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5 things that will affect your driving career in 2020

Happy New Year to all of you with a driving career; all you drivers, truckers and hauliers out there. Congratulations, you have successfully navigated your way through the crazy Christmas period and found yourself hauled into an equally crazy albeit less festive January!

With the growing whispers of environmental schemes, laws, industry standards and regulations predicted to have some dramatic shifts for road haulage in 2020, so anyone with a driving career is going to have to be extra vigilant to keep on top of the rapid changes.

To get you into gear and in the right lane for the year ahead we have compiled the 5 things that will affect the driving industry most in 2020.

1. Direct Vision Standard

The Direct Vision Standard is part of the Transport for London’s (TFL’s) Vision Zero commitment to tackle the number of people being killed and seriously injured on London’s roads.

This scheme seeks to remove the most dangerous Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV’s) from London’s streets by setting the minimum safety standards for HGV blind spots. Using a star rating system, HGV’s over 12 tonnes are rated from zero (lowest) to five (highest) based how much a driver can see directly through their cab windows.

Operators should be applying for permits now well ahead of enforcement beginning on 26th October 2020. HGV operators who fail to meet these new minimum safety standards and obtain a permit will be issued a penalty charge for driving within the Greater London Boundary. Enforcement will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week using Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras.

  • Operators can apply for Safety Permits here.    
  • You can check the star rating of your vehicles here.

2. Categorisation of Defects

Towards the end of 2019 the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) updated their guidance on how they categorise vehicle defects in roadside checks and vehicle tests.

  • The updates included
  • Emission control system faults.
  • Engine malfunction indicator defects.
  • Number plates.
  • Tyre pressure measurement at the roadside for single fitment tyres.

As a driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle is compliant and roadworthy so do take the time to familiarise yourself on all 15 updates issued, all of which can be found in Appendix A of the revised categorisation of defects document here.

3. Clean Air Zones

The Government has a long term strategy to improve air quality across the country by discouraging the use of older, more polluting vehicles.

Five cities, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Southampton and Derby were originally mandated to introduce a Clean Air Zone by 2020 but some have inevitably been delayed.

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone was originally expected in January 2020 as per the mandate however has now been delayed until July 2020.

Derby’s Clean Air Zone is no longer expected to come into force. Instead Derby intend to introduce a traffic management/signal scheme to limit traffic is certain areas of concern and a scrappage scheme that will provide credits for free travel on public transport or money towards electric or lower emissions vehicles.

Leeds have also delayed their Clean Air Zone for now, but their plans are quite substantial. £64 million has been requested in Government funding to implement plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone that will charge buses, HGV’s, taxis and private hire vehicles that fail to meet emission standards. Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are planned to help enforce the zone and a scheme to assist taxi drivers to switch to ultra-low emission vehicles is expected.

Nottingham has officially cancelled its plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone after the Government approved the city’s plan to tackle air pollution within two years through retrofitting buses with technology to reduce emissions, changing the age and emissions policy for hackney carriages and supporting an increase in low emission taxis. In addition, Nottingham City Council will be converting its own fleet vehicles (including bin lorries) with electric vehicles.

Southampton have already implemented their Clean Air Zone on a non-charging basis, instead they implemented other initiatives to achieve emissions compliance. For instance, in reference to HGV’s, they offer opportunities for businesses to trial freight consolidation, thereby removing HGV trips in the city, as well as an accreditation scheme for HGV operators so businesses can identify and choose to work with the least polluting operators.

Other cities with plans to implement Clean Air Zones this year include Bath and Oxford although the full scope is still yet to be confirmed.

4. Smart Motorways

Both commercial and domestic drivers across the UK have hit out at Highways England following a spate of tragic deaths on smart motorways like the M1 due to broken down vehicles having no option then to stop in a live lane due to a severe lack of roadside emergency refuge areas.

In 2018 Highways England committed to installing a number of additional emergency areas in locations with the highest levels of potential live lane stops and that smart motorways without a hard shoulder would have emergency refuge areas no more than a mile or so apart. As of May 2019 none of the retrofitting of refuge areas had taken place and works to resolve the issues seem to be slow.

In the meantime, we urge all drivers on business or pleasure to remain vigilant and be extra conscious of the potential for a broken down vehicle to be in a live lane of any of any motorway.

There are 236 miles of smart motorways in England, many do not have a hard shoulder, so instead there should be a refuge area every 2.5km. The few that do have a hard shoulder running can be found in the following locations:

  • M1 - J10-13.
  • M4 - J19-20.
  • M5 - J15-17.
  • M6 - J4-5, J8-10a, J5-8.
  • M42 - J3a-7, J7-9.

Speeding fines on Smart Motorways have also come under fire of late as Highways England predict over £600,000 to be issued in fines from every smart motorway camera. In general, there is at least one speed camera between each junction of a smart motorway so to avoid racking up the fines and the points keep your speed down and stay safe.

To find out more about smart motorways, their locations, lane availability and rules there is a handy site here.

5. Brexit

Just when you thought you had found a post online that didn’t mention Brexit we go and sneak it up on you. With the new Brexit deadline looming ever closer and the potential for disruption for commercial drivers across the country we would be remiss to leave it out.

Talks of a transition period between 31st January and 31st December 2020 should smooth out some of the initial problems many feared and provide operators with more time to prepare for industry changes. This does not however eliminate the potential for longer delays at borders, licencing complications for those driving abroad and confusion over the ECMT permit requirements so, hauliers and drivers are being urged to stay on top of news and regulation announcements to ensure you are well prepared for any changes and delays ahead of time.

References:

Mayor of London, London Assembly. October 2019 [Internet]

Forwarder Magazine. September 2017 [Internet]

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