Why are fleets so slow to go electric?
Around 10 years ago, it seemed that the fleet van insurance policyholder of the future would be the owner of a fleet of predominantly electric vehicles, yet here we are approaching the third decade of the 21st century and it seems that, in fact, little has changed; the vast majority of commercial fleets are still made up of diesel and petrol vehicles.
For example, in 2010 online supermarket retailer Ocado introduced two electric vehicles to its fleet of 1,500 vans with the expectation that within only a few years the number of eco-friendly vehicles would grow and eventually surpass that of its traditional fleet.
Unfortunately, things have not panned out this way. Perhaps it is because of numerous economic pressures, because of a reluctance to make the capital expenditure, or because electric fridge vans require too much battery power to make them practically viable, but the truth is that Ocado, just like other supermarket delivery companies, is still some distance away from becoming a predominantly electric fleet van insurance policyholder.
Fortunately, there are encouraging signs that change may finally be brewing. Firstly, in 2017 Ocado asked Danish innovator TRIPL to conduct electric van trials in London, although these did bring to light concerns regarding load capacity and mileage range; then, and perhaps most encouragingly, this year Ocado finally added to its electric fleet when it bought 15 converted Fiat vans with a view to putting them on the nation's roads by the beginning of next year.
Government-level changes should make a difference to. Recently, the UK has offered EU-based incentives to companies, allowing them to employ standard-licenced drivers to drive vehicles above the 3.5-tonne weight limit provided that they meet certain eco-standards. Furthermore, as low-emission zone rules become more stringent, retailers will have to act if they are to keep operating costs low.
Amazon is just one of many retailers currently taking the lead. Its partnership with Mercedes-Benz means that by the end of this year, it will be running 100 eVito electric-powered transit vans in Germany. If this proves successful, it is surely only a matter of time before Amazon's UK arm follows suit.
Meanwhile, this month UK Power Networks added eight Renault Kangoo electric vans to its London fleet as part of a drive to move a greater proportion of electric vans. It may be taking longer than first anticipated but it seems with small steps we finally are moving towards the day when electric fleet van insurance becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Vehicle too heavy? It could invalidate your insurance
Whatever the experience level of van drivers, they must always take it upon themselves to know the law regarding the weight of their vehicle and to make sure they adhere to it at all times when on the road. Failing to do so could mean their vehicle becomes unstable and harder to control, putting themselves and other road users at risk.
What's more, driving a van over the legal weight limit can invalidate a driver's van insurance. Therefore, if they're then involved in an accident, their any driver van insurance will no longer cover them.
But what is the legal weight limit for a van?
For drivers who passed their test after 1 January 1997, their vehicle should be no heavier than 3,500kg, which is the maximum weight a standard licence allows drivers to operate. Drivers who intend on exceeding the 3,500kg weight limit are required to take an additional driving test so that they can add higher category entitlements to their licence.
The weight limit may not apply if you passed your test earlier than this date because your licence could already entitle you to drive larger, heavier vehicles but, to be certain, make sure you check the back of your licence. For a full list of what size vehicles different licence categories allow you to drive, click here.
However, this information appears to be unknown to many, and overloaded vans are a major concern. According to the DVSA, eight out of the ten vehicles they stop are overloaded.
Now, van leasing site Leasevan.co.uk is urging drivers to check their vehicle's weight because of fears that younger van drivers in particular are at risk of making the costly mistake of carrying too much in their van.
A spokesman for LeaseVan.co.uk, Tim Alcock, explained that some drivers do not always factor in seemingly insignificant, light items when determining whether they've overshot the limit; they only take into account the weight of the van itself (the average weight of a mid-sized van is around 2,000 KG) while forgetting its contents, which includes themselves and any colleagues in the passenger seat.
“The 3,500kg limit on their driving licence includes everything inside the van, including the driver, his lunch, any items in the cab, even the packet of mints on the dashboard," Alcock explained.
Alcock also mentioned that exceeding the weight even by a small amount - just 1kg - is enough to invalidate their licence and insurance policy and potentially land them in trouble with the law. This means that drivers who passed their test after 1997 are at risk of unwittingly causing unnecessary disruption to their work schedule.
So please take the time to check. If you're concerned that the collective weight of the items you're transporting may have tipped you over into illegal weight, then instead of doing a rough estimate in your head based on your vehicle and its contents, it's a much better idea to find out your vehicle's exact weight by using a local weighbridge. You can find your nearest weighbridge on the GOV.UK website.
While there may be many drivers who are unaware of the weight limit law, all commercial vehicle drivers should hopefully know that before they can start successfully and legally operating their business, they should have taken out the right cover for them.
But not all any driver van insurance policies are created equal, which is why it's a good idea to use iVan to help you find the best, most cost-effective policy for comprehensive cover. Click the 'Get a Quote' button below to find the best quality low-cost van insurance today.
Women Drivers Drawn by Lower Cost Van Insurance
It is a well-known fact that unless you are clear about exactly what to look for and have good practical experience of comparing the market, it is devilishly hard to find low cost van insurance.
Of course, one way to enhance your chances of finding low cost van insurance is to be discerning about the type of vehicle you drive. Statistically, smaller lower performance vans are less likely to be involved in high cost road accidents and as such tend to be cheaper to insure. So unless you have a specific need for a larger and high-performance van and want to save money on the cost of your commercial vehicle cover, it is best to choose a smaller and more modest vehicle.
You can also add security modifications such as steering wheel locks and tracking devices as these may increase your chances of finding low cost cover.
There is another way
There is another way to achieve lower cost van insurance. However, the bad news is that you may not have much choice in whether you qualify.
Firstly, you could try being older, as drivers who are over 50 tend to receive cheaper policies than younger drivers. If lucky, we will all get to be older, but we’re not sure that even if this were possible, many of us would choose to accelerate the process.
Secondly, you could try being female as women van drivers receive cheaper van insurance on average than their male counterparts. Sadly or not, we don’t all get to be female, and the desire for lower cost van insurance is unlikely to be a satisfactory or credible reason for seeking gender reassignment.
However, this second fact which may go some way to explaining why the number of female van drivers has, according to a leading comparison site, risen by 52% in the past year. The future, it seems, is white van woman, and the good news for her is that she is paying less for her van insurance.
Van driver fined over empty crisp packets in vehicle
A van driver has been penalised for having a plastic bag full of litter in his van. However, it's hoped that the incident will help raise awareness among commercial vehicle drivers of an important bit of documentation that they are likely to need when carrying out their business – a waste carriers' licence.
As a responsible van driver, either as a sole trader or as part of a larger fleet, it's unlikely you would drive anywhere without a proper low-cost van insurance policy in place. But comprehensive insurance isn't the only thing to sort out. For instance, if you transport, buy, sell or dispose of waste, you'll need the appropriate level of waste carriers' licence.
A roofer from Cheshunt found this out the hard way when he was pulled up by council workers who were carrying out spot checks in east London. The workers searched his van and found a plastic bag full of empty crisp packets, water bottles and sandwich containers in the back of the vehicle. The white van man was using the bag to store the empties from his lunch.
The workers from Waltham Forest Council informed the driver that he was in violation of the law by transporting waste around in his vehicle without a waste carriers licence and issued him an on-the-spot fine of £300 for "failure to furnish documentation (waste carriers licence)". The driver's attempts to appeal the fine were unsuccessful, and he was told that he would have to go to court if he refused to pay.
The driver contested the decision as unfair: "I've not fly-tipped. I've not left it in someone's garden," the driver said, adding that "it's a lot of money for one bag of rubbish".
A spokesman from the council justified the decision to impose a fine, saying, "The waste in this case was being transported in [a] commercial refuse bag in the trader's vehicle. Regardless of what the items are, if waste is being stored in a commercial refuse bag in a trader's van it is necessary that they have a valid waste carriers' licence."
The spokesman also said that even if tradesmen transport "small quantities of waste", they need to be licensed.
And while many are likely to sympathise with the driver in this case – and agree that it was perfectly reasonable for the driver to be carrying around his own rubbish as long as it was kept in a bag and he intended to dispose of it legally – this story does go to show that councils are serious about imposing the law, and no one is exempt, even if it is just a few empty lunch wrappers.
So, the question is, under what circumstances do you need a waste carriers' licence and how do you go about getting one?
Waste carriers' licences are required by all businesses that transport waste; buy, sell, or dispose of waste; or arrange for someone else to buy, sell, or dispose of waste. The licence was introduced in January 2014 in an effort to better manage businesses that transport waste and to help discourage fly-tipping, which has become a major threat to the environment.
You can head over to the Gov.UK website for more information on the different levels of licence and the appropriate fees, and to register as a waste carrier in England.
So, if you keep waste of any kind in your van, make sure you apply for your waste carriers' licence. It's one more consideration you need to make as the driver of a commercial vehicle, along with making sure you have the right low-cost van insurance for your specific circumstances.
New MOT Rules Stricter and More Demanding
Any driver van insurance policyholders should be aware of the implications of the new stricter MOT testing regime, which if not followed correctly could result in a serious penalty as well as the invalidation of insurance polices.
This has inevitably provoked concern among some any driver van insurance policyholders that more stringent rules could also lead to an increased number of commercial vehicles failing their MOTs.
In turn, there are fears that this could lead to a situation where there are high numbers of van drivers on the road in charge of vehicles that have failed their MOTs. Previously, the Highway Code penalty for not having a valid MOT was a maximum £1,000 fine; under the new regime, drivers can be fined up to £2,500 plus three penalty points. Last year, 35.4% of all vehicles failed their MOT.
The new, more stringent MOT test is the first in the UK to test the safety of disc brakes as well as the level of vehicle emissions. Other components of the test will check whether brake fluid is contaminated, whether tyres are underinflated, whether brake pads or warning lights are evident and whether there are any environmentally hazardous leaks. Furthermore, vehicles can be categorised into one of three defect categories: dangerous, major and minor.
However, if van drivers sign up to the Driver and Vehicle Standard Agency's (DVSA) digital ‘Get MOT Reminder' service, they can greatly improve their chances of remembering their MOT obligations by ensuring they receive regular updates in the lead-up to MOT renewal time.
It is important for van drivers to remember that the only time they are permitted to drive without a valid MOT is in the event they have booked an MOT and are driving their vehicle in for the test. However, if stopped by police they have to be able to prove this.
It is also worth bearing in mind that driving without an MOT could lead to the invalidation of an any driver van insurance policy and, in the event of an accident, could lead to the driver becoming personally liable for any costs arising from the accident, including vehicle damage and personal injury.