Saturday, 30 July 2016

Paris drives old cars off its streets . . .


Paris drives old cars off its streets

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A man holds a leaflets as French police speaks to a driver with a car older than 20 years to explain a new law to fight air pollution at the Place de la Nation square in Paris, France, July 1, 2016.

Paris banned old, exhaust-belching cars from its streets on Friday in a war on air pollution that environmentalists hope will also drive dirty vehicles from the centers of other European cities.

Air pollution, in large part caused by fine particulate fuel emissions, kills 48,000 people each year in France, some 400,000 in Europe and around 3.7 million worldwide, data published by France's public health agency this month showed.

Any car registered before Jan. 1, 1997, will be barred from the city's streets from Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Some owners protested by parking their vehicles near the National Assembly and Champs Elysees avenue to denounce a ban they say will hurt poor people most and slash the resale value of their vehicles.

"I drive 50 km per week, I don't have the means to change vans so I will continue using it, I'll get fined every week and there you go," said Marc Martin, who uses his aging Peugeot van to deliver picture frames to clients.

"And if it goes too far, I'll close my business, people will lose their jobs, that's it. What can I say, not much. This law is pathetic."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says the ban could be extended in 2020 to all combustion-engine cars more than nine years old.

After an initial tolerance period, motorists who flout the ban face fines of 35 euros ($39), an amount that is set to jump from the end of the year.

Upwards of half-a-million owners in and around Paris will be hit by the ban, according to a driver defense group, 40 million d'Automobilistes, which is taking legal action to seek financial compensation for drops in the value of now-banned vehicles.

Norway is planning to ban petrol- and diesel-fueled cars from 2025 and several cities in Europe are testing various anti-pollution or anti-congestion measures based on tolls for city center access or temporary and selective car bans during surges in pollution levels.

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Friday, 29 July 2016

Highway Code: Rules for Cycles - Bus Lanes . . .


Rules for cyclists - Bus lanes

The Highway Code applies to England, Scotland and Wales and is essential reading for everyone. 

Rule 65

Bus Lanes. Most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs. Watch out for people getting on or off a bus. Be very careful when overtaking a bus or leaving a bus lane as you will be entering a busier traffic flow. Do not pass between the kerb and a bus when it is at a stop.

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Thursday, 28 July 2016

Government slammed for £6billion plan to turn hard shoulders into additional lanes on 300 miles of British motorway . . .


Government slammed for £6billion plan to turn hard shoulders into additional lanes on 300 miles of British motorway

MPs say plans are too dangerous and not properly considered
Fears emergency services won;t be able to reach accidents
Scheme criticised as a cut-price way to expand motorway capacity 

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Plans to covert hard shoulders into permanent driving lanes over the next nine years - costing £6billion - to reduce congestion on Britain's busy motorways have been criticised by MPs over safety concerns.

The Government intends to expand the number of motorways using all lanes on 300 miles of road network, which will see hard shoulders being used by motorists travelling at the national speed limit.

But the Transport Select Committee has coined the scheme too 'radical' and said the safety implications would be 'an unacceptable price to pay' to reduce the number of jams on UK roads.

All Lane Running not all right: The Commons Transport Select Committee said plans to turn hard shoulders into driving lanes on 300 miles of British motorways is an unsafe measure to improve congestion on UK roads

MPs on the Commons Transport Select Committee issued their verdict on the scheme called 'All lane running' on Thursday, concluding that that the plans are too dangerous and not properly considered.

Different to the 'smart motorway' system also currently in force, the all-lane scheme wouldn't just use the hard shoulder at peak times - instead it would eradicate the emergency lane altogether along 300 miles of motorways up and down the country.

The first of these all lane driving motorway was introduced on eight miles of the M25 between junctions 23 and 25 in 2014 in response to forecasts of a 60 per cent increase in traffic of British motorways by 2040. 

But MPs on the committee said the plans are not an 'incremental change' or a logical extension of smart motorway scheme, where hard shoulders were used during rush-hour congestion only.

Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said: 'The permanent removal of the hard shoulder is a dramatic change.

'All kinds of drivers, including the emergency services, are genuinely concerned about the risk this presents.

'It is undeniable that we need to find ways of dealing with traffic growth on the strategic network. But All Lane Running does not appear to us to be the safe, incremental change the Department wants us to think it is.'

Critics have accused the plan as being a way of expanding motorway capacity at a low cost. 

The Government intends to go ahead with the All Lane Running scheme over the next nine years, which would cost £6billion to implement 

Ellman added that the Government now needs to prove that the 30 all-lane motorways will not make the roads any less safe than they were when they had a hard shoulder.

And while she backed the existing smart motorway scheme that has proved to be a success on the M42 since 2006, she voiced the committees concerns of a decline in standards of similar systems introduced since. 

'The Committee heard significant concerns about the scarcity, size and misuse of emergency refuge areas,' she continued.

'We also heard about worryingly high levels of non-compliance with Red X signals. Levels of public awareness and confidence about using these motorway schemes are unacceptably low.

'Government needs to demonstrate considerable improvement in this area, including more emergency refuge areas, driver education and enforcement, before the Committee will endorse the extension of a scheme which risks putting motorists in harm's way.'

Experts have warned that the use of the hard shoulder by the general public as a driving lane would prevent emergency services from responding as quickly as possible to incidents 

Both the AA and RAC have called for the plans to be scrapped after the DfT said there were 592 incidents involving recovery vehicles on the sections of motorway using All Lane Running last year

The committee's verdict has attracted the backing of the RAC, which has been vocal in opposing the plans since they were first introduced in April two years ago. 

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: 'Whilst supporting smart motorways as a cost-effective and relatively rapid way of increasing motorway capacity, the RAC has repeatedly expressed concerns about the latest design which turns the hard shoulder on motorways into a permanent running lane.


Both the AA and the RAC have conducted their own surveys on 'all lane running' motorways since 2015, with many drivers saying they'd be concerned about where to stop if their car broke down.

The RAC conducted a survey of its members, and found that only 28 per cent of those who have broken down on All Lane Running sections of motorway could see an emergency refuge area to pull into. 

The AA also conducted a survey of almost 20,000 of its members, finding that 41 per cent would stop as safely as possible as soon as they could, trying to move to the nearside, if they broke down on a section of all lane running motorway.

There were also fears that stricken vehicles could then pose a further risk for the recovery services. 

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, the Department for Transport confirmed that there were 592 incidents involving recovery on the sections of motorway using All Lane Running in 2015.

This was the highest number of incidents involving recovery since Highways England took on Traffic Officer duties in 2007.

'The safety of motorists must come first and therefore new designs need to be trialled for sufficiently long to demonstrate their safety before they are introduced more widely.'

Edmund King, the AA president, added: 'Breaking down on a motorway in a live running lane is every driver's worst fear.

'Right from the outset the AA raised substantive safety concerns, also voiced by our members, over the dangers of breaking down on a motorway without a hard shoulder or with an inadequate number and size of lay-bys.

'Whilst we need to increase capacity and reduce congestion we must ensure that we are not cutting corners which compromise safety just to reduce costs.'

In response to the outcry for the plans to be scrapped, a Department for Transport spokesman said: 'All Lane Running roads are designed to be as safe as ordinary motorways.

'In the two All Lane Running sections on the M25, accidents were down 17 per cent and casualty rates fell by 21 per cent in the first year.

'As the committee recognise, the busiest journey times have almost halved, and overall journey times are more reliable and predictable than before.

'We will be considering all the Transport Select Committee's findings carefully and responding shortly.'

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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

South Korea hopes traffic signs will cut phone distractions . . .


South Korea hopes traffic signs will cut phone distractions

Seoul wants you to keep your eyes on the path ahead.

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Cities have tried a number of exotic solutions to get phone-toting pedestrians to focus on where they're going (or at least, out of the way). However, Seoul thinks there's a simpler answer: traffic signs. The South Korean capital is testing signs that warn smartphone owners in five accident-prone areas (such as City Hall or Gangnam Station) about the perils of distracted walking. In theory, those periodic reminders will have you looking up more often and spare you from smacking into a car.

Whether or not the trial expands will depend on the effectiveness of the signs, and there's no certainty that they'll work. The whole problem is that people are buried in their screens -- will they look up for long enough to notice, let alone care? It's hard to imagine Seoul officials giving up on the idea quickly, though. While smartphones are popular in many places, South Korea is particularly obsessed given that both LG and Samsung call the country home. Even a cursory reminder to pay attention may have a tangible effect.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Highway Code: Country Roads . . .


Country Roads

The Highway Code applies to England, Scotland and Wales and is essential reading for everyone. 

Rule 154

Take extra care on country roads and reduce your speed at approaches to bends, which can be sharper than they appear, and at junctions and turnings, which may be partially hidden. Be prepared for pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, slow-moving farm vehicles or mud on the road surface. Make sure you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. You should also reduce your speed where country roads enter villages.

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Monday, 25 July 2016

Sweden debuts the world's first 'electric highway' . . .


Sweden debuts the world's first 'electric highway'

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Fossil fuels are bad for the planet, and freight haulage is one of the more carbon-intensive activities that operate today. That's why Siemens and Scania have teamed up to trial what's being called the world's first "electric highway." Much like an electrified railroad, the 1.2 mile stretch has a series of wires hanging overhead that a pantograph-equipped truck can connect to. Then, the vehicle can deactivate its fuel-burning engine and coast along on that delicious, dirt-cheap electricity, switching back when the wires stop.

Scania official Claes Erixon has said that the project is "one important milestone on the journey towards fossil-free transport." Cleantech Canadaquotes an unnamed Siemens representative, who says the move could cut energy consumption in half. As it stands, this is the culmination of a two-year project to develop this test track, with more work to be done to determine if it could be rolled out across the country. That is, unless, analternative freight-transport network that's even more energy-efficient and speedy, can make its case to governments across the world.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Diesels more polluting below 18C, research suggests


Diesels more polluting below 18C, research suggests

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Pollution from many popular diesel cars is much worse when it is colder than 18C outside, new research suggests.

Testing company Emissions Analytics told the BBC it has measured a significant rise in poisonous gas emissions from a wide range of models as the temperature drops.

It found the problem is worst among the Euro 5 category of cars, which became mandatory in 2011.

The firm tested 213 models across 31 manufacturers.

The finding means millions of vehicles could be driving around much of the time with their pollution controls partly turned off.

But it seems many cars are deliberately designed that way and it is all perfectly legal.
Taking advantage

European rules allow manufacturers to cut back on pollution controls as long as it is to protect the engine.

Engineers agree that hot and cold weather can damage components.

But some suggest car companies are taking advantage of the rule to switch things off, even in mild weather, because it improves the miles per gallon of the car.

"I would say from the Euro 5 generation of cars, it's very widespread, from our data. Below that 18 degrees [Celsius], many have higher emissions... the suspicion is, to give the car better fuel economy," Emissions Analytics CEO Nick Molden told the BBC.

"If we were talking about higher emissions below zero, that would be more understandable and there are reasons why the engine needs to be protected. But what we've got is this odd situation where the [temperature] threshold has been set far too high, and that is a surprise".

Carmakers insist it is to stop the vehicles breaking down.

There are currently 5.1 million Euro 5 diesels on Britain's roads and they are likely to be driving around for another 10 to 15 years.

The Emissions Analytics data found the average Euro 5 vehicle was 3.6 times over the legal limit for poisonous Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) when it was above 18C. But that increased to 4.6 times over the limit, when the air temperature dropped.

The latest generation of Euro 6 cars, on sale from September last year, were better, he added.

They averaged 2.9 times the limit above 18C, rising to 4.2 times the limit at lower temperatures, but the figures were skewed by three especially bad performers, Mr Molden said, although he refused to name those cars.

Asked if millions of diesel cars are currently driving around for most of the year, not using their pollution cleaning systems at all Mr Molden replied:

"That is the suspicion, or they're using their emissions system at a reduced level".
Governments agree

Recent testing by the German, French and UK governments uncovered a similar trend.

Many popular models polluted more when it was colder.

In Britain for example, experts checked the same Euro 5 Range Rover Sport early on a cold morning, and then later in the day when it had warmed up. Its pollution (NOx) levels nearly doubled when it was colder.

Jaguar Land Rover said it was a car that was engineered 10 years ago and had the best emissions equipment available at the time. It is not on sale any more.

Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas from Imperial College London, the independent engineer overseeing the British tests, told the BBC that despite decades designing engines he was "shocked" at the higher pollution levels on the real road compared to the lab.

He is calling for carmakers to be more open about what they do with temperature.

"They need to be clear as to what strategies are employed," he said.

The German government has asked Opel, Mercedes, VW, Porsche and Audi to upgrade the software controlling emissions on around 630,000 European vehicles, including thousands in the UK.

Unlike in Germany though, the UK government hasn't asked car firms to make changes.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The regulations are clear that temperature control devices can be justified to prevent engine damage, but we want to see action to ensure that manufacturers are only using these systems in limited circumstances".

Still, some argue that ministers are failing to get tough on powerful carmakers which employ lots of people in Britain.
What the car firms say

Carmakers keep engineering details close to their chest, so we don't know for certain how any of their systems work and at what temperatures. They argue that this information is commercially sensitive and stress they haven't broken any rules.

But there is some information available that gives clues.

Vauxhall has been accused by German media of not using one of its diesel cleaning systems for 80% of the time on one model. It is something the company flatly denies.

"Exhaust gas recirculation [the emissions cleaning system] remains active at temperatures below 17C, however, for physical reasons related to engine protection as permitted by the regulations, with differing rates", a spokesperson for the firm said.

In other words it is on, but not at full strength below 17C.

Suzuki said it is changing the software on 3,200 cars in the UK, all of which use Fiat engines, and added it is linked to temperature. Fiat could not provide numbers but did say: "As a voluntary measure, not mandated or requested by any regulatory authorities, FCA will be updating its Euro 6 calibrations with new data sets to improve emission performance in real driving conditions".

Renault is offering anyone with a car bought from September last year to July this year a software upgrade that will double the temperature range of the emissions system.

And Mercedes say they will adjust around 26,000 A class and B class models in the UK, all with Renault engines and it will lower NOx levels.

Ford says its system works normally until it gets to -10C outside.

Mike Hawes, the chief executive of industry body The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, told the BBC: "Any manufacturer that's responded has done so on a voluntary basis, because all the vehicles that have been put on the road are legal. It's a small number".

Mr Hawes also stressed that it was all about protecting engine parts, which is good for customers.

European regulations will begin to get much tighter from 2017 although they will not be fully in place until 2021. Mike Hawes says it will get rid of this temperature issue completely.

What it will not do of course, is deal with the millions of cars driving around for the next 15 years that could be affected.

Pollution is a balancing act.

The down side of cutting NOx gases is that the engine uses more fuel. The more fuel you use, the more carbon dioxide the car puts out and that's a greenhouse gas that harms the planet.

Emissions Analytics found that, in 2015, average mpg dropped for the first time in years. Probably because the car firms are concentrating more on cleaning up NOx.

"That is evidence that the tightening emissions regulations are having a negative effect on mpg," Mr Molden says. Although he thinks vehicle engineers will eventually find a way around the problem.
Why does it matter?

Pollution has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems and premature babies. There is a suggestion that children going to school near busy roads may develop smaller lungs.

Professor Frank Kelly at King's College London has been calling for tighter rules for years, especially with diesel vehicles.

"On average we think pollution is probably taking away about six months of life for the average British citizen," he says.

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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Fleet operators could test their own vehicles . . .


Fleet operators could test their own vehicles

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Currently, only DVSA examiners can carry out annual roadworthiness tests on heavy vehicles. (Image DVSA Crown copyright)

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published its motoring services strategy, in which it outlines how its three executive motoring agencies – the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) – will operate in the future.

Of particular interest to the freight sector are the suggestion that the off-road component of LGV driving tests could be examined by third parties rather than DVSA examiners, and the possibility that employees of private companies will be allowed to perform annual roadworthiness tests on heavy vehicles – including, potentially, their own.

Entitled Safe, Secure, Sustainable, the document highlights the progress of DVSA in divesting itself of much of its network of publicly-owned vehicle testing stations.

It outlines aims to continue to expand the network of authorised testing facilities (ATFs) for trucks and buses – of which there are now more than 500 nationwide, owned by hauliers, PSV operators, councils, dealerships and commercial workshops – and also explicitly states that the tests themselves may in future be carried out by qualified individuals who are not DVSA employees.

Currently, though ATFs are privately owned, only DVSA examiners can conduct the actual annual tests.

The report says: “We are currently looking at whether some of the vehicle testing currently conducted by DVSA examiners could be performed by suitably qualified examiners in the private sector.

“Firms already test their own light vehicles under the main MOT provisions; we are examining whether a similar approach would be suitable in relation to other categories of vehicles.”

Acknowledging concerns over difficulties in recruiting sufficient new truck drivers, the motoring services strategy looks at ways of increasing the capacity for testing new entrants. It makes a commitment to “timely test slot availability” and examines the possible separation of the on-highway and off-highway (reversing) elements of the practical driving test, and liberalising test provision.

Currently, companies with operating licences, and the emergency services, can employ their own truck or bus driving test examiner (a so-called delegated examiner) – but the individual must conduct 40 driving tests a year, and the candidates must all be employees of the company that he works for.

This provision is to be retained, but will possibly be extended to allow the testing of employees of other operators’ employees. Currently the 40-test threshold makes it impossible for all but the largest of companies to employ their own driving test examiner.

Turning to periodic training, the report admits that: “In its early days, driver training for the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) had a mixed reputation in the industry…

“We believe that, properly planned and utilised, it can play a significant part in making roads safer and reducing pollution through eco-driving.

“We will explore how the value of CPC can be better communicated in the industry, and whether CPC components can be aligned with recognised NVQ courses (or vice versa) while still meeting EU requirements. The haulage and passenger carrying industries are best placed to design, and thus improve, the quality of training.”

The report considered, and rejected, calls from the House of Commons transport select committee, to make ‘vulnerable road user’ (cyclist and pedestrian) awareness training a compulsory part of the Driver CPC syllabus – calling such a requirement “overly burdensome” – but says that DVSA is working with industry to encourage trainers to cover the topic where appropriate to the course subject.

With regard to business users generally, the DfT is aiming to make its agencies more company-friendly, pointing out that many of the current public-facing systems are optimised for the use of a private individual with one or two vehicles, and are rather more difficult to navigate for a commercial concern with a large fleet of cars, vans and trucks.

It acknowledges that: “for professional drivers and commercial enterprises, delays in service delivery by the agencies is not just an inconvenience, but a threat to their livelihood.”

The operator licensing system is singled out for improvement, with major innovations coming later this year. The ‘Earned Recognition’ scheme for reputable operators – which will see those with strong compliance records open up their vehicle and driver data to remote access by DVSA – will be offered to all eligible companies that wish to take it up.

Small bodybuilders and the like are assured that VCA (the vehicle approval body) will remain as a ‘one-stop shop’ for vehicle examination and approval.

The DfT is also looking for opportunities to save money by sharing ‘back office’ facilities between its various agencies.

Some of the proposals have been welcomed by industry groups. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it had “given a clear lead in lobbying” for the move towards ATF staff, rather than just DVSA examiners, being able to perform annual tests – adding that it had “urged the Department to press ahead with the change as a priority” since it would “boost investment in equipment and training.”

James Firth, head of licensing policy and compliance information at the Freight Transport Association FTA) said: “We are pleased that government has committed to have a proper look at allowing non-government employees to examine the LGV annual roadworthiness test. Many FTA members have been asking for this for some years.

“Our members are all agreed that standards and safety must come first, but if done in the right way this could offer tremendous flexibility for the industry,” he said.

Mr Firth also welcomed the proposal to liberalise driving test provision, saying that increasing availability of delegated examiners would “increase uptake and availability of driving tests to people trying to get into the industry.”

He pointed out that of the 100 or so delegated examiners in the country, only two were currently operating in the LGV sector, because “road freight companies are too small to be able to satisfy the existing requirements.”

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Friday, 22 July 2016

UK HGV market up by a fifth . . .


UK HGV market up by a fifth

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Rigids, such as this DAF Euro 6 Silent CF 290 FAN 6×2 rear-steer truck going into service with Martin Brower for McDonald’s, formed the bulk of the increase in registrations

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders have revealed that the British HGV market grew by almost a fifth in the first quarter of 2016 – with more than 10,000 new vehicles over six tonnes registered.

Rigids were the driver of the growth, said SMMT, with a 48 per cent rise in the 16+ tonne category, more than making up for the small decline in registrations in the three-axle artic bracket.

Meanwhile, new PSV registrations, totalling just under 2,000, also saw steady growth, at two per cent in the first quarter. Demand for minibuses was the driving factor here, which grew more than 10 per cent, compared to small declines for single and double-deckers.

Mike Hawes, chief executive at the SMMT, said: “This is a positive start to the year for the heavy truck market, with demand having stabilised following the regulatory upheaval seen in 2014.

“Large rigids saw more moderate growth than at the end of 2015 – a sign that the sector is set for a continued, steady period of growth.”

On the PSV market he added: “Following significant increases in the bus and coach markets last year, it is pleasing to see a positive start to 2016.

“However, given the nature of variability in demand in these sectors and continued uncertainty surrounding policy areas such as the Bus Services Bill, prospects for continued growth throughout the year should be considered cautiously.”

“It is positive to see that demand for heavy trucks showed a strong and stable growth in the first quarter of 2016,” said Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association.

“In addition to the overall increase of 19.2 per cent in the UK in Q1, it is extremely encouraging to see that HGV registrations experienced a massive growth of 40 per cent in Scotland, albeit this is a smaller market in terms of volume.

“The NFDA is pleased to see that truck dealers feel confident that the HGV market will stay strong throughout the remainder of 2016, in line with last year’s result.”

Detailed analysis of the SMMT figures will follow in Transport Operator’s July/August issue.

Meanwhile, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) reported that the European heavy truck market increased by 22.2 per cent in April, compared to the same month last year – including massive growth in Italy of 70.4 per cent. Spain, Germany and France also posted significant increases of between 18 and 32 per cent. Overall demand for new CVs in the EU increased for the sixteenth consecutive month.

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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Plan to get ex-servicemen truck driving . . .


Plan to get ex-servicemen truck driving

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Telematics provider Microlise has joined forces with charity Care After Combat and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) to set up Road to Logistics: a pathway by which vulnerable former service personnel can be trained and mentored into jobs as truck drivers.

Launching Road to Logistics at the Microlise Transport Conference in Coventry, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Those who have served us in the forces deserve our help if things don’t work out when they leave. The charity Care After Combat, championed by comedian Jim Davidson, helps a significant number of ex-service personnel who end up homeless, have health issues or fall foul of the law.

“The RHA, together with telematics experts Microlise, can help Care After Combat give these vulnerable heroes a career by setting them up with a job as a truck driver. This new initiative, Road to Logistics, will help address the chronic shortage of truck drivers in the UK currently estimated to be 45,000.”

He continued: “This industry needs drivers and Care After Combat has an excellent source for potential drivers. Microlise will create the training academies, and we, through our membership, have the jobs. By working together, we can make sure that Road to Logistics helps three organisations achieve their goals.”

Road to Logistics will create and maintain a national training programme, which the RHA says will: “encourage new talent into the transport and logistics industry from sections of society where individuals need help and support to regain their self-confidence and independence.”

Candidates will be assessed for suitability prior to the training, including a thorough medical examination. Those who pass will be expected to sign up to a strict code of conduct covering all aspects of their behaviour and professionalism, to ensure prospective employers’ confidence in the process.

Richard Burnett added: “Such is our confidence in the Road to Logistics programme that we will be taking the results to Westminster to gain a permanent funding stream for further entrants into the academies.”

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

DfT: HGV levy ‘justified’ . . .


DfT: HGV levy ‘justified’

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The transport minister Lord Ahmad has called the HGV road user levy “justified and consistent with the free movement of goods”, following the recent news (Transport Operator, May) that the European Commission had challenged the legality of the tax under EU law.

The Commission’s challenge stems from the fact that the levy de facto only applies to foreign-registered vehicles, since it is offset for most UK fleets by a concurrent reduction in vehicle excise duty. This, it argued, discriminates against non-UK hauliers, thereby violating the principles of the European single market.

Lord Ahmad was responding to a written parliamentary question tabled by Lord Stoddart of Swindon, asking the government whether it planned to contest the Commission’s decision.

“The government considers that the levy is justified and consistent with the free movement of goods, and will respond to the Commission in due course,” said Lord Ahmad.

The Road Haulage Association recently called the Commission’s challenge to the levy “nonsense”.

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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Van fleets ‘to face compliance crackdown’ . . .


Van fleets ‘to face compliance crackdown’

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Van owners can look forward to a crackdown by the police and the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), thanks to mounting concerns over slipshod maintenance and overloading.

That is the stark warning issued by Mark Cartwright (pictured, right), head of vans and light commercial vehicles at the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

Cartwright points out that almost 50 per cent of vans grossing at from 3.0 to 3.5 tonnes fail their Class 7 MoT test first time round, according to DVSA statistics. That is a far higher failure rate than that of any other class of vehicle, and a clear indication that maintenance is often inadequate.

“It’s the sort of figure that’s like a red rag to legislators,” he says.

Vans lighter than 3.0 tonnes are included in Classes III and IV for test purposes. The categories also include passenger cars, although the failure rates for cars and vans are not separated out.

Cartwright suggests, however, that there is no reason to believe that smaller vans are any more adept at passing their MoT test on first presentation than their bigger counterparts.

“That means there could be as many as 1.65 million unroadworthy vans on the road,” he contends.

If true, then that is not a figure the authorities will be prepared to ignore.

He does not believe the government has any intention at present of lowering the operator licence threshold to below 3.5 tonnes. It does, however, intend to ensure that the existing legislation that affects vans is obeyed.

“Vans have led a charmed life up until now from an enforcement viewpoint, but that’s about to end,” he states. “And it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel so far as the enforcers are concerned.”

The ridiculous thing is that, in many cases, van operators would not need to do all that much to ensure their vans pass their MoT test.

Cartwright points out that failure is often the result of a headlight not working or a badly-worn tyre: faults that are not exactly difficult to spot.

“That tells you that some operators aren’t even bothering to look at their vans before they present them for test,” he says.

So far as overloading is concerned, figures recently published by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency reveal that almost 90 per cent of the 2,381 vans it weighed last year – an admittedly small number given that there are now over four million on the road, a record – were overburdened.

Tough penalties await those who are found guilty of overloading their vehicles.

“A gross overload, a front axle overload and a rear axle overload are each counted as separate offences and can each result in a fine of up to £5,000 on conviction,” points out Andy Hill (right), commercial vehicle manager at leasing and contract hire specialist Lex Autolease.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders points out that overloading a van can undermine many of the benefits accrued by the latest advantages in light commercial safety technology.

As well as increasing the braking distance and upsetting the handling it can cause key components – the tyres, for example – to wear out more quickly.

Both Cartwright and Hill were speaking at ‘A Van for All Reasons’ – a seminar dedicated to vans organised by the Association of Car Fleet Operators.

A cavalier attitude to maintenance, and the fact that some firms burden light commercials with far more weight than they are legally allowed to carry, are not the only issues the industry needs to tackle, says Hill.

He is talking, for example, about businesses doing everything from ensuring that each of their drivers has a valid licence and has signed a declaration that they have no health problems that would prevent them from driving, to instructing them to carry out a walk-around check each morning.

Serious defects should be reported and dealt with before the van goes back on the road, and a record should be kept of the remedial action taken.

Hill refers to the daily walk-around inspection as a FLOWER check – Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber.

The licence check should include making sure that the individual has the correct entitlement for the vehicle he or she is being asked to drive. Drivers who are instructed to tow a trailer with a van may need to take a separate test before they are legally permitted to do so.

Steps should also be taken to prevent people driving vans on company business while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, says Hill.

Other areas that need addressing include the way in which the cargo is secured in the vehicle.

“You do not want to end up with a situation where a driver opens the van’s back doors only to have a loaded pallet fall on his feet because the cargo has shifted,” Hill says.

“What is more, all vans should be equipped with a full-height steel bulkhead to protect the driver if the load moves forwards.”

Businesses that fail to act responsibly could face severe penalties if their attitude leads to a serious accident involving life-changing injuries or fatalities.

New guidance on penalties for health and safety offences issued to the courts by the Sentencing Council earlier this year mandates substantial fines related to the size of a firm’s turnover, and prison sentences for company executives in the worst cases on conviction.

Remember too that a guilty verdict in the criminal courts is likely to result in civil proceedings being brought on behalf of the injured party; and the award made by the civil court could be substantial.

A conviction for corporate manslaughter will result in heavy criminal penalties too.

There are well-established programmes that can help businesses avoid such undesirable fates.

FORS, the national Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme, embraces vans as well as trucks. Put together by FTA members who run major van fleets, the Van Excellence scheme provides training, guidance and a wide-ranging audit of compliance.

Over 100 companies of varying sizes collectively running some 125,000 vehicles are accredited to the programme, and the FTA has recently introduced a best practice scheme aimed at businesses with up to ten vans.

“Fleet operators who get van operations right run them like truck operations,” observes Cartwright.

“Those who don’t treat vans like funny-shaped cars.”

Safety first

1. Check that all van drivers have a valid licence, and re-check licences every six months to ensure they have no undeclared points.

2. Get drivers to sign a declaration that they have no health problems that would prevent them from driving. Make sure they have regular eyesight checks.

3. Have your vans maintained according to manufacturer recommendations, but treat that as a minimum requirement. Work with your service provider to devise a maintenance schedule tailored to the needs of your particular operation.

4. Ensure that everybody involved in loading vans understands exactly how much weight they are permitted to carry. Think seriously about fitting onboard weighing systems.

5. Draw up a clear company policy that covers areas such as driving while under the influence of drink and drugs and speeding and issue it to all drivers. Get each of them to sign a copy to show that they have read and understood it and return it to you.

6. Instruct drivers to carry out daily walk-around checks of their vehicles. Defects should be reported and appropriate action taken.

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Monday, 18 July 2016

RHA Messenger . . .


RHA Messenger 8 June

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Driver facilities campaign

The RHA has expressed concern to the Department for Transport about a story in Commercial Motor last week regarding roadside facilities for drivers.

DfT comes across as dismissive of the issue in a letter written to Gillian Kemp, of campaign group Truckers' Toilets UK. The RHA does not doubt the accuracy of the report. However, nor does it reflect the spirit of discussions the RHA is having with the DfT or the progress we anticipate making in this area.

The RHA strongly supports Gillian Kemp in her campaign and we have firms plans to work together towards achieving significant improvements, not least through our engagement with DfT.

Self-employed driver issue on Money Box

Truck drivers and other workers being incorrectly registering as self-employed, was the subject of discussion when Alastair Kendrick, tax director at MHA Macintyre Hudson and tax policy adviser to RHA, was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Money Box programme recently.

Abnormal loads in Scotland – your views required

The RHA met with Police Scotland recently to discuss the abnormal loads service provision in Scotland.

The meeting centred on the standard of service and charges related to abnormal loads such as the escort service provided by the police.

Following the meeting the RHA was asked to provide feedback. You can view the minutes of the meeting here.

Members wishing to give feedback are asked to read the note attached here and comment via the survey.

SOLAS container weighing deadline looms

From 1 July 2016 shipping containers being exported from the UK are required to have a verified gross mass (VGM) documented by one of two means.

Method 1 is by weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified weighing equipment (e.g. weighbridges, load cell sensing technologies etc).

Method 2 is by weighing all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other securing material to be packed in the container and adding the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses, using a certified method approved by the UK competent authority, that is the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) or its authorised body.

If you transport containers for export purposes to port you should discuss the matter with your customers on how they plan to implement these weighing requirements and which method will be used.

From 1 July 2016 containers arriving at port for export without a verified gross mass may be turned away or subject to delay depending on if the port offers a weighing solution. Shipping documents must clearly state the VGM, this may be for instance by a ‘VGM’ stamp with the weight written on it.

Port methods of weighing solutions (where offered) vary from weighbridges to drive over to containers cranes for weighing the container once lifted. Weighing tolerances are explained in the UK FAQ.

Average speed cameras

We are keen to hear members' views on average speed cameras. The RHA view is that they are broadly positive.

Research by the RAC Foundation has revealed that 263 miles of 2,300 miles of motorway and 4,300 miles of A-roads in the UK have average speed cameras monitoring them.

Of the 263 mile total, more than 130 miles of speed cameras have been installed since 2013.

The A9 between Perth and Inverness is the longest stretch of speed camera monitored road while a quarter of a mile over Tower Bridge in London is the shortest. The latest A9 safety figures have been published, available here.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation has said that compliance with speed limits on the camera monitored roads is high however concerns still remain about the usefulness of camera monitoring in relation to broader road safety issues.

While supporting the use of average speed cameras for road safety reasons, the RHA has expressed concern at the significant drop in roads police numbers.

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Your views sought on fulfilment centres

As reported previously in the International Group bulletin and the Messenger HMRC wishes to combat online VAT fraud by introducing measures affecting UK fulfilment houses, especially those importing goods from outside the European Union.

This topic will be of particular interest to members who have, or who work with partners making use of Inward Processing Relief. It may also interest those providing pick and pack services for imported goods.
If your business is affected by this issue and you want to respond, you can find the consultation on the Fulfilment House Due Diligence Scheme here.

You can send comments directly to or alternatively please contact RHA head of international affairs Peter Cullum at with comments. The consultation closes on 30 June.

Regular ADR inspections by Cheshire police

Members are advised that Cheshire police regularly carry out targeted inspections of ADR vehicles to ensure the hazardous load is being transported in compliance with ADR requirements.

The police have reported that the most common reasons for compliance failure are linked to faulty or out-of-date on-board fire extinguishers.

Cheshire police say that they find that sometimes extinguishers have not been tested or the test record has not been updated. Another problem is that the driver is unable to access a fire extinguisher because the storage box or bracket is positioned so the extinguisher cannot be removed. The extinguisher box lid being inoperative is another common cause of compliance failure.

At a recent meeting Cheshire police asked that the RHA should advise members to be compliant in order to avoid potential roadside prohibitions and unnecessary delays.

In particular members are asked to ensure drivers are equipped to protect themselves, as well as other road users, members of the public, the wider environment, and the vehicle the load.

All operators of hazardous goods vehicles are advised to carry out regular checks to ensure ADR equipment is properly maintained, positioned and easily available to the driver in an emergency situation.
For advice on ADR related issues you can contact

£100,000 fine when truck injures worker with no safety boots

A worker at a Royal Mail warehouse in Rochester was injured when a reach truck passing down an aisle ran over his foot causing broken bones and bruising.

The incident happened in 2014 at a bundling warehouse when the worker, who was not wearing steel toe-capped safety boots, stepped into an aisle just as the reach truck was being driven past.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated, finding that workplace transport at the warehouse had not been organised to ensure pedestrians and vehicles could circulate safely in the confined space available, and that better organisation of the workplace transport would have prevented the incident from happening.

Royal Mail Group Limited was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,406 following a hearing at Medway Magistrates Court for breaching Regulations 17(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

New ATF approved in May

The only Authorised Testing Facilities (ATF) approved in May 2016 by the DVSA was J D Engineering (Scotland) Ltd in Dumfries – telephone number 01387 750327.

The RHA is pressing the DfT to prioritise implementation of testing by ATFS, one of the key policy changes announced in the Motoring Services Strategy last month.

Call to halve traffic levels in central London by 2020

The New West End Company, which represents retailers in London’s Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street shopping hub is calling for traffic levels in the West End of the capital to be halved by 2020 as a radical means of reducing nitrogen dioxide pollution.

London’s Oxford Street is said to have one of the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the world.

New West End Company chief executive Jace Tyrrell said: “Everyone recognises that air quality is one of our top issues, it is consistently bad and it has got to be addressed. Our members employ 150,000 staff in the West End, it’s about them, it’s about their customers and it’s about the reputation of London across the world.”

New Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was indicated that tackling air pollution will be one of his top priorities.

Next generation conference 19 July

Policy-UK is offering a 40% discount to RHA members for their event: Delivering for the UK Freight and Logistics Industry: Next Generation Workforce, Digital Innovation and the Infrastructure Needs for Sustainability on Tuesday 19 July 2016 in Central London.

Louise Ellman MP, Chair, House of Commons Transport Select Committee and Duncan Price, Head of Freight Operator Licensing & Roadworthiness, Department for Transport have agreed to deliver keynote addresses at the event. RHA director of policy Jack Semple will also be a speaker.

More information can be found on their website here and to redeem the 40% discount guaranteeing the price of £150 + VAT (£100 off their standard rate) please use the promotional code: RHAXAO on the link.

Please contact Brendon Marsh at at Policy-UK with any questions.

Bridge lowered in Lambeth, London

Transport for London have informed the RHA that the maximum height for vehicles at the Network Rail bridge located in London on the A205 South Circular Rd at Thurlow Park Road junction with St Faith's Road in the borough of Lambeth has been reduced, as from last month.

The new clearance height is vehicles up to 4.1 metres 13 feet and 6 inches.- See more at:

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