Woman standing next to blue car whilst it charges, looking at her phone

Electric vehicle safety – is my EV really safe to drive?

In the past, there has been a lot of superstition towards the safety of electric vehicles. A few viral videos of an electric vehicle catching fire circulated the internet, and their overall safety was questioned.

For any potential buyers who see safety as a barrier to purchasing an electric vehicle, let’s look at some of the reasons why safety is not something you should be worried about.

Is it possible for electric vehicles to catch fire?

Yes – it’s definitely a possibility for electric vehicles to catch fire. However, it’s even more possible for a vehicle using a combustion engine to catch fire.

In a 2014 study, the Research Institutes of Sweden concluded that whilst electric cars made by Tesla had a fire rate of 1 in 20,000, the fire rate in ICE vehicles was 1 in 1,000.

Simply put, a Tesla electric car is 20 times less likely to catch fire than a fossil fuel burning vehicle.

What is being done to prevent electric vehicle fires?

Safety is a huge priority for manufacturers when building an electric vehicle.

Batteries are very well protected in crash resistant frames. They are also mounted as low as possible, and away from areas likely to be crumpled in a heavy impact. This is all to stop any material piercing the battery, which is where issues might start.

A production line with a row of cars being built, sparks flying from machinery

If a cell within the battery does get damaged, it could short circuit and cause flammable electrolytes to ignite. This can cause a chain reaction, causing large, sometimes inextinguishable fires. You can see why the safety of each electric vehicle is of high importance to manufacturers.

Electric vehicles are also fitted with sensors that detect collision. When this happens, any high voltage connections are severed. This greatly reduces the risk of the vehicle catching fire after an accident.

Electric vehicles fitted with noise emitters

Another concern regarding the safety of electric vehicles is that they don’t naturally emit much noise. Whilst this sounds a lot less frightening than the chance of the battery catching fire, it could be just as dangerous.

We are used to hearing cars – we know they are there and which direction they are coming from. We wouldn’t cross the road without looking if we could hear a car behind us.

The obvious issue with electric vehicles is that if pedestrians can’t hear them coming, they could unknowingly put themselves in harm’s way.

Luckily, guidelines in the UK dictate that electric vehicles must contain an acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS). The legislation means that cars must emit a sound with a minimum volume of 56 decibels. This is about the same volume as a quiet conversation. On a quiet street, the AVAS is enough to make pedestrians aware of the vehicle’s presence.

As of 2021, all new electric cars must have AVAS fitted. Hopefully, concerns about low noise levels will be a thing of the past by the time we get to the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel production.

How to ensure safety on the road

Whilst we can compare the safety of electric vehicles and ICE vehicles, the overall safety of any vehicle is determined by the driver.

Continuing to drive with 100% focus on the road is the simplest, most effective way to avoid any accidents that could cause fires. Keep distractions out of reach, and always be aware of other motorists.

For fleet managers, using telematics allows you to monitor whether your drivers are being safe. You’ll be able to see which of your drivers are prone to speeding, aggressive turns and breaking, tailgating and other erratic habits. Any action taken with this information is down to the fleet manager, but teaching drivers to avoid these habits will make the roads safer for everyone.

From 2022, all new cars will be fitted with speed limiters in Europe and the UK. The technology can be disabled for overtaking and joining motorways, but data will also be stored so that, in the case of an accident, police can determine whether the driver was at fault.

If you’d like to know more about how telematics can improve your fleet’s safety, get in touch with our team.

Two arms are shown. One gives a thumbs up, the other holds a spanner.

How can service plans help save fleets money?

There are many tasks to juggle as a fleet manager, not least ensuring all of your vehicles are roadworthy and safe at all times.

Due to general wear and tear and the fact that most fleets cover many miles, vehicles can easily become a little rough around the edges. To preserve their condition, regular servicing is therefore essential if you are to avoid unexpected repair bills.

However, staying on top of this when you have a potentially large number of vehicles may be tricky. The answer could be to tackle servicing proactively using a fleet maintenance service plan.

Managing servicing in a proactive way

Whether you do this through a maintenance-inclusive contract with your leasing provider or a pay-as-you-go service scheme, paying a set amount per month and having servicing pre-scheduled is ideal for peace of mind.

It ensures all routine checks, maintenance and repair costs are covered and can be tailored specifically for your business. This could be the best way to reduce and even prevent breakdowns.

Here are some of the recognised benefits of a fleet service plan:

Improved safety

Many accidents on the roads are caused by maintenance problems with components like tyres and brakes. Indeed, according to the most recent figures from RoSPA, there are around 136 serious collisions a year due to illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres.

Meanwhile, Department for Transport data shows defective brakes have been the leading cause of road accidents for six years running.

Maintenance is essential for keeping fleets safe. By staying on top of these small parts through regular inspections, it is less likely that they will become a risk for drivers and potentially cause major incidents on the roads.

What’s more, improving safety could have a knock-on effect for your reputation as word gets around to customers – and potential new staff.

Less downtime for vehicles

It might seem as though all this extra time for servicing could be detrimental to productivity and therefore costly. On the contrary, it is likely to be easier to manage than having to pull vehicles off their routes unexpectedly when they break down.

According to research from Ford, each fleet vehicle spends an average of four days a year off the road for repairs, costing an average of £200 a day. One in ten businesses said they believe the cost is closer to £600 a day.

By preventing some of the incidents that take them off the road in the first place and having repairs scheduled as soon as possible, this expense could be reduced dramatically.

Add in the fact that you’re extending the life of your vehicles, avoiding towing fees and not missing business appointments due to breakdowns and the long-term savings could be significant.

Easier compliance

Police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency have the power to stop commercial vehicles at any time for spot checks. These are designed to keep unsafe vehicles off the roads and can result in fixed penalties in the event of offences.

If drivers are able to access records from fleet service plans, they can demonstrate compliance with the law quickly and easily. They can also show a full service history and prove maintenance has been regularly carried out. This could mean stops take less time and penalties are all but eliminated.

Savings elsewhere

Regular servicing might prove to have additional benefits that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, the RAC points out that by upgrading tyres and regularly changing oil and filters, savings could be made on fuel by making vehicles more efficient.

Through extending the life of fleet vehicles, it may also reduce the frequency at which they need to be replaced. Avoiding this significant expense could be welcome for smaller businesses in particular.

A female mechanic works underneath a vehicle

How to implement a fleet service plan

To decide which service plan is right for you, it’s important to take a good look at each vehicle in your fleet and gather together all their service records and other documentation.

You can then work out how often you think maintenance will be needed and look for suitable products. Automatic reminders can be sent out once you’re signed up, triggered by metrics such as mileage, engine hours or fuel used.

Good service plans should include:

  • General tune-ups
  • Inspection of electrical systems
  • Brake checks
  • Steering column inspections
  • Changing of oil and filters
  • Replacement of parts such as windscreen wiper blades
  • Tyre replacement

… and much more.

How a software solution can help

As mentioned above, automatic reminders can be a great help when it comes to ensuring service plans are adhered to. You might therefore wish to incorporate a telematics-based software solution into your plan to do the legwork when it comes to managing fleet maintenance.

There are a variety available that can be deployed via the cloud and integrated with existing fleet management tools. For example, you could set up alerts using your fuel cards that record when drivers have purchased a certain amount of fuel and must therefore be ready for a service.

Other potential functions include:

  • Inventory management for required parts
  • Automatic invoicing and ordering of new components
  • Storage of vehicle service histories in a central repository

Having access to all this data could also help you to see trends in maintenance requirements that demonstrate how well a fleet is performing and whether certain vehicles may be nearing the end of their lifespan.

Of course, fleet operators should always be encouraged to report issues with their vehicles that crop up outside servicing times. However, a maintenance plan should reduce the likelihood of this and ensure more problems are pre-empted before they become a real issue.

For more information about how you could simplify your company vehicle maintenance, and to find out more about MyService.Expert, contact Fuel Card Services today.

Hands of mechanic with wrench working on car engine

Key points of a good vehicle maintenance system

Keeping your vehicles in good working order is an essential part of any fleet manager’s job. While some of the day-to-day work can be delegated to individual drivers, it’s still vital that you have a clear plan in place. This means undertaking frequent checks of key systems and a regular vehicle service schedule for more comprehensive car maintenance.

This doesn’t need to be a complex or time-consuming activity. A few basic daily checks takes just a few minutes and goes a long way to keeping vehicles in good condition. As they say, prevention is better than cure, so taking a bit of time on a regular basis can prevent far bigger problems arising later.

Why vehicle maintenance must be a top priority

The first and most obvious benefit of a good plan is vehicle and driver safety. Badly-maintained cars may be more prone to failures on the road that could lead to serious accidents.

There are also clear financial benefits to keeping your fleet well-maintained. For starters, a good servicing schedule reduces the risk of breakdowns or other issues that can force a car off the road unexpectedly. This type of unplanned downtime can be very costly for firms. It means they have to alter schedules and risk disappointing customers.

However, even simple things like making sure your tyres are the correct pressure can improve fuel economy, and therefore reduce running costs.

Therefore, you need a clear plan for fleet vehicle servicing. This must ensure every vehicle you operate has its own service schedule that’s planned well in advance. Don’t leave it to the last minute or arrange this on an ad-hoc basis.

Factors to consider when creating a maintenance schedule include:

  • The vehicle’s age
  • Frequency of use
  • Mileage
  • Operating conditions

Key areas to focus on when conducting service checks

So what should a good maintenance programme include? There are a wide range of checks that need to be performed. Knowing what these are and how frequently they should be done is a vital step in keeping your fleet moving.

Everyday checks – remember FLOWER

Firstly, you must be performing a range of regular checks on your vehicles. Ideally, these should be done every day before setting off, but they should at least be done on a weekly basis or before any long journey. The best way of handling these is to have drivers take responsibility for their own vehicles, so it’s vital they’re trained on what to look for and how to report the results.

Close up of person checking oil levels under a car's bonnet

There are a few key areas that should be focused on here. The AA suggests these can be easily remembered with the acronym ‘FLOWER’, which consists of the following:

Fuel – Does the vehicle have enough fuel to make the journey. If not, make sure you know where you can use your fuel card to fill up. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked, and running dry can cause big problems – especially in the winter or for diesel vehicles.

Lights – Are all the bulbs working? Brake lights, indicators and headlights are especially vital. Therefore, have someone walk around the vehicle to make sure they not only work, but can be easily seen. This means clearing away any debris or mud that could obscure them.

Oil – Check your dipstick to ensure your oil level is between the minimum and maximum marks on the stick. If not, you could be running the risk of serious engine damage. This is also a very common problem, as the RAC notes one in three vehicles it’s called out to have dangerously low oil levels.

Water – Make sure your screen wash reservoir is topped up regularly. This is important year-round, but especially so in winter when grit, snow and mud can all smear your windscreen. Even in summer, bugs and pollen can hamper your view, so don’t run the risk of an empty water bottle.

Electrics – Aside from your lights, you should also check other electrics such as your battery. Make sure the connections are clean and tight and use a battery monitor to check its health. It’s a good idea to keep a set of jump leads in each vehicle – or at least on hand at your site – if you have a flat battery. The most common cause of this is leaving lights on, but this issue can also occur if the car hasn’t been used for a while or is used mainly for very short trips with lots of stopping and starting.

Close-up of hands checking the tread of a car tyre

Rubber – Making sure your tyres are in good condition is also essential. This involves several steps. Firstly, make sure they’re set to the right pressure as specified in the vehicle manual. Using a pressure gauge is a good idea for this. Then, check the tread depth meets minimum requirements. The treads should be at least 1.6mm deep – that’s about the size of the rim on a 20p piece, if you’re not sure. Finally, check the tyres for any other signs of wear or damage, such as cuts, splits or bulges.

If the daily checks spot any issues with these components, they should be immediately flagged up for maintenance or repair before the car is sent out on to the road.

Longer-term focuses to keep in mind

More comprehensive servicing should also be scheduled for a set timeframe or number of miles. This should go into more depth on a range of issues, including:

  • Coolant
  • Air filter
  • Spark plugs (for petrol vehicles)
  • Brakes
  • Transmission fluid
  • Serpentine belt

Taking a proactive approach – how the right technology helps

While a regular service schedule is a must, you can also be more proactive about your maintenance with the latest technology. Telematics systems, for example, should be able to access the diagnostic tools in the car’s computer and alert you to any issues quickly. This allows you to step in early and prevent larger issues.

Good fleet management tools can also give you a better overview of your vehicles and allow you to optimise your maintenance. For example, if can help identify older or higher mileage vehicles that may need to be a priority for more regular servicing.

This can also help you plan for the future by spotting which vehicles may need replacing soon. Maintenance records can also show you what makes or models may be more prone to mechanical issues, which again can factor into your thinking when it comes to replacing vehicles.

If you want to learn more about how the right tech tools can help keep your fleet’s maintenance up to speed, contact us today.

White electric car with charger plugged in, blue graphics to indicate power

How can I keep electric cars charged?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming. Sales of these models have been showing impressive growth recently, helped by improving technology and wider consumer acceptance. Indeed, more than one in ten cars sold in the UK 2020 were electric – a 66 per cent increase from 2019.

For now, petrol and diesel will continue to make up the majority of business fleets. These fuels are familiar, convenient and – with a good fuel card – cost-effective. But sooner or later, fleet managers will have to start looking at EVs. And this will mean new challenges as well as benefits.

Why the future is electric

A key reason why more people are going electric is because they’ll eventually have no choice. A government deadline is looming. After 2030, the sale of new petrol or diesel-only cars will be banned in the UK, though some hybrid models will still be allowed.

Carmakers have been responding to this. In just the last few weeks alone, the likes of Ford and Volvo have announced they intend to become all-electric by 2030. Jaguar is even more ambitious, aiming to remove new petrol and diesel models from its range by 2025.

Most firms, however, shouldn’t wait until they have no choice before looking at electric cars.

Thinking ahead means you’ll be much better-prepared for the time when it’s electric or nothing.

The benefits of going electric

The two major selling points of EVs are their environmental benefits and the potential for cost-savings. Some figures suggest busy users could save more than £1,000 in running costs, while fully-electric cars are also exempt from vehicle excise duty.

It can also boost your reputation among customers, who are keen to support companies that are making efforts to go green. What’s more, employees are in favour of this too.

According to research by Go Ultra Low, 70 per cent of employees want their company to offer EVs. What’s more, 63 per cent would prefer an electric car if they had the option. As well as the reduced running costs, more than half of company drivers (53 per cent) cite the environmental benefits as an appealing factor.

The challenges facing electric fleet managers

However, EVs are not without their issues for fleet managers. And one of the biggest questions will be how you ensure they’re kept fully charged and available at all times.

While battery technology – and therefore range – has improved hugely in recent years, getting caught low on energy away from a charging point is still a concern for many. According to research by Venson, 69 per cent of motorists are worried by a lack of charging infrastructure. Therefore, this is always something you have to plan for.

You also need to factor in maintenance costs. As many electric cars are still relatively new, long-term costs are still unclear, but there are a few things to consider. On the plus side, because there are no moving parts or oil to change, day-to-day costs will often be cheaper. However, replacing a battery pack could cost thousands if it becomes damaged in a bump.

Where can I charge electric vehicles?

For most fleet managers, the number one issue will be charging. While there’s still work to do, the UK’s infrastructure has come a long way. There are now more than 35,000 public electric vehicle charging points around the UK at 13,000 locations, and the numbers are growing all the time.

In 2020, around 7,000 new connections were added to the network. Importantly, the biggest increases were in 150-350kW charging points, which promise much faster charging.

Many fleets will need to recharge their EVs overnight at on-site electric vehicle charging stations to ensure they have enough range for the following day’s activity. However, for those times where this isn’t possible, such as long-distance drives, you’ll need to take into account access to charging points when planning routes.

Drivers will also need to be equipped with electric vehicle charging cards to avoid any complex later expenses claims.

How long will charging take?

It’s still true that charging takes significantly longer than filling up a fuel tank with petrol or diesel. But the difference is not as big as it once was.

While it can still take up to eight hours to fully charge an EV, rapid chargers can offer 100-200-mile range in less than 30 minutes. This means if a driver is caught with low battery, they should at least be able to recharge enough to make it home, wherever they are.

There are a few factors to take into account when it comes to electric vehicle charging. These include:

  • The size of the battery
  • How many miles you do between charges
  • How you charge, such as topping up often or charging from low to full
  • The power rating of the charger

Should I install dedicated charging points?

If firms are going down the electric route, installing dedicated fast-charging points on site may be a necessity. You can’t rely on public electric vehicle charging stations to provide the fast, reliable service you need to stay on the road.

Charging points could be located at a compound for commercial vehicles or in an office’s car park. This will require an upfront investment, but some of these costs can be claimed back using the government’s Workplace Charging Scheme. This allows for a grant of up to 75 per cent of the cost of a socket, up to a maximum of £350 each and no more than 40 sockets across all a firm’s sites.

What about home charging?

If employees use company EVs kept at their home, they’ll likely charge them there more often than not.

This can bring its own range of issues. For example, how does the firm compensate employees for their use of domestic electricity? And what about the charger itself?

Using a standard mains outlet and three-point pin should only ever be a last resort, as it’s the slowest possible way of charging an EV. This means many employers will therefore need to assist with the cost of installing a home charging point. This can be made more complex if a landlord’s permission is needed or there is no off-street or garage parking available at the employee’s home.

However you charge EVs – at work, at home or at public charging sites – you’ll need the right tools to make it simple and cost-effective. We can expect to see more electric vehicle fuel cards become available in the coming years. However, if you want to know more today about how to add electric vehicles to your fleet and manage them alongside existing petrol and diesel cars, contact Fuel Card Services.

A man uses a tablet while checking an HGV

The HGV daily walk around check: Why it’s vital for commercial vehicle operators

We should all do a once-over of the oil and tyres when going out in our own vehicles, but operators and drivers of HGVs have a legal requirement to do more.

By definition, these vehicles are significantly heavier than cars and could therefore pose a real risk to other road users if they are not properly maintained and cared for.

That’s why the HGV daily walk around check is a vital part of road safety. It’s also essential before every journey under Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) regulations.

Here, we’ll take a look at this part of the law in more detail and explain how and why HGV operators must adhere to it.

What is the HGV daily walk around check and why do it?

The HGV daily walk around check lays out what drivers need to inspect – both inside and outside their vehicles – before taking to the roads. It’s just as essential as scheduled maintenance checks like servicing, and it can be followed up on at any time by police.

It aims to pick up on faults – however minor – on commercial vehicles and ensure they are addressed before they worsen and become potentially dangerous.

This might seem like a chore, but the HGV daily walk around check could actually save you money. By finding defects on lorries early, both maintenance costs and vehicle downtime may be reduced in the long run.

Indeed, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), 85 per cent of lorry defects could be picked up during a simple walk around. Many are also quickly and inexpensively solved.

Logistics UK and the Road Haulage Association recommend that the HGV daily walk around check should take around 15 minutes if done properly. This means it must be factored in as an essential rather than skimmed over as an afterthought.

Furthermore, it could prove crucial should detailed records of a journey be required in the event of an accident.

What should be looked at during the walk around check?

Young female driver sitting in cab of truck

Inside the vehicle, drivers must check:

  • Mirrors
  • Windscreen and wipers
  • The front view
  • All dashboard gauges
  • The steering
  • The horn
  • Seatbelts
  • Brakes and air

Importantly, height is also a requirement, as outlined in Network Rail’s ‘Wise Up, Size Up’ campaign against HGV bridge strikes.

Outside the vehicle, drivers must check:

  • Lights
  • Reflectors and indicators
  • Fuel and oil
  • The battery
  • Exhaust fluid
  • Exhaust emissions
  • Spray suppression
  • Brakes
  • Electrical connections
  • Coupling security
  • Number plates
  • Tyres
  • Warning plates

The DVSA’s guidance lists everything that should be examined as part of a walk around in greater detail, and there is an accompanying video and diagram to act as a reminder.

Who is responsible for the HGV daily walk around check?

It is each individual driver’s responsibility to ensure daily walk around checks on their HGVs have been carried out prior to use.

Even if more than one driver uses a lorry and it has already been out on a particular day, the next driver must do their own inspection before they embark. This will ensure the vehicle is always roadworthy and safe, even if a new fault occurs between trips.

The HGV daily walk around check may be carried out by anyone provided they have been trained to do so, whether that is a driver or a mechanic.

Although drivers cannot be expected to scrutinise their vehicles in the way a mechanic might, they should be able to spot simple flaws that could be flagged up to someone with additional maintenance training.

Fleet and other commercial vehicle owners should provide initial training for every employee when they start, then top this up with refresher courses later on. This will ensure greater knowledge of new makes and models, as well as cover any new developments in terms of updated equipment and regulations.

Remember too that equipment such as waterproof clothing and torches must be provided so that employees can carry out inspections in all weathers without missing anything.

The DVSA regularly organises and runs seminars for training purposes, so this may be worth looking into.

Failure to carry out checks

If HGV drivers are failing to carry out their daily walk around checks, owners could stand to lose more than money in costly repairs.

DVSA officers and police have the legal right to stop commercial vehicles at any time to do inspections at the roadside. Under these circumstances, they will likely ask for the records of the walk around check.

If any issues are discovered that should already have been noted and repaired as part of daily maintenance, the driver may have their vehicle confiscated and an on-the-spot fine issued.

Should the HGV be deemed unroadworthy or dangerous, both the driver and the operator may face the prospect of criminal prosecution, a public inquiry and even a prison sentence.

In the unfortunate event of an accident, daily walk around check records will also be pulled up. Should they prove lacking, the driver and the operator could find themselves liable and face considerable insurance issues.

DVSA records state that 35,744 prohibitions were handed out in 2018-19, with tyres, brake systems, steering and indicators among the most common faults.

How to record the HGV daily walk around check

A driver records information on a tablet near an HGV.

All HGV operators must have a system in place for recording and reporting their daily walk around checks. Templates can be found online to download so that drivers have their own book of vehicle walk around sheets and defect forms.

Should defects be discovered, drivers must report them so further action can be taken. They should not use the vehicle until the defect has been fixed.

On their defect forms, the following information should be recorded:

  • Time and date of defect discovery
  • Description of defect
  • Action taken to mitigate effects

How a daily walk around check app could help

Although paper forms remain a legally acceptable method of recording and reporting vehicle defects, they are subject to disadvantages. Drivers may lose or damage them, and some may even be tempted to backdate them in a bid to set off more quickly.

Operators also have the problem of having to transfer data from paper forms into an electronic system for their records.

In a digital age, a daily walk around check app such as MyDriveSafe offers an electronic version of this traditionally manual inspection process.

Apps are easy to use, reduce the likelihood of errors, make it easy to comply with government safety standards and boost efficiency, meaning drivers will save time while still sticking to the law.

Users can record information using Quick Reference (QR) codes on their vehicles, including photographic evidence and time and date details, with the results sent to operators’ fleet management systems in real time.

This provides an auditable trail should any issues crop up with vehicles at a later date.

With new updated guidance from the DVSA on HGV daily walk around checks available online – and in video form for mobile devices – as well as apps to help carry them out, there really is no excuse not to be on top of this part of the law.

To find out more about how tools like MyDriveSafe can help ensure your fleet is safe and compliant with the law, get in touch with our team today.