Fleet News

Motorbikes: the two-wheeled way to improve efficiency

CAN using two-wheel transport give your business a competitive edge? With congestion on the increase and journey times becoming even more unpredictable, a number of fleets are turning to motorbikes as a way to cut through the traffic.

Specialist motorcycle leasing company Motorcycle Management claims that motorbikes can reduce urban travel times by as much as 50% and provide a more precise means of transport, which in the process will save companies money.

Tony Draycott, director of Motorcycle Management, believes fleets using bikes for employees such as computer engineers, inspectors, and couriers could double their productivity over four-wheeled transport.

He said: 'Every study consistently shows motorcycles achieve shorter transit times than any other form of transport – and that includes public transport. Managers can beat congestion and all the associated costs of running a fleet by investing in two wheels rather than four.'

And with the arrival of congestion charging in London, Draycott believes that bikes are about to become even more popular.

At the moment, they enjoy a 100% discount from the London congestion charge which means that businesses with specific local needs can find motorbikes are an extra string to their bow.

Draycott added: 'Congestion charging may be helping to deter some drivers but most people still need to run cars or vans to do their jobs. Adding motorcycles to the fleet means there is a genuine alternative that is practical, easy and economic for driving in urban and built-up areas.'

However, it does not take an expert to recognise that there are associated safety risks with running bikes.

Draycott admits there is a problem. He commented: 'It is widely known that two wheels represent a larger proportion of road casualties in relation to their numbers than four wheels. Currently motorcycles make up less than 1% of road traffic but they suffer 14% of deaths and serious injuries.

'It's wrong to say that reckless motorcycling is entirely to blame for the higher casualty rate. Inconsiderate driving by car, lorry and bus drivers is as much to blame.'

But what can be done to improve the safety of riders working in bike fleets?

The Government recognises that changes will be required of all drivers if more than lip service is to be paid to safety on our increasingly busy roads. It recognises there is a benefit to businesses for using two wheels, but also admits there is much work to be done on safety, and Draycott believes that work needs to be done sooner rather than later.

He said: 'Tucked away within the Government's draft targets for road safety and casualty reduction are proposals for motorcycles. Many of them are sensible but what is interesting is the lack of urgency. Do we really have to wait until 2010 before recommendations become enforceable?

'There are good reasons for expediting legislation, not least the growing numbers of business people using bikes for work purposes to beat congestion. Some of the points are excellent. One reads: 'Mopeds and motorcycles are a sensible means of transport for many journeys where public transport is limited and walking or cycling unrealistic. Better training and testing for riders and car drivers, as well as better engineering construction and design, will help to make motorcycling safer. We also want to make the register of instructors statutory.'

There are also references to UK support for a Europe-wide initiative to improve crash helmet design.

Draycott reckons there is more to come, and with congestion charging likely to spread to other towns and cities, the popularity of the bike will grow. But with more and more employees doing their job on two wheels for time and cost reasons, he believes they will want to know the Government is doing everything it can to make motorcycling as safe as it can be. He has a number of points that should be taken up in order to make the roads safer for bike fleets.

For starters, it should be incumbent on local authorities to clean up diesel and other spills, says Draycott.

'There are too many cases of motorcycle riders hitting oily patches on the road and suffering broken limbs, not to mention broken bikes. Why shouldn't insurance companies be able to sue statutory bodies for breaching a duty of care to all road users?

'Then, there's the matter of driver awareness. A driving licence is an earned privilege, not a right. Where vehicle drivers are charged with reckless driving resulting in injury (or worse) to motorcyclists and their bikes, then there shouldn't be a succession of 'second chances' before a driving licence is removed permanently.

'Equal responsibilities must be demanded of bikers. No wonder drivers experience road rage when motorcyclists filter past at 50mph faster than the prevailing traffic; or weave dangerously in and out between cars and vans. There should also be tighter reviews of eyesight standards and any trade or national press encouragement of bad or 'show-off' riding on public roads should be referred to the Press Complaints Commission.'

Draycott recommends that a fleet taking up motorcycles should invest in refresher training such as one of the various motorcycle appreciation courses to brush up essential skills.

He said: 'They're open to all levels of rider, on any make of machine, from scooters to high performance bikes. They help with anticipating potential hazards, spotting danger well in advance, road positioning and looking ahead to what might be round the next corner. They teach that increased enjoyment and exhilaration is the result of acquiring greater powers of observation and concentration.'

'There are many good reasons why UK companies are examining two wheels rather than four for urban and short distances.

'Increased efficiency, lower overall costs and travel times that are 50% faster are all powerful incentives. It is surely common sense to ensure that business doesn't have to make a choice between congestion and safety.'

Top fleet motorbikes

You've decided to take your fleet down the two-wheeled route, but what are the best bikes to choose? Motor Cycle News road test editor Trevor Franklin picks the best bikes for fleet use

Best commuter bike: Honda CB600 Hornet
Verdict: 'Naked fun with bags of style and reliability.'

Price (OTR): £4,649
Insurance group: NU14
Licence required: full motorcycle
Details: 01753 590500
www.honda.co.uk

Best delivery bike: Honda Deauville
Verdict: 'Shaft drive (no chain so easy maintenance), comes with pannier system.'

Price (OTR): £5,849
Insurance group: NU11
Licence required: full motorcycle
Details: 01753 590500
www.honda.co.uk

Best sports bike: Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K3
Verdict: 'Big 146bhp rear wheel output, restricted 186mph top speed, sublime handling.'

Price (OTR): £8,549
Insurance group: NU16
Licence required: full motorcycle
Details: 01293 518000
www.suzuki.co.uk

Best scooter: Peugeot 125cc Jetforce
Verdict: 'Direct injection two-stroke, very fuel efficient and green.'

Price (OTR): £2,899
Insurance group: NU6
Licence required: provisional, can be ridden on a car licence
Details: 01202 823344
www.peugeotmoto.co.uk

Useful contacts

  • Motorcycle Management – www.motorcyclemanagement.co.uk
  • Bikesafe – www.bikesafe.co.uk
  • Institute of Advanced Motorists – www.iam.org.uk
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – www.rospa.com
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