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.
Fleet Funding Changes Predicted
Fleet van insurance holders are in the midst of a transition in their approach to vehicle funding according to Sewells Research & Insight's Fleet Market Report 2018, which surveyed more than 600 fleets.
The researches found that nearly four in ten fleet managers intend to alter their funding method this year, with many set to abandon finance lease arrangements.
However, the five in ten fleet van insurance managers who use contract hire or hire purchase for their commercial vehicles are also looking to effect change.
The study did not examine which funding arrangements are likely to prove more popular in the near future. Ultimately, this means that the study has raised at least as many questions as it has answered.
That said, it has cast some useful light on the business environment in which fleets are currently operating. For example, two in ten fleet managers said their business had been affected by mergers and acquisitions – a 100 percent rise on the findings of the previous year's studies. Inevitably, mergers and acquisitions have an impact on the way commercial vehicle fleets are funded.
Another influencing factor on van fleet funding has been Brexit. Eight percent of fleet van insurance holders who participated in the survey said that concerns around Brexit would change the way they financed their fleets.
Interestingly, the study revealed that the managers of larger fleets were more inclined to make changes to their funding arrangements. Six in ten managers of fleets with more than 50 vehicles said they would change. Only three in ten of fleets of fewer than six vehicles said they would do the same.
There were similar levels of disparity along public-private sector lines. Seven in ten public sector fleets said they would change funding methods, compared to just over four in ten private-sector construction and manufacturing fleets and just over three in ten private-sector business service fleets.
Interestingly, the study found that although many fleet managers expressed enthusiasm for cleaner electric and hybrid vehicles in theory, in reality they had done relatively little to acquire such vehicles for their fleets. That said, three in ten fleet managers said that they expected to acquire hybrid vehicles for their fleets over the next 12 months.
"Corporate companies have a significantly greater appetite for alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) than SMEs, as do fleets that contract hire their cars," said the report.
Council Has Fleet Van Insurance for its Vans But There's One Tall Problem
Carmarthenshire Council recently announced the arrival of its new fleet of mobile library vans, complete with fleet van insurance, by proudly making the claim, "Our mobile libraries cater for everyone."
It's a fine sentiment and an enviable boast; however, it turns out that it may not be true. Why? Well, because, according to union Unison, Carmarthenshire has "put the car before the horse" by failing to consider that some people simply can't fit into the vans, including members of the council's own library staff. It sounds like a tall story (please excuse the pun) but it is all too true for stooping library staff.
So, as it stands (the last pun, we promise), the council has purchased fleet van insurance to cater for employees who, although not unusually tall, are tall enough to be unable to fit into the library vans without uncomfortably stooping.
Van Drivers Beware Tech-Savvy Thieves
Any van driver with a keyless ignition system should beware – there has been a 100 per cent rise in the incidence of commercial vehicles being stolen without the owner’s keys.
The figures support anecdotal reports by any driver van insurance policyholders regarding the security of their vehicles, with vans frequently targeted for both the value of the vehicles themselves as well as their contents.
Tracker, a company which specialises in commercial vehicle security solutions, reports that 82 per cent of van thefts in 2017 occurred without the owner’s keys being used; the same type of theft accounted for only 44 per cent of such incidents recorded by Tracker in the previous year.
According to the firm, both criminal gangs and lone wolf operators are targeting commercial vehicles that have keyless ignition systems, apparently using technology that deceives vehicles into unlocking even without the use of the official key.
These so-called relay thefts can happen to any van driver, and although insurance policies are likely to cover losses caused by the crime, having a vehicle stolen in this way can cause inconvenience, emotional distress and rises in the cost of any driver van insurance come renewal time.
“Keyless entry technology has now been widely adopted in the LCV market, and this is evident in the fact that last year there was a two-fold increase in LCVs being stolen without the owner’s keys,” commented Tracker’s head of police liaison.
“The relatively new trend in vehicle theft termed ‘relay attack’, that allows criminals to harness more sophisticated theft techniques to overcome existing vehicle security technology, such as immobilisers and keyless entry systems, has played a significant part in this increase,” he added.
Last year footage recorded by West Midlands Police attracted the attention of van drivers. It showed a Mercedes van being stolen from outside a private residence. The ‘relay theft’ took less than a minute to complete.
Any van driver who is concerned about the possibility of having their keyless ignition system hacked by thieves should consider additional steps to secure their vehicle. For example, steering wheel and gear stick locks are both relatively inexpensive and serve as good deterrents to thieves.
Need for Multi-driver Policy to Soon be in the Past?
When you consider that more than 90 per cent of road accidents are caused by driver error, it becomes easier to understand why finding cheap multi-driver van insurance can sometimes seem so difficult, usually requiring a trawl of multiple internet van insurance comparison sites using the search terms "multi-driver van insurance".
However, things are changing, both in the commercial vehicle insurance landscape and in the wider world of vans, with autonomous vehicles looking like an increasingly inevitable feature of the future. This is not to say they are just around the corner; there are still insurance liability and technological issues to be worked through, but there is now little doubt that within the next decade fleet managers will at least have the option of autonomous commercial vehicles.
But that isn't necessarily a good thing. Sure, fleet managers and business owners might be freed from their multi-driver van insurance obligations, but will the autonomous alternative actually be any cheaper and will driverless vehicles fulfil the remit required? This, of course, remains to be seen.
Perhaps fleet managers will no longer even have their own vans. Perhaps the whole ownership model will be different. Perhaps large companies will have huge fleets of autonomous commercial vehicles for hire, and when business owners need them they will simply call them in a similar way to how Joe Public does today when he wants to order a taxi or Uber. Connectivity options may also allow business owners to pool their needs so that they can share services with other owners. Much in the same way we speculate that costs could go up, they could also go down and it is almost impossible to predict how this future will pan out.
Cyber security is another unknown and as such is a potential area of concern. If vehicles can be hacked the scope for sabotage, accidents and other misfortunes is vast, particularly if systems are, as is likely to be the case, interconnected. In some extreme projections, it is possible to imagine business rivals effectively engaging in cyber warfare in order to bring down the competition.
Of course, before we even reach this stage it is necessary to first negotiate the myriad of safety, regulatory and insurance issues regarding autonomous vehicles. There are certainly interesting times ahead.