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New drivers will face a much tougher test

It would appear that today’s new breed of van driver may well be a little older and have a little less cash in his pocket if the experts predictions about the new driving test come to fruition. The driving test is celebrating its 75th birthday and during all those years it has more or less stayed the same. However, on October 4th 2010 the new driving test will start, and before the prospective van driver can even think about getting a commercial vehicle insurance quote, he will first have to negotiate the 2 major changes from how the current test works.  Firstly, instead of having to carry out 2 driving manoeuvres, the new requirement will only require one. The reason for this change is to make time for the new “independent driving” section of the test which is the second and really fundamental change to the examination.

The new “independent driving” part of the driving test will last around 10 minutes during which the examiner will not give the driver any instructions. Instead the examiner will give up to four directions whilst the vehicle is stationary, and the driver will have to drive to a location from memory. An example of this would have the examiner saying something akin to “Drive to the second roundabout and then take the 3rd exit, then take the fourth road on the left, and at the next roundabout take the 3rd exit.”

The driving agency carried out research which suggests the pass rate will drop from 42% to a mere 18%, which is less then 2 out of every 10. These changes have had a mixed response from all the different motoring groups, some like the idea saying it will prepare drivers for the real world as the test will be much more realistic and increase the standard of new drivers coming onto our roads, but would still prefer the test to include a section on motorway driving, while others say it will be just too hard to pass.

The new test which will take about 40 minutes to complete, ten minutes longer than the previous one, will be introduced on October 4 and cost the same £62. Learners will still have to take the theory test which was introduced in 1996.

John Lepine, general manager of the Motor Schools Association, said: ‘If the pass rates drop by those figures it will be a massive extra cost to learner drivers who already have a lot to pay. That’s a crazy amount for test results to plummet by.’

Drive safely whatever the weather

One of the best feelings in the world is hearing the driving test examiner say “I am happy to say that you have passed the driving test”. From that moment, one thing is 100% certain, during the years of driving; many different driving conditions will be experienced. A big part of becoming both a skilful and experienced driver is learning the best methods of safe driving when road conditions are far from ideal. While taking driving lessons it is unlikely that all the dangers such as snow, ice, rain, sleet, hail, fog and wind will have been encountered. It is important when the driving conditions are dangerous to know how to drive, not just for the safety of the driver but also passengers and other road users. Van drivers, who are on the road more than most, need to be aware of adverse driving conditions to avoid making a claim on their Commercial Vehicle Insurance Policy.

Fog will reduce substantially what can be seen, so it is important to use the fog lights, drive slower than normal and leave plenty of room between your car and the car in front. If the fog is extreme, the car in front will not always be visible, so extra care is needed as fog will distort ones perception of speed and distance. Always check mirrors more often. Do not increase the speed of the car as soon as your visibility has returned, if the fog is patchy it could return in a few metres.

Rain is the most common weather that will be faced in the UK. When driving in rain slow the speed of the vehicle down. The road becomes much more slippery during wet conditions; one reason for this is the oil on the road will have mixed with the rainwater, which will create a treacherous surface. Like fog, visibility will be reduced. Braking should be done earlier and with less force than normal.  Make sure the tires have a good tread and have enough air in them, as under inflated tires can contribute to hydroplaning on wet roadways.

In snow or ice, driving can pose many challenges. Vehicles can get stuck in snowy conditions even on roads you are familiar with, forcing anybody in the vehicle to spend the night on the roadside. In snow it is important to get the speed correct. Go too fast and risk losing control of the vehicle, too slow there is a risk of losing momentum. If the vehicle skids the important thing to remember is don’t use the pedals, just steer, and only use the brakes if the vehicle is unable to steer out of trouble. Normal stopping distances should be doubled or even tripled from the vehicle in front.

In High Winds keep a firm grip on the steering wheel as a sudden gust can cause the vehicle to be blown into another lane. Wind very rarely blows steadily, and a sudden gust can surprise even experienced drivers and remember that the faster the vehicle is going, the further off-course it will drift if a sudden gust wind hits the vehicle. Most affected by wind are high sided vehicles and caravans, but in truth any vehicle is at risk. If the van breaks down whilst on the motorway, bear in mind that any vehicle can be blown suddenly off course and crash into anything on the hard shoulder. In these conditions it is much safer to wait in a safe place rather than wait in the van.

Beware the faulty alternator

It is a cold dark morning, with snow starting to fall. Jumping into the van on the way to work, you start the engine which does so grudgingly after failing to catch the first few times. The heater finally starts to remove the freezing conditions in the van and the radio starts to cut out, soon after the lights on the dashboard start to dim. After a few minutes the heater and the radio cut out completely. As the cold returns to the vehicle the headlights start to flicker and get to the point of being highly dangerous, and finally the engine starts to miss, before, as with everything else in the van it stops working. This is just one example of a vehicle alternator taking its final breath.

The alternator is a very important part of a vehicle’s charging and electrical system. You can find it near the engine of the vehicle and is easy to spot as it is a belt-driven device. The alternator has a small pulley mechanism attached to it on the front side, the alternator belt rides on this pulley and is responsible for the working of the alternator. At the centre of the alternator is basically a big magnet surrounded by coils and wires. When the alternator belt spins the alternator, the magnet will rotate around the collection of coils and wire, which causes an electrical/magnetic field to develop. The alternator then uses this electrical/magnetic field to send power to all the vehicle components and will also recharge the battery. The alternator works together with the battery to supply power when the vehicle is running. The output of an alternator is a direct current, however AC voltage is actually what is created and this is then converted to a DC voltage as it leaves the alternator on its way to the battery. It is vital that the alternator gives a good performance because if it does not it will be unable to supply power to any demanding devices the vehicle may have. Because of this, many people have bought high power alternators.

If the engine of the vehicle begins stalling or cutting out, it is one of the best indications that the alternator is too weak to keep the vehicle going. If this happens, stop driving the vehicle to prevent additional damage to the vehicle. Continuing to drive the vehicle while this is happening, could cause it to overheat which can lead to a much more serious problem, such as a blown engine, if this happens while driving it could mean a call to your commercial vehicle insurance company.

A warning sign that the alternator of the vehicle may be starting to fail is often an unusual noise emanating from beneath the bonnet. A failing alternator will lead to failure of the bearings, and this could cause a spinning or a rattling noise coming from the alternator. If this sound is heard it is a very strong indication that the alternator is on its way out. If this noise is heard, get it looked at by a mechanic who will be able to say if the alternator is shot.

Berlingo still a driving force for vans

The Citroën Berlingo van is one of the best selling vans in the UK, and is a popular choice for many commercial vehicle insurance customers. When you see a Berlingo, you would describe it as practical, reliable and also versatile. It has a very modern look and year after year the Berlingo continues to be top of the list in the small van market.

Whichever version you decide on, you will not be let down. The vehicle has an excellent level of versatility, and if required for business use, is very easy to adapt to suit whatever working requirements are necessary. And you do have a choice of vans to choose from.

  • Berlingo Panel Van
  • Berlingo L2 Panel Van
  • Berlingo Crew Van
  • Berlingo Platform cab
  • Berlingo First

A Berlingo is not just versatile and practical; it is also secure and safe having drivers airbag fitted as standard. Central locking and an immobiliser are also fitted as standard on every Berlingo model. All Berlingo vans, apart from the entry-level  have a dual fold passenger seat that doubles as a desk, a radio, electric windows/mirrors and doors that will lock you in automatically when your speed gets above 6mph. It is not a common site to see either a passenger or a driver jumping out of a speeding Berlingo, but it is there for safety. None of the Berlingos in the range are going to get your heart beating faster when driving one, but that’s the same for any van really.

Inside, the van’s fittings are tasteful and pleasing to look at. It has a digital centre console which is full of handy and important information, a useful addition as a van driver is on the road more than the average driver. It has buttons which could be described as chunky, a very decent storage space and circular vents are placed all around. Some rivals have better quality plastics on the interior and you will see better looking vans on the road, but Citroën has always tried to keep things simple on the Berlingo. In a climate where money is still tight, you can do far worse than buy a Berlingo.

The Berlingo has a choice of five different colours; Artic Steel, Polar White, Iron Grey Pearlescent, Passion Red and Black. With a variety of optional extras including;

  • Rear Door Ladders – Tube Step/heavy duty step
  • Tow-bars Single/Twin both with electrics
  • Bluetooth Phone Kits
  • Ply lining (this Depends on your vehicle size)
  • Reversing Sensors

Security Locks, either Dead Lock/slam lock or Arm-plate or Security Trackers

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W E Bedford Insurance Services Ltd, Argent House, Argent Court, Hook Rise South,
Tolworth, KT6 7LD is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Our FCA Register number is 305737

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