Government pledges greater investment in local roads

Posted on: March 25, 2015

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced that councils across England will receive a share of £275 million for major local road maintenance.

The Challenge Fund will be used for one-off major infrastructure schemes by local authorities to improve life for businesses and residents.

“Good quality local roads are essential and today’s announcement will provide extra capacity where it is needed most,” said Patrick McLoughlin. “This is part of our long-term economic plan to improve journeys, create jobs and drive economic growth.”

The 31 schemes awarded funding across 28 local authorities include safety repairs, bridge renewal, carriageway and drainage improvements, and upgrading street lighting. The funding was awarded following a bidding process from local authorities and the winners put forward the strongest case.

Details of the schemes are available here.

Renault Trucks joins forces with Leicestershire college for apprenticeships

Posted on: March 24, 2015

Renault Trucks has partnered with Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire to deliver its national apprentice programme.

The college will train up to 100 apprentices employed by Renault Trucks’ distributors and repairers across the UK. The first group of apprentices will start courses in September.

Stephenson College was chosen for its state-of-the-art facilities and excellent track record in working with employers to provide bespoke training.

Renault Trucks has “worked hard” over the past three years to improve its apprenticeship programme, according to Managing Director Gino Costa. The college’s involvement is the “next step” in its development.

“Stephenson College is a very experienced HGV and automotive apprentice programme provider which has put in place a strong, dedicated Renault Trucks team to focus on recruitment, retention and learning for our apprentices,” added Costa.

Sentinel’s cyclist safety system popular with London operators

Posted on: March 25, 2015

Sentinel Systems has secured two more orders for its award-winning Bike Hotspot System from Boughton Engineering and hire company Firow.

The system is proving popular in London, where both companies must comply with Crossrail requirements to fit contracted vehicles with safety equipment that alerts drivers to the proximity of nearby cyclists.

Sentinel Systems’ Managing Director David Paulson said, “It is great to see that companies such as Boughton and Firow are fitting systems which ensure cyclist safety. We are delighted to be able to supply an effective and practical solution that complies with their needs.”

A demonstration of the Bike Hotspot can be seen on Sentinel Systems’ YouTube channel.

OBS Logistics launches integrated commercial vehicle app

Posted on: March 25, 2015

OBS Logistics will launch its VEhub mobile app for vehicle management at the CV Show 2015.

The low cost, user-friendly app has been designed to provide an entry-level fleet management system to transport operators of all sizes.

Available on Android for integration with the TomTom PRO 827x series, it extends the use of TomTom’s photo capture capacity and geo-location tracking.

Daily VOSA/DVSA vehicle checks allow drivers to capture details of any defects and plan for routine maintenance or repairs accordingly. Barcode scanning enables the location of each trailer and unit to be logged as required. In the case of an accident, the app captures all relevant information electronically.

Giles Margerison, TomTom Telematics Sales Director, said, “OBS Logistics is making optimal use of our .connect partner strategy. It has built an app that our TomTom PRO 827x customers will strongly benefit from.”

The information captured by drivers via the device is aggregated in a simple browser based management portal for print or email, reporting analysis and geo-location of key assets.

Lockdown system provides greater security for operators

Posted on: March 25, 2015

CV safety and security specialist Maple has teamed up with door manufacturer JR Industries to launch a new automatic, electronic tamper evident security seal with an integrated lock for vehicle doors at the CV Show. The system is called Integritas and has its own independent power supply. The lock can be activated with a PIN number or a touch-key system or both and can be set up to ensure the driver does not have the code.

The system can provide single use emergency access codes if keys are lost or locked in the load area. In these circumstances, users need only log in to the Integritas web portal and confirm the vehicle details to be issued with a single use emergency access code. According to Maple, the system operates with technology that has been certified for use in the aviation industry. The default setting is to automatically lock and seal doors on closure, but the system can be configured for manual operation too.

Integritas is wireless compatible and can be fully automated and operated remotely, including the provision of remote unlocking. In this case, the vehicle can be locked and sealed, preventing access even to authorised individuals on a temporary basis. Once the vehicle has arrived at its authorised destination access can be restored.

The system can provide an audit trail, showing who opened the lock and when and will log attempts to open it, highlighting anomalies in expected procedures. Data can be uploaded automatically to a secure server when the vehicle returns to base, removing the need to manually retrieve the data.

The system can be set up to generate automatic reports that can be emailed directly to a nominated individual. Alerts can also be generated automatically if, for instance unauthorised access is attempted.

Continental launches EcoPlus HD3

Posted on: March 24, 2015

Continental has launched its first drive axle tyre developed exclusively for low-liners. The Conti EcoPlus HD3 has been designed to suit the requirements of the large volume transport sector, and can handle loads of up to 11.6-tonnes despite its low diameter.

It’s the lowest profile tyre in its class, and means fleet operators can make best use of the three-metre internal load height of the trailer, without exceeding the European permitted total height.

The Conti EcoPlus HD3 is available in 315/45 R22.5 size. Later in the year it will be joined by the Conti EcoPlus HS3 in size 355/50 R22.5.

Britain needs you: Addressing the driver shortage

Posted on: March 24, 2015

Britain’s economy risks grinding to a halt for want of truck drivers and action must be taken now. That was the stark warning delivered by transport industry executives at a recent conference organised by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) called Solving the Driver Crisis.

The scale of the escalating problem was outlined by Volvo Trucks UK and Ireland Managing Director, Arne Knaben. “Britain is short of 40,000 drivers, 45,000 are retiring over the next two years but only 17,000 are joining the sector annually,” he observes.

He went on to outline some of the reasons why the industry has apparently become so unappealing to prospective employees: wage levels, poor working conditions and the regulatory burden drivers face. Increasing wages presents a challenge given that so many haulage contracts are competed for on price.

Knaben stresses that he does not want to see the rules relaxed to such an extent that safety is put at risk. “However we need to find a healthy balance,” he comments.

If anything he may be understating the problem, as according to the FTA the sector may be as many as 60,000 truck drivers short.

“There is no unemployed pool of drivers,” said FTA Chief Executive Theo de Pencier. “As a consequence if you are warm and breathing and you’ve got an LGV licence then you are likely to find a job.”

Drivers are generally middle-aged or older due to the rate at which the driver workforce is ageing. “Around 60% of LGV drivers are aged between 45 and 65 compared with 35% of the overall working population,” de Pencier points out.

So what steps can be taken to address the problem?

Possible measures include encouraging school pupils that a career in road transport awaits them, reducing the minimum age for LGV licence acquisition, cutting the cost of insuring and training young drivers and improving roadside facilities.

Why should drivers be asked to spend the night in a lay-by in what may admittedly be a comfortable truck sleeper cab but without washing or toilet facilities? “You wouldn’t ask office workers to sleep next to their work stations,” Knaben remarks.

Better facilities could attract more women into the industry – as things stand only 1% of LGV drivers are female.

Firms running 3.5-tonners driven by employees without an entitlement to drive a 7.5-tonner could consider training them and putting them through their test; possibly as a first step towards driving even heavier vehicles.

Aside from recruiting those leaving the armed forces, another approach to increasing the driver pool could be for larger operators to re-train employees working in distribution warehouses.

“We’ll be re-training more than 100 this year,” says Ian Stansfield, Vice President of Asda Logistics Services and Supply Chain. Wincanton Group is adopting a similar policy under its Warehouse to Wheels initiative says Technical Services Director, Dave Rowlands.

FTA Skills Policy and Development Manager, Sally Gilson, points to some of the government-backed packages that are available to offset the cost of training youngsters to become LGV drivers.

“100% of the cost can be covered if you are under 19, falling to 50% if you are aged 19 to 24,” she observes. “If you are over 24, then support of up to 50% of the cost may still be available depending on the training provider.”

Rowlands is critical of hostile attitudes towards LGV drivers afforded by people at some of the premises they deliver to, including refusing access to toilets.

“The sign should read ‘drivers welcome’ not ‘no drivers past this point’,” he remarks.

His view is shared by Adrian Jones, National Officer at Unite with responsibility for the union’s road transport members. “Drivers are treated with contempt at some places,” he remarks.

That’s not the case everywhere, however, and he cites with approval the creation of a facility for visiting drivers at a Midlands factory that allows them to have a break in civilised surroundings. “It’s basic but clean and welcoming,” he comments.

Rowlands feels a more tolerant attitude to the construction of truck parks and driver rest areas should be taken by everyone, from planners to the general public, so drivers have somewhere decent to stop, wash and get a meal.

Revisiting shift patterns to make driving more appealing could pay dividends too. “We’re offering a lot more four-days-on, four-days-off shifts,” says Geraint Davies, Fleet Manager at John Raymond Transport.

Employees often want to spend more time with their families – and the transport industry should help them to do so wherever possible.

Motorway service station standards ‘woeful’ says RHA

Posted on: March 25, 2015

Standards of the UK’s motorway service stations fall “woefully short” of acceptable, according to the Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association. Richard Burnett is calling on government to consider the state of motorway services an election issue.

“At a time when our industry is facing a massive driver shortage, every issue that affects recruitment is vitally important,” Burnett told BBC Breakfast. “Who would want to take a job knowing that the basics – for example, toilet facilities – are in a shocking state of repair?

“This industry is heavily regulated and drivers, by law, have to take rest breaks. The current standard of facilities at many official areas is so inadequate that parking in a layby is often a preferable option. This is unsafe for drivers, their vehicles and their loads.”

Burnett added there is “no excuse” for poor standards, and said the RHA welcomes government’s plan to have architects and experts look at the quality of motorway service areas.

“We will be pleased to work with them to bring about the change that is so desperately needed,” said Burnett.

New VW Transporter look revealed in sketch

Posted on: March 23, 2015

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has hinted at the look of its sixth-generation Transporter with the reveal of a sketch.

The firm is teasing details of the new Transporter until it is officially unveiled on 15 April 2015.

The Transporter has evolved dramatically since its public debut in 1950. The manufacturer claims that despite its 65-year history, the philosophy and vision that created the original still holds true.

The sixth-generation Transporter will go on sale in the UK later this year.

Ford celebrates five-star award haul

Posted on: March 24, 2015

Fiat’s Doblo Cargo has been named Van of the Year and Light Van of the Year 2015 by VansA2Z, thanks to its new styling, technical improvements and expansive range.

Ford’s commercial vehicle range took home five trophies, including Editor’s Choice award for the new Transit Courier. Transit Custom won Small Panel Van of the Year for the third year in a row, while the Transit was named Large Panel Van of the Year. The Fiesta Van won the Best Small Car category.

The 50-year history of the Ford Transit was celebrated with a Lifetime Achievement award. VansA2Z Editor, Neil McIntee praised the model for being an “automotive legend” and the “foremost player in an always hard-fought UK van market”.

Nissan’s e-NV200 won the Eco Van of the Year, Isuzu’s D-max won best pick-up and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Traveliner won best minibus.