Driver's hands on wheel of HGV

Government support of the haulage industry during the driver shortage

The government recently announced a package of support for the road haulage industry to combat the growing driver shortage. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only exacerbated an already urgent crisis.

Why is there a driver shortage?

The driver shortage is a result of a number of factors. Primarily, however, the reason for the shortage is simply a lack of new drivers.

The current pool of drivers edges closer to retirement age, but a very small number of new, younger drivers are entering the industry. To even get a HGV license can cost thousands of pounds, making it very unachievable for young people straight out of school or higher education.

Even if that barrier to entry weren’t a huge problem, young people aren’t being easily persuaded to join the haulage industry. There’s an impression that the job would involve long work days, time away from home and low compensation.

How has the pandemic worsened things?

With lockdowns and other travel restrictions looming, many European drivers left the country. Haulage companies have said that few of these drivers have returned.

In addition, HGV driver tests were postponed. There is now a huge backlog of drivers waiting to be tested that would already have passed, had the pandemic not halted things. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Road Haulage Association pointed out that 30,00 test slots were lost, resulting in a drop of 25,000 passes.

What is the effect of the driver shortage?

The most noticeable result of the shortage is lack of supply. You’ll likely see more and more empty shelves in supermarkets in the coming months. There simply aren’t enough drivers to get stock to where it needs to be. This could see the return of mass panic buying, though stores such as Iceland have advised against it, saying the problem does not warrant this level of panic.

An unfortunate side effect is food wastage. Produce is reaching stores later than it should, meaning its shelf life is drastically reduced if it isn’t already spoiled. In fact, 50,000kg of fresh food went to waste in a single week in June according to The Grocer.

Of course, with low levels of supply comes a demand that cannot be met. With this comes rising prices. Expect and prepare to be paying a little more for your food in the coming months, as stores will need to make up the cost.

This doesn’t just impact the food industry. BP have had to close a handful of UK sites due to shortages in petrol and diesel. However, the company stated that the supply issues were being resolved in a day.

What are the government doing to help the haulage industry?

The government recently wrote an open letter addressed to the UK Logistics Sector. It outlines measures that the government will take to help tackle the HGV driver shortage.

Firstly, the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) are increasing the amount of testing through overtime and allocating additional staff. Successful passes have increased from 1,150 per week (pre-COVID) to 1,500. The DfT (Department for Transport) aims to increase this number to 2,000 by consulting about the “delegation of the off-road manoeuvres as part of the HGV driving test”.

Changes to provisional licenses could allow candidates to progress straight to the articulated lorry test without first having to pass the rigid lorry test.

Relaxed requirements are also being considered in relation to newer car license holders taking extra tests to drive car/van and trailer combinations. The hope is that this would free up more testing capacity for HGVs.

The government is also increasing funding to the Large Goods Vehicle Driver apprenticeship. This aims to tackle the huge issue of the barrier to entry for younger people. With an apprenticeship such as this, they will be more financially supported, making becoming a licensed driver a more realistic prospect.

This letter outlines further steps such as increasing support towards hiring, relaxation of driver’s hours rules and maximising retention.

The full letter can be read here.

Two HGV drivers in hi-vis jackets looking at tablet

Will this solve the issue?

These measures should see a huge uptake in recruitment, which is of course the main issue. Without an increase in recruitment, retired drivers will not be replaced and the crisis will worsen in the coming years.

However, the haulage industry has expressed concerns that these measures are not severe enough.

Richard Burnett of the RHA has stated that these measures are a great step into solving the problem. However, they are long term solutions. Burnett states that overseas help is needed immediately, and short-term visas must be allocated to foreign drivers.

With supply issues only set to worsen with the driver shortage, along with many workers being forced to isolate during the pandemic, it remains to be seen whether these government measures will have any immediate effect on the crisis.

Is your fleet struggling with its operations during this turbulent time? Now more than ever, every driver and every vehicle matters. Get in touch with Fuel Card Services today to see how we can assist you. Whether that be with keeping fuel costs down, optimising your vehicle usage or improving vehicle maintenance, or team is happy to help!

electric charging lane

Electric roads – charging your car while driving

There’s a vision shared by tech industry leaders, environmentalists, and governments around the world to replace our current vehicles and infrastructure with more sustainable electric equivalents.

Closer to home, the UK government is in fact committed to a net-zero carbon emissions transition by 2050. So, electric vehicles are inevitable – but what’s the most effective way of powering them, and could electric roads be viable source of power?

Electric vehicle challenges

The core challenge with powering electric vehicles that we’re already experiencing, and may face for years to come, is battery life. Most electric vehicle batteries on roads today are rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

These are effective at storing electricity, but the sheer amount of power needed to keep an electric vehicle going for hours is enormous. If we build larger lithium-ion batteries, then we’ll face longer battery charging times, and deplete our natural resource of lithium.

Green Tech Media investigated whether our current reserves of lithium can be scaled to meet the increasing demand for batteries driven by companies like Tesla, who want to introduce ‘Gigafactories’ capable of producing millions of battery units at speed. Their conclusion was ‘not just no, but hell no’.

So, we’ll need a breakthrough in electric battery technology, or an alternative source of energy to guarantee the future of electric car production – which is likely to become more pressing as more legislation is introduced to promote the use of sustainable energy sources. One of those alternative energy sources could be electric roads.

Electric roads explained

The basic premise for electric roads is incredibly simple; the road infrastructure is responsible for supplying electricity to all vehicles using the road at any one time. Typically, this is achieved via either overhead or underground power lines, which transfer power directly to vehicles via inductive coils, or conductive rails.

Within most electric road systems actively used in the world today, overhead powerlines are limited to commercial use, while ground based power systems are estimated to be the most cost-effective by experts.

You can find electric roads in:

  • South Korea – where electric roads were introduced as early as 2013 to provide a wireless power source designed to recharge OLEV buses (electric buses, essentially).
  • Sweden – whereby a ‘dynamic charging’ system was introduced in 2019 that utilises an electrified rail system embedded within 2km of road to charge electric vehicles.

Sweden have outlined a plan and drafted a map to enable national expansion of the electric road system, which is suspected to require electrifying around 20,000km of road in order to meet a target of reducing domestic carbon emissions by 70% (by 2030).

So, electric roads are in fact a reality in the world today. They’re also being considered in the UK.

The UK’s stance on electric roads

The UK government funded a study to gauge how cost effective it would be to implement an overhead electric cable system that powers road-using freight vehicles. They estimated the total cost of this ‘E-highways’ system would amount to £19.3bn, but that it could also pay for itself within 15 years, while drastically cutting carbon emissions.

electric road charging a hybrid truck

For the commercial fleet industry, such a system could have huge repercussions. Fleets that adopt electric technology quickly and mitigate their carbon impacts could avoid the costs brought about by future legislation, such as a potential carbon emissions tax. There are also projects in the works to examine the potential impact of electric roads on consumer vehicles.

Highways England begun considering and testing electric road technology in 2015, in a project that was later cancelled in 2016 due to budget limitations. However, the infrastructure that was examined is very similar to the South Korean technology introduced back in 2013 and could make a resurgence. In Highways England’s system, electric cables buried beneath these roads generate an electromagnetic field, which is absorbed by a coil placed within each electric vehicle to wirelessly transfer power.

EV safety matters, so it’s fortunate that this technology is also proving to be completely safe to pedestrians and road users alike. The total voltage output of this system at surface level is around 1 volt, meaning you wouldn’t feel the electric current even when walking barefoot.

Are electric roads cost effective?

There seems to be a very strong consensus amongst studies that electric road systems would be significantly cheaper to introduce than a national network of charging stations and larger batteries for EVs.

The former could even cost around half the amount, according to findings from the Swedish ERS study we touched on earlier. Obviously, electric vehicles will still need to be equipped with batteries even when using an electric road system. However, the total battery capacity could be reduced by around 80% when compared to a system that solely utilises charging stations.

That’s a huge saving, which could prove to be a sustainable option that mitigates the lithium resource challenges we’re facing, while also proving safe and effective for road users and pedestrians alike. For more insights on this topic, read our article on how the cost of electric cars compares to petrol equivalents.

What does this mean for commercial fleets?

As a commercial fleet operator, you may want to keep your eyes on the latest developments in electrification. Realistically, it’s likely to be a good few years from now (2021) before we see this technology implemented at scale throughout the UK, however businesses that capitalise on the advantages the technology could bring and modernise their operations accordingly could gain an edge over the competition.

In the meantime, fleet operators should take every step possible to become more efficient and save money on fuel costs. That’s where the team at Fuel Card Services can help. We supply fuel cards from a range of market leading brands, across networks covering the whole of the UK. Check out our fuel card offering to see whether your drivers could be paying less each time they stop for diesel or petrol.

There are also efficiencies to be made within fleet servicing, for which we’ve designed a set of services that can make fleet management that little bit easier. From advanced telematics to fuel-pump locator apps, we can help you become more efficient.

Red car with black fuel nozzle inserted

How to save money on fuel during rising petrol prices

Over the last 6 months, petrol prices have been rising steadily. The UK hasn’t seen petrol as expensive as this in 8 years, back in September of 2013. What are the best ways to keep fuel costs down as the overall price of petrol steadily climbs?

Rising costs

According to data from RAC Fuel Watch, the average price of petrol rose to 132.19p per litre. This is 18p more than the average price in November of 2020. An average sized tank of unleaded now costs £72.70 to fill up.

Diesel is not exempt from these rising costs either. The average diesel cost has risen to 134.32p, which is the highest it has been in 2 years. An average sized tank of diesel now costs £73.88 to fill up.

Of course, we expect fuel prices to gradually rise over time to match inflation rates. However, UK inflation jumped up by 2.1% in May, and the rising petrol costs are a driving force behind this.

Why are petrol prices rising?

The jump in price is a direct result of the increase in oil price. Crude oil prices increased more than 11% over the last month.

This increase likely reflects the return to normality after the pandemic. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that the demand for fuel across the world will return to pre-COVID levels by the end of next year.

With demand for oil rebounding steadily, the prices rise as current oil inventories are in tight supply. As a result, we see the cost of petrol and diesel steadily climbing. The IEA warns that, unless big oil producers pump more barrels, we could be facing a volatile oil market in the near future.

Oil rig at sunset with orange lights

How can you save whilst petrol prices go up?

As prices are likely to continue rising with post-COVID demand, you’ll want to save every penny you can. What are some ways to optimise your fuel usage?

Get a fuel card

For a business that relies on transportation, acquiring a fuel card is the best way to reliably save money as fuel prices go up.

A fixed-price card will ensure that you pay a set amount wherever you fill up. This will prevent you from getting caught out by a pump price that is higher than you expected. The price usually changes on a weekly basis, so you won’t get caught out by any sudden price drops either.

A fixed-price card will see your savings add up when used frequently. Some cards offer discounts as much as 10p off every litre of fuel.

Alternatively, a pump-price card will have you paying the price advertised at the forecourt. However, the flexibility they offer can help save money too. Typically, a pump-price card can be used at more locations. This flexibility can help to save on fuel since you can drive to the most convenient location, rather than somewhere further out of your way.

Whichever fuel card you get, they all offer ways to save money other than on fuel. For example, the HMRC compliant invoices that get sent to your account can save hours on admin. Furthermore, certain cards offer reward schemes such Shell Go+ or BPme Rewards.

Smiling man holds up fuel card next to fuel pumps

Use telematics

Telematics is a collection of a technologies working together to provide vehicle data to fleet managers. It’s also a great way to save on fuel costs.

Advanced solutions such as Tele-Gence offer better route planning. It may seem obvious, when petrol and diesel prices are high, the best way to save on fuel is to minimise driving time. Tele-Gence’s route planner will find the quickest route. Remember that the most efficient route isn’t always the shortest!

The data provided by telematics also lets fleet managers know about their drivers’ habits. Are they braking and accelerating too harshly? These actions drain fuel faster, so it pays to know when it is happening so it can be prevented in the future.

Data on vehicle condition also provides fleet managers with crucial insights. Is everything function properly? If not, fleet managers can see that it is fixed before an expensive breakdown and repair eats away at their budget.

To add to the convenience, Tele-Gence also syncs seamlessly with your fuel card account. The two solutions work hand in hand to save you money during an expensive time for drivers. Get in touch today to find out how the team at Fuel Card Services can help you save.

Personal Light Electric vehicle charging

Is there a use for PLVs in your fleet?

PLVs are becoming a more attractive option both for personal transport and commercial use. This is, in part, because improvements made to electric vehicle technology in recent years could hugely benefit the environment – but they could also have practical advantages over potentially larger, clunkier vehicles when it comes to urban mobility.

As fleet operators of all shapes and sizes start to question the role of PLVs in society and within commercial fleets, we’d like to shine a light on everything PLVs to help contextualise how they’re impacting transport today.

What is a PLV?

For starters, a PLV is a Powered Light Vehicle. This term simply describes two, three, or four wheeled vehicles that are used to transport cargo or passengers. When compared with Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) or Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), they’re significantly smaller, weigh less, and are consequently much better suited to urban areas.

The benefits of PLVs

Increasingly, advances in electric technology mean that PLVs available in market today often come in fully electric or hybrid models, which reduce or eliminate the carbon impact of these much-needed vehicles. This matters to businesses, partly because the correlation between carbon emissions and global warming is hugely in the public eye, but also because its possible legislation will be announced in 2021 around introducing a cost of carbon.

If, or when a cost of carbon is announced, the need for a long-term, sustainable business strategy will quickly increase for UK fleet operators – and so PLVs could play a major role in saving costs and protecting the environment in future.

The benefits of PLVs for commercial fleets in particular go beyond sustainability, though. There’s also the practical nature of having access to more compact vehicles that can access urban areas without becoming a source of congestion to consider. For those operating fleets within cities, having two-wheeled electric vehicles that can niftily dart around to safely make deliveries in heavily populated areas could reduce transit times for cargo substantially.

Sometimes personal cars just aren’t practical, and so the lower transit times that PLVs can bring to the table typically mean that either less vehicles are needed to move cargo, or that growth opportunities appear as fleets find themselves with more and more availability.

The disadvantages of using PLVs commercially

We’ve reached a tipping point where electric technology is of a sufficient quality to make PLVs commercially viable. That doesn’t mean, though, that the technology is perfect.

Fleet operators must take the time to carefully consider whether replacing their existing vehicles with PLVs makes sense in terms of:

  • Powering the vehicles. Is there sufficient access to electric vehicle charging points needed to sustain your operations? What sort of charging times will your fleet face, and how expensive is charging these vehicles likely to prove?
  • Carrying capacity. If you’re currently operating with a fleet of personal cars and you’re thinking of switching to PLVs, how will this impact the cargo capacity of your fleet? This is the kind of conversation you’ll want to have with a PLV seller to create an informed plan.

One final potential disadvantage of PLVs to keep on your radar is that safety regulations could be a concern. In a 2019 report, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership found the current UK safety regulations that apply to PLVs could be problematic. The existing regulations that apply to passenger cars means that the vehicles have to pass crash safety tests, however PLVs are not covered by this legislation.

Some PLV manufacturers build their vehicles to match existing crash specifications regardless, but this technically isn’t a legal requirement just yet – which could bring about a backlash from drivers or pedestrians as these vehicles are brought into a fleet.

Small electric vehicle driving next to foliage

Should I make PLVs a part of my fleet?

To answer this question properly, you’ll have to conduct a thorough analysis of your current operations, and the logistical impact of introducing PLVs to your fleet. Some key things to consider though, are:

Will introducing PLVs be cost-effective?

The government has run various consultations on how a cost of carbon could be introduced via new tax laws. With the UN Climate Change Conference set to happen in Glasgow, November 2021, we may see some concrete plans or international agreements about how carbon should be taxed that have a real-world impact for UK fleet operators in coming years. Definitely one to mark in the diary.

Are you actively utilising your vehicles’ maximum capacity?

If you’re in a position whereby you’ve known for a while that your larger vehicles are constantly being underutilised, with either passenger space or cargo space remaining empty, then PLVs really could be a game-changer for your fleet.

It’s expensive to fuel medium to large-sized vehicles, given their weight, and so if you spot an opportunity to switch out some of your current vehicles for PLVs, you may find yourself reaching 80-90% capacity during commercial transit, rather than 60-70%. Again, it’s key to consider the long-term impact of this efficiency on your business’ profitability.

How long are your delivery routes?

PLVs simply aren’t well-suited to lengthy delivery routes. If you’re travelling from Scotland to Lands’ End, you’re probably going to be better served by innovations in the electric HGV market that will inevitably become commonplace.

However, if you’re frequently conducting last-mile deliveries, then the quiet, low-carbon footprint advantages of electric PLVs could well be relevant to your operations.

How could Fuel Card Services help?

As we see the light commercial usage of PLVs, the quality of electric technology (which currently limits PLVs to an operational range of around 200 miles), and low-carbon initiatives become more prevalent, fleet operators may do well to seriously consider the role PLVs could play in their operations.

In the meantime, fleet operators should take every opportunity available to them to make efficiencies within their current business models. That could mean getting access to cheaper fuel via the right fuel card, or utilising a range of fleet services such as advanced telematics to overcome specific operational challenges.

Dash cam in interior of vehicle at night

Top Tips For Optimising Your Dash Cam Usage

With many drivers now reaping the benefits of a dash cam, it appears that their popularity is only set to increase. There are a number of advantages of this technology, but how can you ensure that you are making the most out of a dashboard camera?

What is a dash cam?

A dash cam is a camera that is mounted onto the dashboard of your vehicle (as the name suggests). They can be installed to draw power from your vehicle. However, some also have a battery or capacitor to ensure the files save properly when the power is disconnected.

The idea behind these cameras is that any incidents will be recorded. This footage can be used as evidence for any legal disputes, or more commonly can be used to bolster an insurance claim.

In fact, insurers offer reduced premiums when you state that you have a dash cam installed. It’s argued that the presence of the camera also encourages safer driving.

How to optimise your camera usage

Find the best placement

Position your camera as close to the middle of the dashboard as possible. This way, the camera will record an accurate view of the road ahead. If it’s badly positioned, the footage may be missing some crucial information.

If the camera was on the left hand side of the dashboard for example, and another driver hit you from the right, there’d be no footage of the incident.

To further optimise your camera’s view, it’s recommended that you place it as high as possible.

Be conscious of glare

On a similar note, pointing the camera too far upwards can create some problems too. The brightness from the sun can cause the camera to overcompensate and bring the overall light levels of the footage down. This means the sky will look normal whilst everything else will be too dark. In this case, the events in the footage may not be visible and rendered useless.

Make sure your camera is pointed directly forwards so the road ahead is in view – do not point it upwards at all.

Keep your windscreen clean!

It might seem obvious, but clean your windscreen often! You’d surely kick yourself if your camera would have captured the incident if it weren’t for a dirty smudge you’d neglected to clean for weeks!

Dirt on the window in front of the lens could also cause your camera to focus on the wrong thing. If this were to happen, your footage might consist of one very clear speck of dirt and a blurry accident in the background that you can’t quite make out.

On a similar note, during unpleasant weather, ensure your wipers are working well. They’ll need to be wiping the water off the windscreen quickly. Otherwise, you’ll have the same issues as you would if the window was dirty.

Female hands adjusting a dash cam in the interior of a car

Get a memory card with plenty of storage

To get the best evidence of any incidents, it’s obviously best to set your dash cam to record at the highest quality. However, higher quality recordings will take up more storage in your memory card. Therefore, it makes sense to find a memory card with a decent amount of storage.

Luckily, the average card size as been increasing over time. A 16GB or 32GB card will be more reasonably priced than it would have been a few years ago.

There are plenty of SD cards that will integrate perfectly with your system. Whilst the cards with higher storage will be more expensive, they could definitely save you money further down the line.

Are dash cams worth it?

Having footage of an accident is becoming more valuable every year. AA claim that having a camera installed “could be the answer to settling insurance disputes and claims”.

Consider that the price of a dashboard camera could be as little as £25 depending on the model. For such a small price, you could be making huge savings.

For example, if you were involved in an incident where another driver drove into your vehicle, you’d be pretty concerned about the insurance implications. But, since you’ve got a recording of the incident, you may not need to worry!

Since dash cam footage is becoming accepted by a growing number of insurers, they are definitely worth having one installed. In the above example, you could submit the footage of the incident and there would be no doubt that it was the other driver who was at fault. Their insurer would have to pay for the damages, whilst you could keep your no claims discount.

With that in mind, we would argue getting a camera installed is definitely worth the investment.

Could installing a dash cam help your fleet?

We know that being able to record incidents can be great for your finances. Having a camera installed on each of your fleet’s vehicles seems like a no-brainer!

Take a look at the Tele-Gence team’s wide range of hardware, including cameras and other useful equipment that is designed to increase the efficiency and safety of your fleet’s day to day operations. Get in touch with our expert team today, and we’ll have you saving in no time.