Severn Crossing now free of tolls

Drivers can now cross the River Severn estuary from England into Wales for free for the first time in 800 years, after the abolition of tolls on the Prince of Wales and original Severn Crossing came into effect today (December 17th).

In a move that will save fleet drivers and other commuters up to £1,400 a year, the toll booths have been closed and the barriers taken away. The measure is expected to provide a significant economic boost for the economic region stretching from the west of Wales to the south west of England, as it will make it cheaper for consumers and workers to cross the border.

Indeed, the economy of South Wales is expected to enjoy a £100 million a year annual boost from the move.

The scrapping of the toll comes after 800 years of people having to pay to cross the Severn, whether by boat, rail or toll road.

Secretary of state for Wales Alun Cairns commented: “The end of the tolls is a major milestone for the economies of South Wales and South West of England, and will remove historic barriers between communities.

“Scrapping the tolls means an end to generations of people paying to simply cross the border, and delivering this has been one of my key aims as welsh secretary.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the abolition of the tolls fulfils a manifesto commitment made by the Conservatives at last year’s election.

It means fleet drivers can now enjoy easier journeys along the full length of the M4 toll free, stretching from London to Cardiff and Swansea via towns and cities such as Reading, Swindon, Bristol and Newport.

The first ferry crossings were recorded in 1775, before which travellers would have to head as far north as Gloucester to cross the river. The first bridge over the estuary was opened in 1966 and the second severn crossing was completed in 1992.

Ellie Baker, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, comments: “This is great news for any motorists in the area who stand to save lots of money from not paying the toll.”

Image: iStock/JoeGough


Christmas traffic to peak on Friday

With Christmas fast approaching, traffic levels are set to peak this coming Friday (December 21st), research by the RAC and Inrix has indicated.

A study of driver travel plans and congestion forecasts have indicated Friday will be the worst of all, with 2.8 million journeys being undertaken, preceded by with 2.5 million journeys the day before. Rail strikes are expected to contribute to the road congestion as well.

This is, of course, a particularly busy time of year in general with the usual rush hour traffic being made worse by Christmas shoppers. With next Monday being Christmas Eve, Friday may also be the final working day before Christmas for many people, meaning some will be heading off to other parts of the country to spend the festive season with relatives.

With millions taking annual leave over the holiday season, the busiest day for leisure traffic will be on Boxing Day, when around 6.8 million people take to their cars to see family and friends, while 4.4 million journeys will be undertaken on December 27th.

Motorists taking to major roads could face some significant delays due to road workings taking place before the festive period, with the M25, M6 and M40 all set to be subject to serious delays this week. Among the worst will be delays of up to three hours on the northbound M6 on Thursday, while queues of around an hour and a half can be expected on the southbound M40.

However, after this weekend, Highways England will lift over 200 miles of works for the festive period, making travel easier for drivers and giving road workers some time to enjoy Christmas and New Year themselves.

This means that once it is safe to do so, 97 per cent of road workings will be halted from December 21st until January 2nd.

Inrix data scientist Joshua Kidd commented: “Our data shows that compared to a normal day, Thursday 20th December will see the biggest increase in cars on the road.

“With most drivers setting out mid-morning, traffic will become heavier over the course of the afternoon and stay congested into the evening. But it’s not just those off to see family and friends – commuters, last-ditch shoppers and online deliveries will contribute to clogging the roads.”

Photo: Shutterstock


Two gongs for Ford in What Van Awards 2019

Two gongs for Ford in What Van Awards 2019

Running a fleet comprising company vans isn’t the easiest but it has become a little less overwhelming after What Van revealed its annual award winners list.

Leading the list was the LCV of the Year category, which was topped by the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo – a trio of vans built on the same platform that are primed to have a profound impact on the UK market.

A statement from the judging panel explained that by combining resources, each brand has  become a major force to be reckoned with in the industry, and the resulting vans being the first products to emerge from what is now Europe’s second-largest automotive group.

“PSA has raised the bar in terms of driveability and load-carrying practicality,” it added.

Ford was a big winner with the Transit Courier claiming the title of Small Van of the Year while the Transit Custom bagged Medium Van of the Year.

Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter came out on top in the Large Van of the Year group, while Pick-Up of the Year was, err, picked-up by the Isuzu D-Max.

Speaking about the Vauxhall Combo, What Van? editor James Dallas said the van will see the brand return to the forefront of the light van sector, backed with of a strong dealer network and competitive pricing.

He explained: “It is available in short- and long-wheelbase formats, and as a crew van. A well kitted out cabin with cutting-edge technology and lots of storage space is complemented by engines and transmissions that can hold their own with the best in class.

“Clever load options, including the FlexCargo folding passenger seat, allow operators to make full use of the 1.0-tonne payload and load volume of up to 4.4m3.”

Derek Wilson, Vauxhall’s LCV director, said the win adds to the Combo’s growing collection of honours.

“It really does raise the bar in the compact van segment,” he commented.

“Practical, comfortable, economical and packed with all latest driver assistance and connectivity technology, the new Combo Cargo is the small van that helps carry British business.”

What Van Awards 2019: full list of winners

  • LCV of the Year – Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Vauxhall Combo
  • Small Van of the Year – Ford Transit Courier
  • Medium Van of the Year – Ford Transit Custom
  • Large Van of the Year – Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
  • Pick-Up of the Year – Isuzu D-Max
  • 4×4 LCV of the Year – Mitsubishi Shogun Sport Commercial
  • Green Award – Nissan eNV200
  • Website of the Year – Volkswagen
  • Used Van of the Year – VW Transporter
  • Safety Award – Careys Plant and Fleet
  • Risk Management Award – SmartWitness
  • Insurance Company of the Year – Adrian Flux
  • Leasing Company of the Year – Leaseplan
  • Rental Award – County Car & Van Rental
  • Innovation Award – LEVL-Geotab
  • Fleet Manager of the Year – David Fisher
  • Driver of the Year – Rachael Muncaster
  • Green Fleet of the Year – Leeds City Council
  • SMR Award – ARI Fleet UK
  • Converter of the Year – Tevo

Ellie Baker, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, comments: “Congratulations to all the winners. Competition is fierce in the van sector so even to be in the running is a massive achievement.”


Honda Civic is number one for fleet reliability

Honda Civic is number one for fleet reliability

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most reliable of them all? Why, the Honda Civic of course.

That’s how Fleet News’ annual reliability rundown would play out if it was a fairy tale and to be fair, any company car drivers in custody of this humble hatchback are virtually guaranteed a happy ending to every journey.

Such is the dependability of the Honda Civic that it achieved the top spot in this year’s FN50 survey – a reliability index of cars operated by top 50 fleet operating companies.

Commissioned by Fleet News, the annual analysis of the UK’s 50 largest leasing firms (in terms of fleet size) asked participants to rank the best vehicles and manufacturers for reliability, with scores compiled to create a top 10 for cars, and a top five for vans.

So why the Honda Civic? What’s so great about it? Low whole-life costs for a start, not to mention impressive depreciation value, competitive finance offers and low running costs.

It comes with loads of safety features as standard too, including collision mitigation braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and road departure mitigation.

Marc Samuel, fleet sales operations manager at Honda UK, said the Civic ranking top was “a fantastic achievement”.

He added: “The Civic is a recognised, sporty brand which is renowned for reliability. This achievement further reinforces our strong credentials in the fleet sector.”

The reliability of the Honda Civic was recently proven at the annual MPG Marathon competition earlier this year when it was named the outright winner, managing an impressive 87.53mpg over a route of 331 miles. It also scooped an award for the best percentage improvement over a car’s claimed fuel economy.

Ellie Baker, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, comments: “The Civic has quietly become a fleet favourite and it’s clear that fleet bosses recognise its quality.”

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Euro NCAP names 2018’s safest new cars

Road safety has arguably never been such a major issue. Every year, Road Safety Week grows in size and exposure, whilst car makers are constantly looking at how technology can improve the safety of their models.

It’s just as well because each year, vehicle safety assessment group Euro NCAP introduces increasingly stricter crash test protocol.

Businesses want the safest cars possible in their fleets too, in a bid to improve their duty of care and protect their drivers as much as they can.

Euro NCAP’s star-based safety ratings provide an accurate indication to which cars are the safest, but it went even further this week by publishing its best in class for 2018, which runs down the safest cars to arrive in the last 12 months.

This time, the list was led by the Lexus ES, which topped not just the large family car category but also the hybrid and electric group too.

Mercedes-Benz’s A‑Class [pictured] won out in the small family car segment, not surprising considering it achieved this year’s strongest result.

Finally, the Hyundai NEXO was considered to be the safest large off-roader around. All three cars secured five-star safety ratings during crash tests.

Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general at Euro NCAP, said: “The three best in class award winners this year all clearly demonstrate that car makers are striving for the highest levels of protection and that Euro NCAP’s assessments are a catalyst for these crucial safety improvements.”

2018 saw Euro NCAP put automated driving technology to the test for the first time to try and clarify confusion amongst motorists.

“Assisted driving systems can bring safety and convenience benefits, but full automation is a long way off,” added Mr van Ratingen.

“We will follow and assess these developments closely and ensure that consumers have all the information they need when considering these new driver technologies.”

In 2017, Volkswagen dominated proceedings with three models making up half of the list: the Arteon, T-Roc and Polo. Subaru outdid itself with two cars in the mix (XV, Impreza), while Volvo completed the rundown with the XC60.

Ellie Baker, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, comments: “The A-Class was always going to be a tempting model to user-choosers and its supreme crash test rating means that fleet bosses won’t mind that one bit.”

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