Friday, 31 January 2014

Insurance premiums for most motorists 'to fall' as driving records go online . . .


Insurance premiums for most motorists 'to fall' as driving records go online

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Moving all driving records online could reduce the cost of car insurance for most people, ministers have said.

The migration, which will be complete by mid-2015, will end the need for the "paper counterpart" document drivers have to keep with their licence.

Insurers said "honest" motorists could see premiums fall by up to £15 a year.

At the moment, insurers cannot check licence or traffic offence details when they sell policies, meaning they have to "price in" risk factors.

The Association of British Insurers says premiums are pushed up by the fact that firms have to take account of the risk that drivers either do not tell the truth about speeding points to get a lower quote, or simply make a mistake.'On trust'

"Significant cost savings" would also result from "reducing the need to obtain paper copies of licences from policyholders", the association added.

Most of us would struggle to find the official document we are meant to keep with our driving licence. But from the middle of next year we will not need to.

All the information on it - such as speeding points - will be available online. It is one of 25 public services set to go digital by 2015.

Cabinet Office minster Francis Maude says the days when government IT projects were a by-word for disaster are over.

Britain now leads the world. And it has already saved taxpayers more than a billion pounds a year.

But critics point to universal credit.

The government's flagship welfare reforms rely heavily on new IT systems - and these have been hit by cost over-runs and delays straight from the bad old days.

A system due to be launched by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will allow insurers to access the information using an individual's licence number.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said anyone with a driving licence would be able to use the online database while there will be an assisted service for those who find it difficult to use the internet. They will be able to get help from a call centre, library or post office.

Most of the UK's 40 million drivers would see falls in premiums, he suggested.

"This will enable insurers, for example, to price much more accurately, because they will not have to take anything on trust," he said.

Driving records are one of 25 public services set to go digital by 2015, with Mr Maude claiming the UK now leads the world in online migration of public services.

The paper counterpart to the driving licence photo card is due to be phased out by 2015 while it was announced in December that paper car tax discs would also be scrapped.

The DVLA said that "although some services cannot be delivered digitally, such as assessing a customer's fitness to drive, we can improve the processes supporting the delivery of these services through making greater use of digital tools".

It has not ruled out job cuts at the DVLA headquarters in Swansea, after the new digital system launches in June, but is awaiting the outcome of a review of staffing levels.'Not cheaper'

The car rental industry will also be affected by the new system - but it denied government claims that it would reduce the cost of hiring a vehicle.

"There are around 10 million car rental transactions in the UK each year and the majority of rental bookings are approved very quickly and at no cost by checking the driver endorsement and qualification information contained on the driver licence counterpart," said a spokesman for the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association.

When that is not available, rental companies rely on the DVLA's expensive telephone-based system to access driver information.

"The DVLA has confirmed its plans to withdraw the counterpart from 2015 and has promised the industry that it will provide a viable online database.

"This project has not yet begun, but we hope that any solution will be cost-effective and provide real-time, 24/7 access. Even if this is achieved, it is very unlikely to be quicker or cheaper than the current system of checking the paper driver licence counterpart."

Initially, the new system will check users' identities by asking for their postcode and National Insurance number but, in common with other digital government services, it will eventually allow people to use their bank's system to prove their identity on websites providing government services.

Clicking on an icon will allow people to complete the check required by their bank, mobile phone company, or other service provider.

The approach would cut the number of passwords people need to remember, and avoid the need for a central government system to establish identities.

"This is something that is a problem for countries that do not have an ID card system and a national ID database," said Mr Maude.

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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Car Tax Disc To Be Axed After 93 Years . . .


Car tax disc to be axed after 93 years

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The tax disc to show motorists have paid vehicle excise duty is to be replaced with an electronic system, Chancellor George Osborne has announced in his Autumn Statement.

The disc was introduced in 1921 but officials say it is no longer needed with the DVLA and police now relying on an electronic register.

The new system will allow people to pay the charge by monthly direct debit.

The Treasury said it showed government was moving "into the modern age".

It would also make "dealing with government more hassle free", a spokesman added.

At present, motorists are able to choose whether they pay VED in twelve or six month instalments.

Frankly, this change won't make a great deal of difference to most drivers, apart from removing a little bit of admin from their lives. (Yes, I do know that some people have a sentimental attachment to that small disc in the window that is usually a bit torn from trying to remove it from its perforations).

Just like now, you'll still be able to buy it online and at the Post Office, you just won't get a physical disc. You'll still get a reminder in the post a few weeks before it runs out. And you'll be able to check how long you've got left online too.

For the first time you'll also be able to pay by direct debit, for an extra 5% administration fee.

The fact is that the majority of tax evaders are caught using police cameras that automatically check your number plate, rather than someone actually looking in your window. Around 44m tax discs were issued last year. It's thought around a 800,000 people were caught driving without paying.

The latter option costs 10% extra each year, but this is expected to be cut to 5%.

The new option of paying by monthly direct debit is also expected to cost 5% more than paying for a full year in one go.

The changes are expected to come into effect in October 2014.

In the 2012 Budget, the government announced its intention to bring in a direct debit system for paying VED and said it would seek the views of motoring groups on the merits of such a change.

It also said it would "consider whether to reform VED over the medium term".

A spokesman for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) said the body received approximately 160,000 reports from members of the public of potentially un-taxed vehicles last year.

200,000 drivers in all were spotted having not paid VED last year, by the public or by the authorities - or by both, he added.

The DVLA also took action against 600,000 drivers whose non-compliance was revealed by analysis of its records, he said.
Origin of car tax: Commons in 1888

Chancellor George Goschen: Apart from the Carriage Tax, which is a tax mainly on the more luxurious carriages - carriages, used for pleasure - there is at present no tax on any other vehicles, however much they may destroy the roads.

We propose to put a duty of £1 a-year upon every vehicle exceeding 10 cwt. in weight, a very moderate limit to take.

Members will acknowledge that the principle that all those who use the roads should pay for them, and should pay in some proportion to the wear and tear that they cause, is just. But I have not yet exhausted the subject. We propose, also, to put a very small Wheel Tax upon every vehicle.

Colonel Nolan, MP for Galway North: Not on carts?

Chancellor Goschen: Yes. We propose a duty of 2s. 6d. per wheel upon all carts over 2 cwt.

Colonel Nolan: Oh!

"Evasion is estimated at 0.6% - the second lowest figure ever," he concluded.

On Twitter, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Money Box Paul Lewis wondered how prospective buyers of second-hand cars would know in future when the vehicle excise duty paid would expire.

"How will people tell if [a] vehicle's been abandoned?" he added.

After the demise of the paper disc, the Telegraph's Steve Hawkes said, enforcing the digital system would entail greater use of surveillance cameras.

"More personal data lodged and presumably sold on then," he commented.

Vehicle tax was introduced in the 1888 Budget and the system of excise duty applying specifically to motor vehicles was introduced with the Roads Act 1920, with the tax disc appearing the following year.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

School Buses Just Like Space Ships, Imagine This For The School Runs In The Inner Cities . . .

Japan Has Buses That Look Like Spaceships . . .

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It looks like the inside of some kind of space shuttle, but it’s actually the Star Fighter bus and you’ll only find it in Japan. It’s part of Willer Travel’s fleet of buses that takes people all around the country, but this one goes on a very specific tour. It takes travelers on a trip from Tokyo’s Shinjuku to Tsukuba Space Center which is like their version of NASA. If someone does this in the US, then I’ll be the first one in line to buy a ticket.

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Monday, 6 January 2014

Airless tyres are coming to your fleet


Airless tyres are coming to your fleet and why that’s a good thing

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Are we set to go back to the early days of motoring with the arrival of tyres that do without air? The airless tyre is set to make a revival thanks to Bridgestone, though they are by no means the first to try to reinvent the wheel, or at least the tyre.

Thankfully, those early horseless carriages and their solid wheels derived from horse-drawn carriages are a long way both historically and technologically from the new crop of air-free tyres.

What Bridgestone is working on, along with a number of other companies, is a tyre that looks and behaves like the ones we’re used to but without the potential to deflate. Bridgestone calls this the Air Free Concept Tyre.

This has a number of benefits, including the safety aspect that an airless tyre cannot burst in the way a standard pneumatic tyre can.

This means no dangerous blow-outs, no changing a wheel on the hard shoulder of a motorway and no need to carry a spare wheel in the first place.
Flat atmosphere

We’ve been here before, and recently, with run-flat tyres, but they are still an inflated tyre with all the attendant problems. The only difference is run-flat tyres have an incredibly stiff sidewall that prevents the carcass from collapsing so the tyre can stay on the rim and allow the driver to guide the car to a safe halt.

As we’ve seen with run-flat tyres, there are other problems with them, notably the appalling ride quality they impose on any car they are fitted to.

Don’t believe me? Try a first generation BMW 1 Series with and without run-flat tyres. The difference is night and day and run-flat tyres ruin what is otherwise a very appealing small hatch with great driving dynamics.

Run-flats have been one of the few major developments in tyre technology the general public has been aware. Ever since Dunlop created the first pneumatic bicycle tyre back in 1888, we’ve been used to much the same look and style of tyre, with only changes from crossply design to radial tyres and some updates in tread pattern and longevity to pique the public interest ever since.

All hot air?

Of course, tyre technology is one of the fastest moving, both literally and technically, areas of automotive design. It is also one of the areas of greatest interest to fleet managers and company drivers when it comes to running costs.

A new set of tyres for a typical company car such as a Ford Focus can easily cost £400. On a car that covers 20,000 miles per annum, that could easily mean £400 per year spent on new rubber.

An airless tyre will not reduce that replacement period with a longer window of safe use for a tyre as that is down to the rubber compound used. This is a balancing act of longevity versus grip, noise, rolling resistance and wet weather ability, which is one of the most challenging pieces of design work in the automotive sector.

What an airless tyre can offer fleets is a way to avoid the cost of a replacement tyre when a pneumatic one is headed for the recycling pile. If there’s no air in the tyre, it cannot deflate or be punctured.

Yes, the rubber outer of an airless tyre can be penetrated and there has to be a judgement on whether that renders the tyre unsafe or not, but this is a simple check of the tread rather than assessing whether or not there is a danger of a blow-out.

Bridgestone’s approach is to replace the pressurised air in a tyre with thermoplastic spokes that support the outer tyre. Even if the tyre is damaged, perhaps on a pothole, these spokes will continue to support the tyre.

Should the Bridgestone tyre be damaged beyond use, the company says its new design of airless tyre is more easily recycled than existing tyre designed, so it also has less of an environmental impact.

Battleground benefits

Of equal interest to fleet users will be the Bridgestone Air Free Concept Tyre’s purpose-designed low rolling resistance. This helps cut carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn means lower Company Car Tax for you and me.

There are other applications for airless tyres that are somewhat outside of the usual company car concerns. As with many new technologies, money from governments looking at ways to improve their military capabilities is also driving research.

When a puncture can mean the difference between life and death in a battle situation, a tyre that cannot be punctured by a roadside bomb or bullet is a great idea. This is why so many firms are working on this idea, such as the Michelin Tweel and that of Resilient Technologies in the USA.

As with many military projects, the spin-off benefits will filter down to mainstream drivers sooner or later. In the case of airless tyres, this should be earlier and Bridgestone has hinted it intends to have working prototypes of its Air Free Concept Tyre on the road and in development in the first half of 2014.
Coming to fleets from 2017?

So, when are we likely to see a full production airless tyre on sale and on our company cars? That’s a tougher question to answer than simply building the tyre as there are legislative hurdles to be overcome through testing.

There is also the small point of convincing car companies that an airless tyre is a good idea for them to fit to their cars. Without an original fitment agreement, it will be a struggle to sell airless tyres to customers and fleets tend to go with an original equipment replacement.

Car companies will also want to test any of its cars with airless tyres to ensure they don’t suffer the same negative reception BMW experienced with the first generation of 1 Series.

So, the Smart money suggests an airless tyre will not be on the market before 2017. However, when this technology does arrive, it could well consign to the history bin the tyres we’re so used to today.

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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Rise in cycling fines welcomed by motoring groups


Rise in cycling fines welcomed by motoring groups

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If you thought that drivers were the only ones being targeted by increased fines and penalties then think again: as a new report by The Herald in Scotland reveals there has been a surge in the number of cyclists stopped for committing road offences.

According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, there were 193 fixed penalty notices issued to cyclists in the Lothian and Borders area in 2012/13: that’s a leap from just 99 two years earlier and 119 in 2011/2012. Separate statistics for the rest of Scotland suggest that reported cycling offences have leapt from 298 in 2010/11 to 369 in 2012/13.

The fines are being issued for a number of offences: ranging from riding on the pavement to cutting through red lights.

The surge in prosecutions has been welcomed by motoring groups, including the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Neil Grieg, the IAM’s director of policy, is quoted as saying that “cyclists must exercise responsibility if they want to be taken seriously as a mainstream form of transport.” He highlights that motorists often feel as though cyclists get in the way with bad behaviour.

Similarly Edmund King, the president of the AA, is quoted as saying that the increase in cycling would naturally lead to more offences: and that al road users have a responsibility to meet the highway code.

According to Cycling Scotland, enforcement is key in making roads safer, along with improving infrastructure for both pedestrians and cyclists and increasing education.

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