Van drivers can be perhaps forgiven a little today if their attention is turned to their vehicles tyres. Of course many van drivers spend long hours on the roads of the UK every day, many listen to the radio and for the last 24 hours van tyres have cropped up more than once in conversations on the airwaves.
The hot topic over the last couple of days on quite a few media outlets has been the subject of potholes. The very word is enough to send some van drivers into apoplexies of anger. Nothing, especially since the demise of speed traps and cowboy clampers, is guaranteed to upset a working van driver more than potholes. Well maybe vehicle insurance does upset some equally but by and large potholes are appallingly vexing.
Potholes have been at the heart of the nations radio wavelengths this week due to the Governments announcement of an extra £100 million in grants to help local councils mend their patchwork quilts, err sorry, roads. Every van driver and indeed motorist in general, is aware of how badly the weather affected our roads in December of 2010 and so surely we should all be grateful for the Governments generosity to our councils. Not on your Nelly!
£100 million will not scratch the surface
Council chiefs have been lining up to say the extra money is more or less the same amount of extra money they get most years from the Government and so is not extra money at all. They reckon the maintenance bill will run into billions and the £100 million is simply not enough. Van drivers, held up in queues probably caused by a vehicle hitting a rut in the road and losing a wheel, have phoned up in their hundreds to tell DJ’s to tell the councils to get the roads fixed before they stop paying their road tax, meanwhile shares in tarmac producing companies rocket at the same rate as those who produce oil.
Transport Minister Philip Hammond recognised that many commercial vehicle insurance claims are caused by potholes and said the £100 million of extra money would be shared equally around the country; he seemed to ignore one wag behind him who said the extra money would be like pouring cash into a black hole!
The situation regarding traffic speed cameras appears to be getting more confusing by the day. Van drivers who reckoned their commercial vehicle insurance quote would no longer be put in jeopardy by road safety cameras may well have to think again.
Over the last 12 months many Local Authorities have decided that Government cuts have put the running and maintenance of fixed speed cameras in particular, beyond their budgets. The main bone of contention all along has been that running costs have come from the local council but the revenue stream i.e. speeding fines, ended up in central Government coffers.
The revolution started in Wiltshire and quickly spread, and in fact is still spreading. Only this month two more areas have confirmed they will be stopping the funding for fixed speed cameras. Both are in the West Country, namely South Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Change of direction
There is, however, an intriguing turn of events further down in the West Country. Devon and Cornwall authorities have also decided to turn their static speed cameras off, but are investing more money into mobile speed cameras. It takes some stretch of the imagination to believe that mobile speed cameras are cheaper to run than fixed cameras. That is of course unless mobile cameras attract better revenue.
Honesty called for
Van drivers across the country have always insisted that the function of speed cameras was at least in part to raise revenue, a statement that as always been denied by the powers that be. At long last we may have evidence to the contrary. Of course we all know that speed cameras play a part in contributing to road safety, it is the natural reaction of most drivers to slow down when they see one. That is not in dispute. All drivers know how costly it is to get on the road these days, the cost of road tax, driving lessons and insurance for vans or other vehicles makes it disastrous to lose ones licence for something so stupid as speeding points. Most drivers would just prefer a little honesty on the main focus behind the lens.
It would appear from the latest unemployment figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that there will be considerably less van drivers looking for commercial vehicle insurance over the next few months as the jobless total grows.
Women bear the brunt
The biggest victims of the latest round of job cuts appear to be young people in general, and young women in particular. The statistics show that 1 in 5 people aged between 16-24 who are eligible for work (students are not included in the figures) have no job, and in some areas of the country, for young women in this age group the figure increases to 1 in 3. Older women are not faring much better either as unemployment in the age group between 25-44 reached almost a quarter of a million for the last quarter of 2010, the highest since records began.
Winter weather played its part
Of course there will be many van drivers in these statistics, as some companies are being forced into shedding jobs due to the financial climate, to add to the misery many self employed van drivers will have seen their businesses fail. The seemingly endless increase in the price of fuel will have played a big part in the loss of jobs as will the spending cuts brought about by the Government. However, it is not only the stormy financial situation that has brought about these sad statistics. It is for certain that some haulage companies and self employed delivery drivers have suffered from the snow storms that engulfed the country in December 2010. Many transport businesses in Scotland ground to a complete halt in the weeks before Christmas leaving just the Post Office to deliver millions of parcels. It could not have happened at a worse time of year, and many have never recovered.
At the time many van drivers found themselves stuck in snowdrifts for days on end and had a thoroughly miserable time. They probably found that their courier van insurance covered them for some of the losses they incurred then, but it seems that the general public have remembered who literally came up with the goods, and those that didn’t. Many Christmas presents never arrived and it seems as though some hauliers are now paying the price.
A recent survey has shown that van drivers are not only quick to clean up on any good van insurance offers; they are pretty smart when it comes to cleaning their vans too.
The survey carried out by a company offering commercial vehicle insurance to van drivers showed that the White Van Man was more conscious of the outside appearance of his vehicle than any other road user. Apparently almost 40% of van drivers clean their vehicle on a weekly basis compared to only 15% of car drivers.
It is fairly easy to find reasons to explain this. Many van drivers use their vehicle as a means of achieving an income. The van therefore is not only an integral part of the business, in many cases it is a moving advertisement of the service on offer. It would indeed be wasteful to spend a fortune on a spray job in an attempt to draw attention to your business and then leave the van looking dirty. Consumers today are choosy when it comes to selecting tradesmen and service providers; they are unlikely to phone a number on a grubby looking vehicle.
DIY is cheaper
The survey also showed that van drivers are more careful with their cash. A clean van is, more often than not, a safe van. A safe van is less likely to have an accident which in turn will lead to cheap van insurance. The survey showed that almost 50% of van drivers clean their vehicles themselves using a bucket and soapy water. This not only saves money in regard to not having to pay charges for someone else to do the job, it also means the owner can often pick up little faults and niggles early and stop them turning into something more serious. Tyre faults are a good example of this.
Of course not all van drivers wait until they get home to wash their vehicle. Apparently 1 in 4 now use the burgeoning roadside valet services that are springing up all around the country and challenging the position of costly automated car wash stations.
The continued success story of increasing van sales goes on unchecked according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The figures for January 2011 show that commercial van insurance will have been sought for approximately 17,100 new vans last month. For that was the number of new vans registered in the UK. The figures once more reflect the determination of our motor trade to ride out the stormy financial seas and the fortitude of the retail, transport and trade speciality sections of British industry.
Experts wary of budget
Paul Everitt, the chief executive of SMMT, welcomed the good news but also warned against any complacency in the industry, as the austerity measures imposed on many sectors of trade by the Government cuts in public spending have yet to impact fully. He is not alone in thinking next month’s budget is vital to van drivers and commerce in general, many experts in the industry are warning that any increase in fuel duty or van insurance tax could have disastrous effects on the retail trade and haulage industry.
Year on year improvement
Going back to the January figures and just how good they were, is encapsulated in the fact that the 17,000+ sales for vans was almost 50% up on January 2010. The rolling year sales came in at over 228,000, up by an impressive 22% on last month and if you thought that was good, well the truck figures were even better.
The 2,467 new registration for trucks was a massive 58% improvement on January of last year and astounded many industry insiders. The rolling year figures were up by just 6% but even this is encouraging as many of the last 6 months have seen trucks showing a deficit in rolling year results.
Both truck and van results were far better than those for car sales which dropped by 11% compared to those of January 2010. Paul Everitt put a brave face on the disappointing result saying it was expected by the SMMT, and demonstrated that car showrooms were going to be under considerable pressure throughout the year to come up with the goods. One noticeable aspect of car sales was that once again cars offering fuel efficiency and low emissions were capturing more of the market.
The incentive for van drivers in the South-East and particularly London to take out commercial vehicle insurance on a Mercedes Benz vehicle will soon seem a lot more appealing as the German motor manufacturer looks to saturate the UK capital with van centres in the first part of 2011. Van manufacturers such as Ford, Vauxhall and Fiat will be looking on in consternation as the German company looks to establish itself as the main van seller in England.
Mercedes Benz Retail Group (MBRG) has issued a declaration of intent to all other van manufacturers selling vehicles in and around the capital that their business is under threat. In an operation that will be phased in throughout the first three months of the year MBRG will be launching van sites in numerous places within the M25. The sites will primarily look to boost sales of the Vito and the Sprinter, but it is not just sales of new vans that the company are focussing on, they are eyeing the whole businesses surrounding van sales.
Centres all across London
Although sites at Croydon, Brentford, East London and Colindale will offer vans for sale the company also plan to have centres in Romford, Stratford and Park Royal. These centres will offer virtually everything connected to getting and keeping a van on the road. Customers will be offered the whole gamut of choice in van ownership, from sales, servicing and parts to body shop, breakdown and recovery. Even cheap van insurance will be available to customers.
Brand loyalty sought
The group say they want Mercedes Benz van drivers to experience the full range of benefits available to owners of Mercedes vans and in doing so hope to get an edge on their rivals and at the same time create the brand loyalty that all motor manufacturers crave for.
At a time when many businesses are looking first and foremost to survive, cost cutting is a major consideration. If the new service offered by MBRG can offer savings to those in the transport business as well as tradesmen who use their vans to make a living then they could well be on to a winner.
The fight for supremacy in the van market continues apace as one manufacturer after the other release statements assuring the industry that they are putting their best foot forward in offering commercial enterprises a green solution to their motoring. Not to mention the fact that they hope their latest offering will have van fleet insurance providers knocking at the showroom doors.
Cheap van insurance or lower emissions?
It is now accepted by the industry as a whole that the first question one should ask when buying a van is exactly what green credentials the van has. Whether the industry has actually asked prospective van purchasers for instance, whether they are more interested in a good commercial vehicle insurance quote or lower CO2 emissions has not quite been verified yet but suffice it to say that the manufacturers know in their own minds what a van driver should want!
After Ford stole a march on the market with the new all electric Transit Connect, Mercedes were quick to point out the eco friendliness of the latest Sprinter. Now Vauxhall are the next manufacturers to lay down their green credentials for all to see.
They now say that their entire commercial vehicle fleet of vans can offer an “eco” model to would be buyers. They set the scene early last year with the introduction of the Corsavan ecoflex. They also offered an eco version of the Combo, Astra and of course the Movano ecoflex. Now two new Vivaro ecoflex vans complete the line up which according to Vauxhall make them the only manufacturers who offer a van with green credentials throughout their whole commercial line up.
What makes the Vauxhall vans so special?
All of the eco models have the latest start/stop technology, which it is now agreed cuts down on emissions and fuel use especially in urban situations. Vauxhall believe the new Vivaro, although not the lightest of vans, can compete with any when it comes to CO2 output. At a miserly 185 grams per kilometre it is, say Vauxhall, one of the most environmentally friendly vans on offer in the UK today. Vauxhall reckon their obsession with reducing weight in their vans has given customers a cheaper more efficient product and the convenience of having an ecoflex version of all models tells the consumer immediately which van is the most economical on emissions.