There are no strict guidelines regarding the inclusion of routes on the standard treatment routes, therefore the identified routes can be removed to generate savings at the discretion of cabinet. No additional funding will be made available for further improvements to the winter service and therefore any additional costs will have to be managed within the existing winter service budget.”

RMBC has budgeted more than £1.1m to spend on gritting this year which is made up of a base budget, diverted highway maintenance and money which has been carried over from 2010. The financial implications will also vary depending on the severity of the winter season each year.

Council and film crews cause problems for residents

Residents with cars are being left with nowhere to park as councils are cashing in by renting out streets to film companies. Some councils, especially in London’s most popular locations are even suspending residents’ parking bays in order for the film crews to park instead.

Some residents are sick of seeing Hollywood stars on their streets, particularly in Islington where over four hundred drivers have had their vehicles towed away, and in Camden the council are refusing to either compensate residents or give them an alternative area to park. Some council’s are even removing vans which are covered by commercial van insurance and this is giving firms unwanted extra costs.

According to a Freedom of Information inquiry, twelve local councils have raised over £250,000 during the last two years. The huge sum does not include the millions of pounds they raise by selling residents the parking permits in the first place. This cash is even further topped up by fines and the fees some drivers have had to pay to retrieve their vehicle which have been towed away. Of the twelve councils, almost all have refused to disclose how much additional revenue they had generated.

Pam White, a member of the Residents’ Association, said “There has been a great deal of resentment at the way in which parking spaces have been closed off. We had a crew of 40 to 50 people who shut off a street for five hours to film a 10 minute ad for online gaming with Barbara Windsor. Our patience is running thin as we are not only losing parking spaces but at times we have had to run the gauntlet of bouncers that act as if they own the road while providing security on the film set.”

It is pretty rough on the motorists who are away on holiday when the filming takes place, as they return home to find their vehicle has been towed away to make room for the film crew despite paying the council hundreds of pounds for a permit and also their vehicle insurance.

Diabetic van drivers could suffer under new law changes

As many as one million drivers with diabetes may lose their driving licences as tough new European rules will classify them as unfit to drive a vehicle. Experts predict the strict change will affect thousands who have been driving on the roads of the UK for decades without any problems.

The news rule, if given the green light, will mean a blanket ban on diabetics taking insulin who occasionally have episodes of hypoglycaemia, and those who have low blood sugar, which could cause a blackout if not countered with a sugary snack. The charity Diabetes UK has protested to the Department for Transport about the changes which could start in the first week of October. The charity also fears that the DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency) are applying the EU directive far more strictly than other European countries.

The DVLA claim they are aiming to strike the right balance by making sure that only those who are classed as safe to drive will be able to get vehicle insurance and be allowed on the roads. They will also not place any unnecessary restrictions on a driver’s independence, every case will be looked at individually and licences will only be refused where it is absolutely necessary. This new rule may also mean that some jobs will be lost. Anyone who drives a delivery van which is covered by commercial vehicle insurance may no longer be able to continue with their job.

Professor of Diabetes Geoff Gill said: “We’re not looking for a softer option; we don’t want people driving who are a danger. This is about an interpretation of the rules that will unfairly impact on the lives of many diabetics. It could mean that people with diabetes who have been driving safely for years will lose the right to drive under these changes. They won’t only be people who use the car to drive to the shops or a football match, but those who depend on driving for their livelihoods.”

Van drivers keen on green

An industry survey suggests commercial vehicle operators are more than happy to drive greener vehicles if the costs are not prohibitive. The proverbial white van man it appears is quite ready to embrace environmental issues, which is just as well because new laws being prepared in the European Union will require him to make compulsory adjustments to his vehicle.

A survey of 2000 van drivers who purchase commercial vehicle insurance found that nearly three quarters of them would consider buying a vehicle which had the advances in technology that provide lower emissions and economies on fuel but at the same time are worried about the cost. Over 60% of them said that the cost of the van would be the determining factor.

An industry expert said “Van drivers want to be socially responsible and are willing to make green investments, but the costs associated are hard to take in the current economic climate”.

At the moment light commercial vehicles account for around 12% of carbon emissions for all vehicles in the EU and the commissioners of the union are already looking at ways this can be lowered. It is no secret that the European Parliament is ready to announce legislation that will enforce commercial vehicles to be fitted with mandatory speed limiters as they see this as the quickest and cheapest way to make vans more environmentally friendly.

Van sales on the increase

New figures announced this week show van drivers have been spending their money on more than commercial vehicle insurance over the last month. A report on last month’s sales figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders(SMMT) shows that almost 15000 light commercial vehicles were registered in April 2010, a marked increase of 6.7% on the same period  in 2009.

The boost in the April figures takes new registrations for 2010 over 70,000, an increase of 11.9% on the same period last year once more indicating the industry is coming out of the downturn.

Commenting on the promising figures, the chief executive of the SMMT Paul Everitt emphasised the importance of the role  the new Government should take in giving fleet companies extra encouragement to invest in new vehicles “The priority must be sustaining and strengthening the economic recovery with particular focus on encouraging the availability of more and better priced finance.”

One disappointing aspect of the SMMT figures was the continuing poor performance of truck sales which came in at 2,496 for April, and over 31.000 for the year on year statistics, a decline of over a third. Paul Everitt said “Demand for trucks is still running well below pre-recession levels and continues to reflect weak demand and a lack of business confidence. As our new government establishes itself, the priority must be sustaining and strengthening the economic recovery with particular focus on encouraging the availability of more and better-priced finance”

Vans to be fitted with speed limiters

It is expected that as a result of a report produced for the European Parliament that vans and commercial light vehicles will be fitted with mandatory speed limiters in the near future to stop them going any faster than 120km per hour. Although any decision has yet to be ratified, the report which was investigating carbon emissions from vans seems set to recommend that speed limiters are the answer.

The European Commission has proposed limiting van emissions to 175 grams of carbon dioxide per km by 2016, approximately one seventh below the 2007 benchmark of 203 grams.

By 2020, manufacturers would have to cut by about a third to 135 grams per km, but the parliament report advises that target could be softened to 150 grams.

The Commission proposed that manufacturers that fail to meet the standards should face penalties of 120 Euros per gram of CO2 per car, but the parliament’s report proposes easing that to 95 grams — the same level already set for cars.

The report recommends mandatory speed limiters as a solution that is technically simple, relatively inexpensive and can be actioned quickly. A bonus for van drivers who are always looking to cut down their costs whether it be on their commercial vehicle insurance or on cheap ferry sailings is that the report goes on to say that the mandatory speed limiters will have a positive effect on fuel efficiency.

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