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.

Car avoids large pothole which could cause vehicle damage

Can I claim for vehicle damage on poor quality roads?

Any form of vehicle damage can be awkward to deal with, potentially costly, and involves having a little debate with yourself over whether it’s worth claiming on your insurance or floating the cost out of your own accounts.

This is true both for individuals, and for businesses who may experience this challenge frequently when operating a commercial fleet. One important question to ask yourself, though, is ‘who is responsible for causing damage to my vehicle?’

Naturally, if either yourself, one of your drivers, or another road user is at fault, it’s easy to point the finger at who should be paying up. If, however, damage has been caused by the road itself what steps can you take? That’s exactly what we’re going to dive into in this article.

What is vehicle damage?

If you’re driving along and run into a pothole, there are a number of ways in which your vehicle could sustain damage. From puncturing your tyre to bumping the chassis of your car and causing serious damage to vital components, you could find yourself racking up quite an expensive bill.

After identifying the cause of this damage, you should ask whether it’s a fault of the road itself or another driver. If the organisation responsible for managing the road is at fault, you may have scope to claim. However, if your car is hit by debris from another vehicle, for example, then pursuing a claim from the perpetrator’s insurance is likely the best option.

What’s key is that you can evidence a clear link between the cause of damage in the road, and the damage actually done to your vehicle. Meaning it’s important to take photos if you’ve sustained damage from a pothole, although do take safety into consideration and be mindful of other road users when exiting your vehicle.

Similarly, if you’re operating a commercial fleet, ensure that your drivers exercise the same level of caution – and that they realise you cannot legally get out of your vehicle for this purpose on a motorway. With that in mind, how do you go about making a claim?

Car wheel avoiding small pothole

How to claim for pothole damage

Follow our step-by-step process for making a pothole-damage claim.

1. Identify who is responsible

The first step in making a claim is understanding who exactly you should be looking to contact; i.e., identifying which organisation is responsible for maintaining the road in question. In England;

  • London’s red routes are managed by Transport for London.
  • The majority of motorways and A-roads are managed by Highways England.
  • Any other English roads, as well as some A-roads, are managed by local council authorities.

You can check whether Highways England manages a road via their website.

2. Report the pothole to the organisation

You can make a claim for any damage caused to your vehicle by a pothole. That said, it’s also essential that you report a pothole to the organisation responsible for managing the specific road quickly – as they can be a genuine danger to human life if hit at high speeds.

If you’re operating a commercial fleet and haven’t done so already, then you may want to implement a process for reporting these in bulk. Naturally, if a pothole has been reported multiple times and not addressed, then this can only strengthen your claim for compensation.

When reporting a pothole, one useful tip is to drop an everyday item, such as your keys, into the pothole when you take a photograph. This can help the person receiving your claim understand the depth (and potential danger) of the hole.

The BBC estimate that councils in England and Wales fill in a pothole every 19 seconds, however 16% of roads in England are considered to be in a ‘poor’ state, so helping to report these is an important action to take.

3. Make your claim

Next, visit the website of the organisation responsible and follow their claims process. Generally, the organisation will want to understand:

  • What damage has been caused to your vehicle.
  • A rationale for the claim; how is this organisation responsible?
  • Details around the location of the incident, such as the road name and the exact date and time the damage was caused.

After submitting your claim, you’ll find it either to be accepted or rejected. In the case of the latter- it’s possible to actually appeal this ruling if you have a strong reason to believe that you’re owed compensation.
You can read more about the complete process for making a claim on the Government’s website.

So, can you claim for damaged tyres due to council roads?

Essentially, yes. Whether you’re representing a business or you’re driving for residential purposes, if a council road causes damage to your vehicle, then you can indeed make a claim for compensation.

We hope this article has helped answer your questions, and that it points you in the right direction in terms of making your claim.

How can Fuel Card Services help?

At Fuel Card Services, we know better than most how vehicle damage can hinder a commercial fleet operation. We’ve taken matters into our own hands, and developed a range of professional fleet services that are designed to make it easier for you, as an operator, to manage and overcome these challenges.

Our services include:

  • MyService.Expert – simplifying your vehicle maintenance and servicing. With our service, you can select from a range of garages near you and book in to gain access to our pre-negotiated servicing and maintenance rates.
  • MyDriveSafe.Expert – Our app which enables the quick and hassle-free reporting of vehicle defects, and allowing your drivers to run through a series of easy-to-follow checks.

If you think your business could benefit from our solutions, then feel welcome to contact our experts for advice on how we could work together – or check out how you could save money on fuel with our fantastic range of fuel cards.

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.

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.

Some fleet managers might be concerned that they are losing the benefits of their fuel card by switching to EVs, but this is no longer the case. With the Shell Electric Vehicle Fuel Card, you can continue making savings every time you charge, and it can also be used to pay for regular fuel!

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.