Posted on: 15 May 2013
The impact the EU has on road transport in the UK is under review by government, which is calling for evidence from interested parties.
The Department for Transport’s ‘review of the balance of competences’ between the UK and the EU is part of a government-wide exercise started in July 2012. It’s overall purpose is to get ‘a clear sense of how our national interests interact with the EU’s roles, particularly at a time of great change for the EU’.
The DfT review covers the full gamut of transport activity, but also seeks to get evidence on whether it is fair for operators in one European country to get business in another and to hear views on driver hours.
“The EU also specifies drivers’ hours and rest periods – is it right that the same standards apply in all EU countries? Is the approach too bureaucratic and costly for hauliers trying to run their businesses profitably or justified in ensuring drivers’ safety?”
Transport Minister Simon Burns MP said, “The EU has an important role in ensuring a seamless, sustainable and efficient transport network across the EU as part of its internal market objectives. The transport report is an opportunity to look at this role and to examine the evidence concerning the impact of EU competence in transport on the UK’s national interest.
“We will take a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. The department will pursue an active engagement process, consulting widely across Parliament and its committees, the transport sector and the devolved administrations in order to obtain evidence to contribute to our analysis of the issues.”
The review will take submissions from written submissions from individuals, companies, lobby groups and other government departments up to Tuesday 6 August.
Click here for more information and to submit your opinions, or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 13 May 2013
Further government cuts to bus subsidies would harm services, the UK’s largest operator has said, while a reduction in London’s transport budget has been described as ‘insane’ by Boris Johnson.
Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths was quoted in the Financial Times responding to suggestions that bus passes and fuel subsidies, through the Bus Service Operators Grant, are both in line for cuts in the spending review coming on 26 June.
“I hope that’s wrong and we will be making a case and galvanizing industry colleagues into making a case for BSOG and a properly funded concession scheme.
“Buses underpin so much of what is going on in the country and if we are going to meet the aspirations around economic growth, buses are so important. They get people to work, to school and to the shops.”
As the largest bus operator in the UK, the call from Griffiths for action is significant. While profit levels appear healthy, he said these masked investment and the impact cuts would have on less commercially successful services.
“They don’t look at how much we spent in the last three years on capital expenditure, and that supports investment, it supports manufacturing jobs and new services. If we spend less, the manufacturers are going to be squeezed. People have got to think about this holistically.
“If some of those BOSG cuts made some of that commercial mileage uncommercial for us we’d have to think about whether that was a service we should maintain.”
Bus registration figures are already significantly down in 2013, so such noises from the largest operator came as some concern.
Speaking at a visit to the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena, where 600 new double-decker are to be built for the capital, London Mayor Boris Johnson also hit out at cuts.
“Like every responsible department we are trying to make what savings we can. What we won’t accept is cuts to vital investment programmes.”
“It is insane to risk London’s economic efficiency by failing to invest,” he said claiming there was ‘an overwhelming case’ for continuing for continued support from the Department for Transport.
Posted on: 13 May 2013
New data shows vehicle traffic has continued to fall with the biggest reduction in vehicle miles coming from the heavy truck sector.
Overall first quarter vehicles miles are at the lowest level since 2001 at 74.7 billion, with cars continuing to account for the lion’s share at 59.6 billion, according to new data from the Department for Transport (DfT).
Trucks posted a 3.8% fall compared with the first quarter of 2012 at 3.7 billion, while light commercial vehicle declined for the first time since the first quarter of 2009 with a 1.9% drop to 10.4 billion miles.
The recession is blamed for much of the reduction in traffic, which has seen heavy truck miles down by 18.2% from its 2008 Q1 peak of 4.6 billion miles.
An important point is that more efficient running is also contributing to the downturn in HGV miles, which are at 1993 levels.
Other provisional data from the Highways Agency shows that 77.7% of journeys on motorway and A-roads in March were defined as ‘on time’, 6.2% worse than last year.
The figure is established using GPS tracked vehicles and roadside traffic counters to identify what proportion of journeys were ‘completed within a set reference time, based on historic data on that particular section of road.’
Heavy rainfall is blamed for the deterioration in on time journeys, and also for increased congestion on local authority-maintained roads.
These roads, which account for 9% of all carriageways but carry a third of all traffic, saw a reduction in speeds for each of the first three months of the year.
The biggest year-on-year fall was in January as speeds fell by 4.4% to 23.8mph, while February was down 1.8% at 24.4mph and March 1.9% at 25.0mph.
Posted on: 16 May 2013
The wheels on the bus, coach, truck and trailer need to keep turning in the transport sector, so when they stop it’s a problem.
Transport News Brief takes a look at the unsung heroes of logistics, the technicians who get things going after they’ve unexpectedly ground to a halt, and considers how nasty recovery bills prove a stitch in time saves nine.
If a heavy truck or coach breaks down and ends up marooned at the roadside, both the owner and the driver need help: and fast.
That is especially the case if the cargo being hauled is perishable, if is to be delivered on a just-in-time basis to a factory or if its alive – neither sheep nor pensioners like being stuck on the M6 for hours.
Perhaps one of the industry’s most significant, but largely unsung, achievements is its ability to get dealer technicians with vans packed with parts and tools out to stranded wagons and buses quickly in order to get them going again.
Iveco’s Assistance Non-Stop (ANS) emergency roadside assistance service, for example, says that its average response time these days is just 50 minutes from the time it receives a call for help to the technician arriving. It goes on to stress that this is a UK-wide average, which includes the M25 and the far north of Scotland, so often it’s quicker than that.
DAF’s DAFaid service quotes an average arrival time of 43 minutes which, like Iveco, also covers the whole of the UK. “That partly reflects the size of our dealer network, which has 134 locations,” says DAF Product Marketing Manager, Phil Moon.
ATS Euromaster may not be quite as quick, but its performance is improving. It says that an analysis of its UK-wide performance in 2012 reveals that on average fitters were arriving at marooned vans and trucks 65 minutes after help was summoned.
That is an improvement of nearly 18 minutes on the figure recorded in 2009, says the company, adding that its performance has got better every year since. Once again, the M25 and the area within it is included.
ATS’s fitters change tyres and that can be quite a challenge on a truck, trailer or bus, especially if it is heavily-laden. Once they arrived on the scene they take an average of 49 minutes to deal with truck problems, and 33 minutes to deal with light commercials.
Technicians encounter a wider variety of faults than flat tyres, of course, and their response vans have to be stocked with parts accordingly.
Every six months Iveco reviews the stock carried on the ANS vans operated by its dealers to ensure it includes the items most likely to be required in an emergency. There is little point in trumpeting about the speed of your response if the technician has to return to base because the part required to complete the repair is absent.
Not that the faults technicians encounter are necessarily all that complicated, however, with flat batteries usually figuring high on the list, partly as a result of the increasing load they are being asked to shoulder. “As a consequence it takes our dealer technicians no more than 30 minutes on average to deal with the problem once they have arrived,” says Salvatore Bonsignore, Roadside Assistance Programme Manager for Commercial Vehicles at Mercedes-Benz.
When glitches are more technical things get a lot more critical, but the roadside success rate can still be high.
“They could be faced with a knotty transmission problem for example or a challenging electrical fault,” Bonsignore says. “Nevertheless they are currently achieving a roadside fix rate of 81.6%.”
Calling out highly-trained technicians at dead of night – or just past mid-day for that matter – to sort out a problem that has arisen as a consequence of slipshod maintenance or downright carelessness can be expensive.
“So far as we are concerned the charging scale is £149 for the first hour, including the call-out fee, from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday rising to £164 within the M25 ring,” he says. “Outside those hours the charges are £160 and £175 respectively.
“The charge for each subsequent hour is £58 outside the M25 ring and £72 inside it.”
Not cheap, agreed, but not unreasonable when one considers the nature of the service being provided and the circumstances.
“It should also be remembered that each new Mercedes comes with free roadside assistance for the first year, which covers breakdowns caused by warranty-related defects,” Bonsignore says.
Faults can sometimes be fixed over the phone if the driver can explain to the technician what the problem appears to be. “The driver may be able to try various things that will sort it out,” he says: a cheaper option than asking the technician to attend in person.
Communicating accurate information about the vehicle’s location is vitally important to ensure a fitter does not waste precious time driving around the countryside trying to find it. In this respect a feature on Volvo’s new FH should help says Volvo Service Manager, John Conway.
“Push a button on the dashboard, hold it for three seconds, and you will be immediately in touch with Volvo Action Service, our roadside assistance service,” he says. “The telematics gateway will ensure it immediately knows exactly where you are and will give it some basic information on the truck you are in.”
Roadside rescue services tend to give vehicles carrying loads such as livestock or, in the cases of coaches, pensioners or children priority, especially if they are stuck at the roadside.
Safety is always a key consideration, and it impacts in another way. Technicians are on occasion told by the police that they cannot work on a truck at the roadside because the volume and speed of passing traffic mean that it is too dangerous.
“It doesn’t happen all that often but it does happen sometimes, and the police may decide to arrange for the vehicle to be moved themselves if they feel it is creating a hazard,” Bonsignore says. “Mercedes technicians are in any event trained to assess whether working on a vehicle is likely to present a risk given where it is – they attend a safety course run by the Institute of Vehicle Recovery and will advise accordingly.”
“There seems to be an increasing trend for the Highways Agency to insist that trucks are towed,” contends Moon.
The other circumstance under which a vehicle may have to be towed to a dealership or customer’s own workshop is if the technician cannot effect a repair there and then. “We can arrange for it to be done, although the operator may of course already have a relationship with a recovery specialist,” Bonsignore says.
Whatever the reason, towing a truck with a heavy recovery vehicle can be expensive. “On average you are talking about a £300 to £500 bill: possibly considerably more if the police are involved because if the police call then the recovery company is expected to drop everything and react immediately,” says Conway.
Recovering a coach is likely to be pricey too because their design often precludes a suspended tow. Instead, they may have to be winched onto a specially-designed trailer.
Any charge incurred in the UK is likely to be modest however when compared with the invoice you might be presented with if you request a tow in mainland Europe. “If you have to be towed off a French motorway or off, say, the Brussels ring road, then 1,500 to 2,000 euros is often the starting price,” he observes.
If the bill has arisen because a service was missed in an illusory bid to save money, or because a walk-round check was not carried out, then hopefully it will act as an (expensive) wake-up call and encourage a tighter maintenance regime.
Posted on: 16 May 2013
Commercial vehicle production continued to fall in April but the rate of decline has slowed.
New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that output fell just 3.3% in April to 8,913 units.
While output for the domestic market increased 24.5% in April, and 9.1% year-to-date, weak exports continue to depress the figures with a 31.1% drop in demand so far in 2013.
It means the overall fall in output is 15.2% year-to-date at 32,477 units.
“Demand for UK-built commercial vehicles continued to fall in April, with output dropping 3.3%. There is growth at some UK plants, which helped to ease the rate of decline compared to previous months this year, “ said Mike Baunton, SMMT Interim Chief Executive.
“2013 is proving to be a difficult year for our CV manufacturers as they experience weak demand from export markets, particularly Europe. Rising output for the home market is encouraging, demonstrating that UK operators are keen to exploit the diverse variety of CVs made in the UK from light vans to double-decker buses and large trucks.”
Engine output rose 9.9% in April to 192,408 units. Falls in numbers earlier in 2013 mean the total is still down 2.1% year-to-date, but both domestic and expert markets reported increased demand last month.
Posted on: 16 May 2013
The Stobart Group has announced its results for the last financial year.
The group achieved a significant increase in revenue from its continuing operations, posting £572.4 million up from £491.7 million last year. Underlying operating profit was also up from £40.1 million last year to £44.9 million this year.
However net debt within the Stobart Group increased from £166.0 million in 2012 to £216.4 million during the last financial year.
The group made a profit increase to £29.7 million in what it admits is still a tough market. A three-year contract with Tesco effective from March this year should pull in the equivalent of over £500 million of extra revenue over its duration. The acquisition of Autologic holdings in August last year and the disposal of non-core business should further enhance the group’s pan-European offering, it says.
The loss making Chilled Pallet Network was also closed last year, while more profitable sections of the Chilled Operations remain.
Chief Executive Officer of the Stobart Group Andrew Tinkler said: “Despite a turbulent year and a tough economic environment, our continuing operating businesses have produced a profit from continuing operations ten percent up on last year and have again given us a good return on investment.
“We are now at a pivotal point in our four-year plan and with our investment programme nearly complete we are moving into our value optimisation phase. Through our property assets we will be looking to return cash into the business, while our Air and Biomass businesses are poised to deliver further value enhancement.
“Our management team is now focused on realising value from the investments made over the last few years.”
Posted on: 16 May 2013
News from TTC: TTC, the UK’s leading aftermarket supplier for Commercial Vehicle components received a notable number of visitors to its stand at the CV Show last month.
The CV Show is the largest and most comprehensive road freight transport event in the UK and attracts a huge following and visitors to the three-day show. TTC chose this year to showcase its ‘quality alternative‘product propositions for; Braking, Lighting, Steering & Suspension, LCV and the latest Spring Brakes for both LCV and HCV vehicle applications.
In many ways this year’s event was one of the best in its history, attracting over 18,000 visitors and featuring 430 exhibitors, the 2013 show increased visitor capacity by 12% on last year.
The TTC stand had a modern, clean and crisp look, with various electronic displays to reinforce TTC’s focus and investment in technology, as well as clear imagery to represent its ‘quality alternative’ brand and product proposition.
Tony Sackett, Managing Director at TTC commented: “It was a busy three days and we have had really positive feedback from visitors to the TTC Stand, who were impressed by the product displays, visuals (both electronic and imagery) and the literature available – TTC’s electronic catalogues in flipping book format on TTC branded memory sticks, Edition 2 of Driven and our new E-Commerce brochure highlighting the features and benefits of TTC Online.”
TTC are exhibiting at a number of other shows this year including the Brisbane Truck Show in Australia this month.
Posted on: 15 May 2013
News from Scania: Hodge’s Coaches (Sandhurst) Limited has taken delivery of the first two of a batch of six new Scania OmniExpress coaches, with the remainder scheduled for delivery over the coming 12 months.
Based upon the Scania K360 EB4x2 Euro 5 (EGR) chassis and incorporating ZF fully automatic transmissions, the 3.4-metre high vehicles have an overall length of 12.8-metres. Each is being supplied with 57+1 courier seats, Bosch CD and DVD equipment, climate control, powered parallel side lockers and powered rear continental door.
This major investment in Scania OmniExpress coaches has come following the highly successful operation of four Scania/Berkhof Axial coaches previously purchased by Hodge’s Coaches in 2008/9 which have proved both reliable and economical.
Hodge’s Coaches Managing Director Martin Hodge comments, “We take the purchasing of new vehicles very seriously indeed. This is a major investment and we look at the whole product, that is to say build-quality, operating costs, reliability and resale value, and the Scania OmniExpress ticked all the boxes. We look forward to continuing our successful partnership with Scania into the future.”
Posted on: 15 May 2013
News from Mercedes-Benz: The three-pointed star on the grille of LJA Miers’ first Mercedes-Benz truck represents a triple bonus for the Cambridgeshire operator.
Not only did the 18-tonne New Actros 1842 cost less to buy than an equivalent vehicle from the brand it replaced, but it will also be cheaper to maintain and repair, and is already outperforming its predecessor in terms of fuel efficiency by a full two miles per gallon.
Based at LJA Miers’ factory in St Neots, the new Actros has a BigSpace cab and was supplied by Wellingborough dealer Intercounty Truck & Van, while its high-volume curtainside body is by Kurt Hobbs Coachworks, of Great Addington, Northamptonshire. It is now delivering the operator’s range of rubber, plastic and textile parts to automotive manufacturers nationwide.
At 420 hp, the new arrival’s state-of-the-art, 12-litre engine offers significantly more power than the 360 hp, 9.0-litre unit in LJA Miers’ previous truck. Despite this, the Mercedes-Benz is also around 15 per cent more economical to run.
Managing Director Andrew Miers says: “Our last vehicle returned 12 mpg, which we thought was good. But the New Actros has recorded 14 mpg, which represents a very significant saving, especially given that it covers a lot of miles.
“Its purchase price was also lower than the latest version of the truck we’d used previously, as are the r&m costs. Combine those two factors with the savings we’re making on fuel and it’s easy to see why we’re so pleased with the latest addition to our fleet.”
And he adds: “I’ve also been very impressed with the service we’ve received from Intercounty Truck & Van – the dealership team are extremely professional and helpful.”
Key to the truck’s fuel-efficiency are the Mercedes-Benz Predictive Powertrain Control and Daimler FleetBoard systems with which it is fitted.
Predictive Powertrain Control is a clever cruise control that employs 3D GPS mapping to read three kilometres of topography ahead, then responds by controlling speed, braking and the transmission to maximise fuel efficiency. Optionally available at a cost of £1,349 on all New Actros models, the system really comes into its own when the vehicle is travelling up or down hills.
The “far-sighted” cruise control makes maximum use of the truck’s standard-fit EcoRoll function when travelling downhill, and applies carefully judged single or double downshifts of gear at an early stage. Mercedes-Benz claims the easy-to-operate system reduces fuel use by approximately five per cent.
FleetBoard, meanwhile, provides clear, easy-to-read reports on fuel use and driving style, highlighting positive aspects such as ‘green band’ driving as well as factors which can impact negatively on consumption, such as harsh braking or over-revving.
“We’ve had trucks with telematics systems before but FleetBoard is a big improvement on what I’ve seen from other manufacturers,” says Mr Miers. “It’s extremely user-friendly and the comprehensive reports it provides help to show us how to get the maximum efficiency from the truck.”
He continues: “The Mercedes is out on the road for most of the week so we have equipped it with extras like a fridge, microwave and reversing cameras, to make life as comfortable as possible for the driver.”
Although it is only working solo at present, the New Actros is also equipped for drawbar work. Mr Miers explains: “Our products are light so volume is a much more important factor than payload.
“An artic unit would be unsuitable because some of the locations to which we deliver just don’t have enough space, but a drawbar set-up will give us the best of both worlds. We’re currently working on creating a holding area within our building where we can store a trailer when it’s not in use, at which point we’ll return to Kurt Hobbs to have one built.”
Posted on: 15 May 2013
News from National Express: National Express’ senior executive team has taken to the road for a special week-long tour to meet frontline staff – by coach of course.
In what is believed to be a UK-first, Managing Director of the UK’s largest coach company, Tom Stables last week (May 6-10), sent his senior team to National Express sites across the UK.
During the week-long tour approximately 40 site visits were made where the executive team had face-to-face conversations with employees to find out what makes them tick.
To kick things off, Mr Stables paid a flying visit to the Heathrow Airport Coach Station to see the operation in action during peak evening service time. Meanwhile, Group Customer and People Director, Belen Martinez, looked round the country’s busiest coach station – London Victoria – where she was impressed the great team ethic and excellent customer service.
Finance Director Richard Newman went west to Bristol to meet the recently-voted National Express ‘Team of the Year’, while Business Development Director, Bruce Alexander, was quite literally sent to Coventry.
To experience a driver’s eye view, Human Resources Director, Jenifer Richmond, got behind the wheel of a coach during her visit to Leeds. Down south, The Kings Ferry Operations Director Ian Fraser paid a visit to Norwich where he caught up with the Norwich Coach Station team.
Tom Stables, Managing Director UK Coach said: “We’ve never heard of another business that sends its executive team out on the move in this way. Frontline staff are our eyes and ears on the ground we think our desire to engage with staff face-to-face and get to grips with what matters to them is what really sets us apart”.