Blog

By Mark Cartwright, Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles, FTA

As autumn begins to draw in, it'll soon be time to say goodbye to the long, sunny days we have become accustomed to. These changing conditions – darker mornings and evenings, increased rainfall, and a lower sun – can bring challenges which we all need to be aware of to ensure we keep operating safely as the seasons change.

LOW SUN

With the sun sitting lower in the sky during the autumn months, it is vital that your field of vision is as clear as possible. Make sure there is nothing on your dashboard; there should be no coffee cups, maps, delivery notes, or anything else that could get in the way of your view out of the cab.  Make sure the glass is clean, inside and out, before setting off, and allow extra time to your journey if the conditions require a blast from the demister. And remember to always keep a pair of sunglasses in the cab, as the low angle of the sun can be difficult to deal with at this time of year.

RAINFALL

After long periods of dry weather, the roads can become slippery at the first dew or rainfall, thanks to deposits of rubber on the roads. Take extra care when driving at this time of year, and allow sufficient braking distance to make sure you are completely safe.

DARKER MORNINGS AND EVENINGS

Visibility, both of your vehicle and of other road users, is more challenging as autumn moves into winter.  Check all your lights are working correctly, and keep all of them clean – spray from the road and other dirt can limit their effectiveness.  Always use indicators when turning, to ensure that other vehicles are aware of your intentions.  Keep alert to other road users too – more vulnerable road users like cyclists and motorcyclists can be more difficult to spot when the light is failing, so take extra time to check before pulling out.  And be aware that reflective road surfaces, combined with damp or wet driving conditions, can make it very difficult to see things clearly, particularly at multi-point junctions or away from main roads with good lighting. Check and check again before manoeuvring to ensure that all road users can keep moving as safely as possible

Posted: 03/09/2019 09:54:06 by Freya Penny | with 0 comments


How much can your van carry?  Most people, when asked, can quote their GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) limit, which is the limit certified for use on the roads.  But how many of us actually consider this when doing our day to day jobs?  

The GVW is technically the total weight of the van, including the driver, any passengers, fuel and the load being carried.  The main reason for the GVW is to ensure that the safety of the vehicle is not compromised by carrying too much.  Do you just load your van to the gunwales at the start of the day and head out?  This could cause huge problems, not just for you and your business but for other road users. 

Heavy loads can affect the handling and braking capabilities of any vehicle and this problem can be multiplied if the vehicle is larger than an average car.  In addition, if you overload your van while packing it, its performance will be affected, and that could hit you where it hurts – in your pocket!  Speed and fuel consumption will be hit if the van is overloaded – and putting too much in the back can also put too much strain on the axles and the tyres.  Can you really afford for your vehicle to be off the road, clocking up hefty repair bills? 

Always check what you have on board before you start the day's work: do you really need all that equipment?  Too many of us leave things in the back of the van "just in case" or, in reality, because it is easier to leave them in the van, rather than putting them away!   And how much does all your equipment weigh?  Only take what you need with you, and you can ensure that your van has many more potential miles in it. 

Posted: 16/08/2018 12:53:12 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments


We all know someone who thinks they’re Lewis Hamilton, driving too fast every time they get behind the wheel.  Can you honestly say that you’ve never exceeded the speed limit to get somewhere on time, to make that extra delivery or ensure that you get to an important meeting?     

Excessive speed is often a major factor in road traffic collisions.  It’s sobering to realise that the chance of survival for a pedestrian hit by a car increases from 10% if the vehicle is travelling at 40mph to 90% if it's doing 20mph.  But what are the implications for transport operators if their drivers regularly speed or cause an accident while breaking the speed limit?    

Cost is one area to explore - travelling at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph.  Speeding due to the pressure of work causes driving stress and this can lead to employees being off work, either through illness or because of a road accident, let alone because of damaged vehicles, so effective driver management is important.  Prior planning of routes and delivery patterns can go a long way to ensuring that speed can be controlled – don’t make excessive demands of your staff.   

Technology can play a big part.  Vans can be limited so that exceeding the speed limit is not possible, and telematics can be used to monitor and manage a driver's performance.  And perhaps there's an argument for vehicles to be limited by default when they come off the production line?  After all, what other piece of industrial equipment is sold equipped to break the law?    

Financial penalties for speeding have recently increased and drivers could find themselves with big fines relating to their weekly earnings as a consequence.  Business owners who turn a blind eye to speeding are also at risk under Health and Safety at Work legislation.  New sentencing guidelines put greater emphasis on the culpability of senior managers and owners.  An evidence of speed can be gathered from management systems on modern vans, even when no telematics are fitted.     

Driving at speed can have a significant effect on the way a vehicle handles on the road, making accidents more likely to occur.  And it is worth pointing out the effect that constant acceleration and deceleration can have on the life of a vehicle – much better to drive at a steady, controlled pace, keeping within the speed limit.  All in all, driving in a proactive manner, at an appropriate speed, is something that we should all be doing, week in, week out – that extra 5mph really isn’t worth the potential problems it can cause.   

Posted: 09/05/2018 10:49:11 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments


In a recent survey of AA members, tailgating was voted the single most irritating driving habit.  More than a quarter of motorists asked, said other vehicles driving too close made them stressed and angry. Tailgating is illegal and while it is always dangerous, it’s particularly reckless at this time of year, when there may be wet or icy road conditions.

Interestingly, research published last year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed that tailgating really doesn’t get you to your destination any quicker.  In fact, speeding up and slowing down in heavy traffic actually causes jams, particularly on motorways.

Of course, there are always some determined tailgaters on every road, whose aggressive driving style means they are quite happy to put their lives and others at risk.  But most drivers who get too close to the car in front are ‘unwitting tailgaters’.  They are not concentrating properly, or have an unrealistic view of their ability to stop in an emergency.

The stopping distances we all learned when we passed our driving test are for an average sized family car in normal weather conditions.  During the winter months driving conditions are rarely good and your van is probably heavier than a car.  So, as a professional driver, it’s vital that you take stopping distances seriously.

Stopping distances are made-up of two elements – thinking time and braking time.  Even the most experienced driver needs time to react to a hazard in front of them.  According to the Highway Code, when driving at just 20mph, it takes six metres for your brain to react and tell your foot to hit the brake.  At motorway speeds, thinking time increases to a staggering 21 metres. 

The braking time is the distance your van will continue to travel as you press your foot on the brake, before it comes to a halt.  According to the Highway Code at 20mph this is 6 metres, while at motorway speeds it will take 75 metres for an average-sized family car to stop.  A larger or heavier van will take even longer. 

The condition of your vehicle will also have an impact on stopping distances.  According to the RAC, factors such as tread depth, tyre quality and inflation will all have a dramatic effect.  The quality and wear of the brake pads is also significant.  Unless your vehicle is in near perfect condition, all these factors will reduce your ability to stop quickly.

Judging distance in practice can be difficult, but you can always use the two-second rule which is recommended in the Highway Code. As the vehicle in front passes a fixed point, such as a sign or a bridge, start to say the phrase ‘Only a fool breaks the two-second rule’ at a normal rate.  The words take about two seconds to say, so if you pass the same fixed point before you’ve finished, you’re too close.  Government advice says in wet weather you should double the distance and make it even bigger in icy conditions.

So next time you get behind the wheel, take a moment to review your stopping distances.  Check yourself with the two-second rule and make sure you’re not an ‘unwitting tailgater’.

Posted: 05/01/2018 16:11:22 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments


December is the busiest time of year for many van operators and even with a festive playlist on the stereo to keep your spirits up, the sheer volume of work can seem overwhelming.  But as FTA’s Head of Vans Mark Cartwright reminds us, it’s important to remember other road users when you’re rushing from drop to drop.

Van drivers don’t need reminding how hard it can be working in wet and cold weather, but the dark nights and winter temperatures have a big impact on other road users too.   Being a great van driver is all about adapting your driving to the road conditions and considering those around you.

Temperatures on the ground can be much lower than air temperatures, so even if you haven’t had to scrape the van in the morning there can still be ice on the road.  Leave a bigger stopping distance in winter weather and consider other drivers who may not be as experienced or sensible as you.

Van drivers don’t need reminding how hard it can be working in wet and cold weather, but the dark nights and winter temperatures have a big impact on other road users too.   Being a great van driver is all about adapting your driving to the road conditions and considering those around you.

Temperatures on the ground can be much lower than air temperatures, so even if you haven’t had to scrape the van in the morning there can still be ice on the road.  Leave a bigger stopping distance in winter weather and consider other drivers who may not be as experienced or sensible as you.

Well-maintained headlights are particularly important at this time of year.   A missing lamp is illegal for a reason – in the dark a single light can be very confusing, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists who might assume you’re a two-wheeled vehicle and completely misjudge your size.  Make sure you test your lights on a daily basis.  The easiest way to do this is to build them into a regular walk-round check.  FTA has a great video: Youtube - theftachannel - Walk Round Check

Speaking of cyclists and motorcyclists, they are particularly badly affected by headlights left on high-beam.  The dazzling light is made far worse by a helmet visor or glasses, making it almost impossible for them to see.   Failing to dip your lights might be irritating for car drivers, but it can be deadly for those on two wheels.

We all like a good moan about the state of the roads, but cyclists are particularly badly affected by puddles and potholes.  Defects near the kerb can fill with water and turn into mini skating rinks in cold weather.  So, give them a bit of extra room and be understanding if they pull out to avoid a hazard you might not be able to see. 

Finally, if you’re drinking over the holiday make sure you understand the ‘next day’ risks.  According to the Department for Transport, one in five people caught drink-driving are arrested the morning after they went out.  If you drink five pints of beer and head home at midnight, the alcohol will still be in your bloodstream at ten o’clock the next morning.   Having a cooked breakfast, cold shower or big glass of water won’t make any difference.

Posted: 15/12/2017 14:13:30 by Ryan Kneller | with 0 comments