Ultra low emission zone sign in London

London ULEZ expands becoming 18 times larger

The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) in London has expanded this week. Let’s go over which areas are affected and how these changes will impact drivers.

What is the ULEZ in London?

The ultra-low emission zone in London has been in operation since 2019. Drivers of vehicles emitting a certain level of pollution have to pay a charge for driving in the area.

For cars, motorcycles and vans that do not meet the emission standard, the daily charge for driving in this area is £12.50. Failure to pay the charge can result in a penalty as high as £160.

The daily charge for HGVs over 3.5 tonnes is much higher at £100. The penalty for lack of payment can be as high as £1,000.

This does mean that businesses operating in the ULEZ with HGVs are paying hefty charges to operate in this area, especially considering any additional costs put towards acquiring a HGV Safety Permit and complying with the Direct Vision Standard.

Whether vehicles need to pay a charge depends on whether they meet certain emission standards, measured from Euro 1 to Euro 6.

Which areas are now in the ULEZ?

Until recently, the ultra-low emission zone has only covered central London.

Now, however, the zone is being expanded. All areas within the North and South Circular roads are included in the low emission zone, meaning any drivers will have to pay the charge in this area if their vehicles do not meet the emissions standard.

This addition means that the zone is now 18 times larger than it was when first introduced in 2019!

Who is affected?

Drivers of EVs will of course be exempt from any charges. They do not emit harmful greenhouse gases, and therefore do not contribute to the problem that the ULEZ is hoping to tackle.

Most petrol cars and newer diesel cars are also safe from the charge. As a general rule, if your diesel car was first registered after September 2015, it is likely to be compliant with the emissions standards. The same goes for petrol cars registered from 2005 onwards.

However, it is estimated that about one in five cars will need to pay. 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries are expected to be affected and subject to the charges.

To be exempt from the charges, your vehicle must not exceed a certain level of nitrogen dioxide emissions. Nitrogen dioxide is a harmful gas that damages lungs and makes life harder for sufferers of asthma and lung and heart disease.

ULEZ sign next to apartments

What are the benefits of expanding the zone?

The expected result of the expansion is that people will find alternative methods of travel. Instead of driving, they might opt for public transport or simply to walk or cycle.

As a result, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan states that the city will reduce the amount of carbon being emitted by over 100 tonnes, which is equivalent to taking 60,000 vehicles off the road.

Of course, this will have major health benefits for the residents of the expanded ULEZ. The area covered by the expansion is “eight times the size of Manchester” with a population of four million people.

Given that 60% of residents of this area don’t even own a car, the mayor claims it is fair that the air quality of this area is improved. Whilst the environmental benefits are obvious, Khan suggests that this is “an issue of social justice”, as it is the poorest of Londoners who suffer the most as a consequence of toxic air conditions.

The move to expand the zone has been met with some criticism, however, mainly due to timing. With many businesses still recovering from the pandemic, their finances may take additional hits due to these new rules. Paying the charge for each of their vehicles every day may prove difficult. However, transitioning to a fleet of low emissions vehicles may also not be feasible. To make things easier, TfL does offer a grant to businesses; they may receive £2,000 if they scrap their non-compliant vehicles in favour of a cleaner vehicle.

Will your business be impacted by the ULEZ expansion?

If your business operates within the expanded zone, you may find yourself paying the charges if your vehicles are not compliant.

In this case, it’s important to consider what else you can do to save money.

At Fuel Card Services, we offer a range of fleet services that are designed to save your business time and money. For example, a fuel card can help you save up to 10p per litre every time you fill up your vehicles – especially useful during rising prices!

Additionally, our Tele-Gence tracking software can improve your MPG by up to 20%, meaning you’ll get more out of every litre of fuel.

If you think your fleet could be saving money, get in touch with our dedicated team today.

Back of white hybrid car

Why don’t we see many Diesel Hybrids on our roads?

Since hybrid vehicles arrived on our roads, motorists have wondered why they always seem to be paired with a petrol burning engine instead of diesel.

After all, the idea makes sense. Electric motors are very efficient, and diesel engines give you better miles per gallon than a petrol engine, so why not create a hybrid of the two? Surely this would be the most efficient vehicle on the market!

However, upon further inspection, it doesn’t seem to be so simple.

What is a hybrid vehicle?

If you’ve driven on a UK road in the last decade, you’ll definitely have seen a hybrid vehicle. In fact, they have been around since the late 90s, but weren’t too common back then. They are now becoming a popular solution to the problem of pollution in this country.

Furthermore, their popularity is likely to increase further with the government’s announcement of the ban on sale and production of ICE cars from 2030.

A hybrid vehicle uses more than one means of propulsion. The most common example of this is a vehicle that uses both an electric motor and a petrol engine to power it. The electric motor is used at lower speeds, making it very efficient for driving in traffic when you are stopping and starting. The petrol engine takes over at around 15mph, when the vehicle is already being accelerated.

There are multiple types of these vehicles, such as a Parallel Hybrid, Range Extender or a Plug-in.
A hybrid vehicle is a great option for drivers who are not yet ready to transition to a fully electric vehicle.

Why aren’t there many diesel hybrids?

Most of the hybrids you’re likely to encounter use a petrol engine. Considering that diesel is more efficient, it’s worth investigating why they aren’t paired with an electric motor.

There are three main reasons why we don’t see diesel hybrids.

Cost

As you have probably seen at fuelling stations, diesel fuel tends to be more expensive than petrol. Additional hardware also means that diesel engines tend to be more expensive to produce and maintain, often due to parts added to help them reduce emissions. In fact, a diesel engine costs around 15% more than a petrol engine to manufacture.

Similarly, electric motors don’t come cheap either. Battery backs, high-tech electronics, and powerful motors certainly drive prices up. This is especially true in current circumstances, with global part shortages driving prices even higher.

Therefore, combining these two engines would result in an incredibly pricey vehicle. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem for some, but would the extra cost be worth it?

Torque

Another advantage of a petrol hybrid is the way the two engines complement each other.

A petrol engine outputs the most power at higher speeds, whilst an electric vehicle delivers the most torque at lower speeds. This means that when the vehicle is moving slowly, the electric motor is driving it forward. When it speeds up, the petrol engine is designed to handle the higher speeds with great efficiency.

However, a diesel engine is also great at producing torque lower down. So, when paired with an electric motor, there is actually less efficiency. Both motors are fantastic at low speeds, but would need some serious engineering work to make them work as well at the higher speeds.

Basically, a petrol engine and an electric motor are proven to complement each other. A diesel engine and an electric motor simply don’t match that!

hybrid vehicle chassis

Less need

There is simply less demand for a diesel vehicle to be hybridised.

Petrol engines are able to convert 25% of their fuel’s energy into kinetic energy, which moves the vehicle forward.

Diesel on the other hand, is more efficient overall. Some diesel engines can convert 10% more than this.
This begs the question then – why would we need to hybridise a diesel vehicle if it is already more efficient?

There is not much that adding an electric motor would do to improve the vehicle’s performance and efficiency. It would be more expensive, but would offer a smaller improvement.

Despite all the reasons listed above to avoid creating a hybridised diesel vehicle, there are a few on the market.

The Mercedes E300de, the Peugeot 3008 and the Citroën DS5 are all diesel vehicles supported by an electric motor, though they are built in various different ways.

Could your fleet be using hybrid vehicles?

If you’re wanting to help the UK reach its climate goals, moving away from internal combustion engine vehicles is a great start. However, the prospect of moving straight to electric vehicles can be quite daunting as they require a whole new set of skills to manage.

However, a hybrid vehicle bridges the gap between electric and ICE vehicles. You’d still be refuelling the vehicle in the same way, but you’d definitely be starting your journey towards net zero.

As the transportation industry continues to evolve, it’s important to keep an eye on your costs. Keeping your fuel costs low is especially important, especially during rising prices.

Get in touch with Fuel Card Services today. You could save up to 10p per litre on fuel with one of our branded fuel cards, and our range of fleet management services offer other ways to save time and money.

attracting and retaining new employees

Attracting and retaining HGV drivers

The UK is in the midst of a HGV driver shortage which is having a severe impact on a number of different industries. From insufficient delivery services to supply chain disruption, the whole economy could suffer from a lack of drivers – meaning it is more important than ever that fleet operators remain competitive and able to attract new drivers.

We have covered why the shortage of HGV drivers might be happening in a previous article, so let’s now take a look at what practical steps fleet operators can take to navigate these challenges.

How to attract HGV drivers

There are many different elements to consider in the process of attracting new drivers. Here are our tips:

1. Update your website

It’s important to consider how an aspiring or experienced driver perceives your company. Consequently, you should be looking to take every step possible to ensure they have a positive experience when exposed to the most important channel you have – your website.

It could be wise to dedicate a page on your website to explaining exactly what support you offer both to new and existing drivers. Give them a flavour of what it is like to be a driver within your fleet, showcase the unique benefits you offer to employees, and underline this with the values you teach your managers and leaders – and you could find drivers aligning quickly with your company.

2. Use positive reviews as much as possible

Word of mouth is a fantastic way of expanding your workforce, however it sadly isn’t practical to use this as a mass recruitment tool. The next best thing, then, is likely acquiring written reviews via a popular and trusted reviews platform.

For example, Trustpilot, Google Reviews, and Glass Door are all highly reputable platforms that enable current and previous employees to leave honest reviews of your business. You should always work toward improving the experience of your current driver-base to influence these reviews, but it’s also worth taking this one step further by showcasing these reviews properly.

You could look to use the built-in sharing functionality within these platforms to share reviews via your social media channels, incorporate them into your email marketing, and even feature them on jobs boards alongside your listings. Speaking of which, perhaps our most important tip is to:

3. Create good advertisements

Ask yourself, where are potential drivers likely to spend time during their job search – and what material of yours will they be exposed to while doing so?

Realistically, jobs boards are perhaps the best way of reaching a large number of candidates without requiring too much effort. It’s essential that you put time into meticulously crafting a good advertisement that sells the benefits of your company in a concise way.

To help position yourself to create the perfect listing, it’s also worth reviewing competitor activity to see what kind of messaging they’re putting out into the world.

4. Consult hiring experts if necessary

While it’s often cheaper to manually handle your business’ recruitment drive and to keep that process solely in-house, you may not always get the exact results you’re looking for. In this instance, it could be wise to talk to recruitment agencies who specialise in the haulage sector to see whether you can strike a mutually beneficial arrangement that solves your driver needs and proves profitable for the agency.

How to retain HGV drivers

driver in front of hgv holding tablet

Equally as important as attracting new drivers is retaining the loyal employees that currently work for you. It can be disheartening for existing employees to see new job offers being posted by your company that feature attractive joining offers and benefits that they themselves do not have access to.

A balanced approach, then, should split attention between recruitment and retention in a measured way. As we’ve mentioned, retention initiatives can in of themselves serve as a recruitment tool, if HGV drivers decide to share positive reviews of your business within their own social networks to help you bring new people on board.

Some retention tools you could consider rolling out include:

  • Increasing wages to reflect your business’ growth. This is absolutely key to remaining competitive in a marketplace whereby virtually all businesses are struggling to recruit HGV drivers.
  • Giving your employees a voice. Running regular feedback sessions, planning one-on-one meetings with your drivers and their managers from time to time, and showing that you’re not only listening to but acting on the concerns raised by your drivers is a great way of helping your employees feel connected and respected.
  • Define your culture from the top down. Building an inclusive, welcoming, and progressive culture in your business could see employees feeling like they’re truly part of a community – rather than feeling that they’re simply selling their time for money to your organisation. This culture is often the cornerstone of your business’ reputation, and so investing time into working with senior management to define what you want your company to represent could prove beneficial.
  • Credit and reward your employees fairly. If some of your drivers put in significantly more effort than others; enhancing the customer experience, proving flexible, and going above and beyond to support the team – does your business have a process in place for flagging this positive behaviour and rewarding those responsible? Putting a proper rewards scheme in place that incentivises good work and team building could positively impact your workforce.

Where do I start with reviewing my business’ recruitment and retention processes?

Ultimately, there are three key areas to consider improving when looking to positively impact retention and recruitment:

  1. Your business – including your website, company values, mission statement, and offering.
  2. Your messaging – reviewing all messaging across recruitment platforms, jobs boards, social media, and even the internal communications you share with your staff can yield opportunities to improve.
  3. Your current and prospective employees – what do they want to see from your company? Are you taking the time to conduct the right market research, fully understand their needs, and then tailor your job offerings to tick the right boxes for these employees? Doing so may help you edge out over your competition.

While there’s no one solution that works for all fleets, we hope the tips we’ve shared today help you to attract and retain HGV drivers moving forward, no matter how difficult it may seem.

How can Fuel Card Services help?

At Fuel Card Services, we know how important it is to put the right technology in place that makes your drivers feel safe and supported. That’s why we have developed a range of professional fleet services that are designed to do everything from automatically record mileage, to facilitate servicing and maintenance – and even help your drivers find their nearest fuel pumps.

If you think our range of fleet services could benefit your operation, why not get in touch with our experts to find out how we can support you?

Driving in rain, windscreen wipers on

Should vehicle stopping distances be updated in 2022?

Whether you are studying for a theory test or have been driving for many years, it’s important to know your vehicle’s stopping distances.

However, the distances stated in the Highway Code have been the same for many years despite advancements in braking technology – does this mean they should be changed in 2022?

Why is knowing stopping distance important?

Drivers should know how long it will take for their vehicle to come to a complete stop. This will help prevent accidents, especially when driving at high speeds.

The distance doesn’t just include the time it takes for your brakes to stop the car. You must also consider that you will take a moment to react to a hazard. This extra time is referred to as thinking distance.

How to minimise thinking distance

Of course, keeping your reaction time as short as possible will mean you are able to stop quicker in an incident.

Make sure to minimise distractions in your vehicle. Whilst a sat-nav may be a necessity, having your mobile phone in view could be potentially fatal if a message pops up right before the traffic ahead comes to a sudden halt.

Also, do not drive if you are overly tired. Lack of sleep affects driver attention and awareness. 1 in 8 drivers even admit to falling asleep at the wheel at some point. The implications of this can of course be deadly. Take breaks during long drives, and ensure that you are not going over the 9-hour limit if you are driving for work.

It goes without saying, but the AA points out that drivers should also avoid consuming any intoxicating substances such as alcohol, as reaction times are severely affected.

What are the braking distances in normal conditions?

According to the Highway Code, these are the distances your vehicle will travel before coming to a stop at certain speeds:

  • 20mph – 12 metres (40 feet, 3 car lengths)
  • 30mph – 23 metres (75 feet, 6 car lengths)
  • 40mph – 36 metres (118 feet, 9 car lengths)
  • 50mph – 53 metres (174 feet, 13 car lengths)
  • 60mph – 73 metres (240 feet, 18 car lengths)
  • 70mph – 96 metres (315 feet, 24 car lengths)

With this in mind, a driver moving at 30mph should keep at least 23 metres, or the length of 6 cars, between them and the vehicle in front. That way, if the vehicle in front suddenly stops, the driver behind should have enough time to come to a halt.

What about rainy or icy conditions?

As you would expect, the distance your vehicle will go before stopping is greatly extended when weather conditions are affecting the road.

Stopping distances in rain are expected to be doubled when compared to dry conditions. When driving in the rain at 30mph, for example, your vehicle will go 28 metres instead of 23 before stopping. Your thinking distance shouldn’t change depending on the weather, hence the distance not doubling to 46 metres. You should take extra care when driving behind another vehicle in rainy conditions.

However, things are much worse in icy conditions! The Highway Code states that braking distance will be as much as 10 times further than in dry conditions. When driving at 30mph, then, your vehicle will still go 140 metres before coming to a halt. This is further than if your vehicle was moving at 70mph in dry conditions!

Traffic at night in rain

Should these stopping distances be updated in 2022?

For some years, however, experts have been calling for the government to update the figures in the Highway Code regarding braking time. TRL determined that the figures rely on our thinking time being 0.67s, which they believe to be wrong.

They estimate that our brains actually take 1.5s to react to any hazards. This is the figure that the American version of the Highway Code uses. In Canada, it’s even longer at 2.5s.

The 0.67s figure also relies on drivers being 100% focused. This is much more difficult now than it was when the Highway Code was written. There are plenty of distractions facing drivers in 2021, and it is argued that these should be accounted for.

However, it could be argued that the distances in the Highway Code are actually longer than necessary given the advancements in vehicle technology. You can find evidence of people arguing in the early 2000s that the figures were out of date then, saying that they were a huge overestimation due to car technology improving. If that is the case though, it’s still better to overestimate and be safe!

How long do EVs take to stop?

On the other hand, the stopping distance of electric vehicles has come into question in the past. Since EVs are likely the future of transportation, it is worth understanding if they are slower to stop than a typical ICE vehicle.

In 2019, it was generally agreed that electric vehicles are roughly 20% heavier than a petrol vehicle because of the size and weight of their batteries. As battery technology improves, this may become less true over time.

With that in mind, you can expect a little extra stopping time in an electric vehicle. Consumer Reports’ tests showed that electric and hybrid cars travel 42 metres (138 feet) after braking when travelling at 60mph on average. This is similar to a large SUV or a minivan. However, that figure is still quicker than the figures from the Highway Code.

The same tests showed that small and midsized ICE cars travelled around 10ft less than electric vehicles when braking at 60mph. This does support the theory that the distances in the Highway Code are somewhat out of date now.

Do HGVs take longer to stop when braking?

HGV driving in daytime

Even though a lorry tends to have more contact with the road given their extra wheels, they are much heavier than a regular vehicle. That extra weight means HGV stopping distances can be up to 50% more than a car.

A car that brakes after travelling at 60mph will take 73 metres to stop. A HGV is more likely to take around 100 metres. Lorry drivers should be conscious of this fact as their sheer size already makes them a dangerous entity on the roads. If it is raining, a HGV could take 200 metres to stop, and would cause a great deal of damage to smaller vehicles.

Whatever vehicle you are using, it is vital that your vehicles stay well maintained in order to keep everyone safe on the road. You may know your braking distances off by heart, but if you’ve got faulty or worn out breaks, they’re going to be much longer!

With MyService.Expert, we make vehicle maintenance quick, easy and convenient. Pre-negotiated rates with thousands of main dealers and independent garages across the nation mean you have accessible servicing and maintenance whenever you need.

Get in touch with the dedicated team at Fuel Card Services today and see how else we can save your business time and money.

Red lorry on country road

DVSA roadside vehicle checks for commercial vehicles

When driving a commercial vehicle, it is possible that you will be stopped for a roadside vehicle check. This could be by the police, or by an officer for the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

You are eligible to be stopped if you are driving a commercial van, lorry, bus or coach.

The DVSA officers wear a recognisable hi-vis jacket, and their vehicles are marked with a black and yellow print. Officers will also carry a warrant card, so you know that the check is a legitimate, legal operation.

Why are these roadside checks carried out?

These checks are carried out to determine whether the vehicle is breaking any rules or regulations. This is done to keep unsafe vehicles off the road.

Whilst most accidents are in fact caused by driver error, it is safer to ensure that all vehicles on the road are meeting a certain standard. Otherwise, the overall rate of accidents in the UK may rise further.

The following checks are likely to be made:

These checks will be carried out by DVSA officers by the side of the road or, in some circumstances, at dedicated testing sites.

If these checks are failed, your vehicle might be immobilised, and your business could be fined and even prosecuted for operating a dangerous vehicle.

What are some myths surrounding roadside checks?

According to the DVSA, there are some misconceptions around these roadside checks. Drivers may even be made to fear them unnecessarily.

Will cars also be checked?

Car drivers might be nervous to hear that officers are checking vehicles in their area. However, they need not be.

These roadside checks only target commercial vehicles. This is because they are typically larger, and therefore pose more of a risk to other road users.

Commercial vehicles also tend to be on the road for longer time periods than cars. These checks also ensure that drivers are taking breaks and not driving for longer than the law allows.

With HGV drivers in short supply, businesses may be encouraging their drivers to be on the road for longer to make up for this, so these checks are now more important than ever.

Will all commercial vehicles be pulled over?

These checks are aimed at businesses who are known to be non-compliant. Businesses that have passed checks before, or are part of the DVSA earned recognition scheme, are much less likely to be pulled over for a check.

Officers are able to check how compliant an operator is on their devices.

This is a great incentive to keep your vehicles in good condition, as passing these checks now will mean you won’t have to go through them again in the future.

Where does the money go from roadside fines?

If you are fined for failing these tests, you might be concerned about where that money is going.

According to the DVSA, all fines go straight to the government and used to fund vital public services. The fines are also used to fund the DVSA’s operations.

An exception to this rule is the £80 fee that the DVSA charge to free up an immobilised vehicle once a serious defect has been amended.

White van on road with lens flare

Why bother with these checks if most accidents are down to human error?

Only 2% of accidents on UK roads are a result of vehicle defects, so drivers might question whether the roadside checks are necessary.

However, the DVSA argue that it is because of these checks that faulty vehicles do not causes accidents. Annual MOTs and test for larger vehicles, in conjunction with these roadside checks, are helping to keep our roads safer.

These checks do also ensure that drivers are not on the road for an excessive amount of time. This keeps drivers off the road who might be feeling tired and not concentrating properly.

Will your business be massively fined for any vehicle defect?

The fine that your business might receive for running an unsafe vehicle will be proportionate to the severity of the defect.

Brakes that are heavily eroded for example might encourage a fairly hefty fine. On the other hand, if there are only minor faults, you might not be fined but will be issued an advisory notice that encourages you to get the fault fixed.

Whilst businesses might argue that they were unaware of the fault, this is uncommon. 85% of defects can be spotted during the driver’s walk-around check that they should carry out before each journey.

What happens if you don’t stop for a check?

You must safely stop your vehicle when signalled by a DVSA officer. To ignore the signal and continue driving is in fact a criminal offence.

If you do not stop, your vehicle details will be recorded so that you can be chased up later.

You might face court action, or have your operator’s licence suspended or revoked.

How can Fuel Card Services help?

As you can tell, it is worthwhile to make sure your commercial vehicles and drivers are prepared to pass a roadside vehicle check. Ensure that your vehicles are in prime condition and your drivers are doing their best to maintain the vehicle’s health.

With MyService.Expert, we make vehicle maintenance quick, easy and painless. We offer pre-negotiated rates at thousands of dealers and garages, with consolidated HMRC compliant invoices.

Get in touch today and see how we can help your businesses save time and money.