Fleet News

Fleet panel: a damning verdict on Britain's roads

FLEETS have given a damning verdict on the failure of the Government's transport policy with an overwhelming majority saying growing congestion is costing their businesses money.

Decision-makers registered their anger about the money and time wasted on Britain's roads after research revealed that company car drivers spend nearly six million working hours a week stuck in congestion, costing business tens of millions of pounds in the process (Fleet NewsNet July 31).

Such is the state of Britain's road network that on average, a company car driver loses a total of two working weeks to congestion every year, a new report by LeasePlan found.

The survey found that the length of time added to company car drivers' journeys each week as a result of congestion now averaged one hour 55 minutes. The Government's reaction to the growing problem is a £7 billion programme of road building, announced earlier in the year (Fleet NewsNet July 17).

The Confederation of British Industry, which threw its support behind the plans, estimates that congestion could cost the economy up to £20 billion a year. This week, fleet decision-makers revealed the true extent of the problem, with some revealing that costs have rocketed by several hundred percent, because journeys are taking far longer than they used to.

Some companies disagree, saying they are not finding business affected by increased congestion.

In at least one case, video-conferencing and alternative transport have been used effectively to good effect, avoiding increasing transport costs and keeping staff in touch with customers.

However, although they can provide valuable lessons for much of the industry, many other companies explain that they have little choice when deciding to use road transport, particularly when delivering goods or holding face-to-face meetings with important clients.

As a result, some companies suggest that road pricing, such as the new M6 toll road, may be the only answer.

Do you believe the increasing level of congestion on Britain's roads is costing your business money?

Yes: 90% No: 10%

'About 10 years ago we delivered throughout London using our own vehicles and making eight or 10 drops a day. Now our drivers can only manage two or three and it is cheaper to use the outsourced carriers.

Even out of town, driver productivity is about 60% of what it used to be. Road pricing need not increase overall costs since every penny collected could be deducted from other taxation. It would simply force road users into better decisions and free the roads for really necessary and cost-effective traffic.

If some of the revenue was used to support public transport rather than reduce taxes, that would also help.'
Richard Graham
Gisela Graham Limited

'No. At present we use other modes of transport and have conference phone facilities. We are also looking at the virtues of video-conferencing.'
Gill O'Rourke
Mason Owen

'WE all appear quite happy as long as we have our independence to go where we like. Until someone comes up with a more attractive alternative in this over-populated country of ours, that is how it will stay.'

'The nature of some parts of our business demand that we react to emergency situations.

If such a situation occurs at the 'wrong' time of day, a two-hour journey can quickly turn into a four hour one, costing extra fuel, wages and expenses and causing disruption to other parts of our business.

Thanks to successive attempts to 'tax everything off the road' and the lack of investment in our infrastructure, we now have no alternative.'
Chris Ward
Transport and ground equipment manager, Channel Express

'I never believe published figures as they usually use 'worst situation' assumptions, but our costs are increasing.

Some are difficult to quantify, but we have seen increases in overnight accommodation costs as journeys once made in a day are now requiring overnight stops.

Obviously, fuel is also being wasted. Due to the time taken for journeys, there are other potential problems too, such as those relating to the EU Working Time Directive, and health and safety at work issues.'
Richard Warner
Company secretary, Seco Tools (UK)

'Yes. We have seen higher fuel and vehicle maintenance costs, lower customer call rates and probably higher sick-leave incidence in those drivers.'

'My view is that the real question should be what causes the congestion, not the effect. How much of it is the fault of irresponsible drivers? How much of it is down to delays caused by minor accidents/breakdowns in the off-side lane of a motorway or major accidents?

Take away those two elements and then see if there is any congestion and study why that is caused. Then see if there are so many delays.

That, I feel, is where we should be looking. Don't keep blaming the transport network when the users are the problem.'

'All congestion costs money. At least when the car is moving some progress is being made towards fulfilling the business aim.

Maybe the time has come to ask the old question again: 'Is your journey really necessary?' I am sure that with the communication systems available we could rethink the way we do the job.'

'It is not only the monetary side that is an issue, it is the additional time drivers have to spend on the road.

The '300 miles maximum' per day suggested is no longer the major issue, it is the time.

For example, Manchester to York is normally an easy two-hour drive. For a 9am meeting you need to be on the road for 6am extending the day by an hour.'
Peter Connah
Lancaster Partners

'CENTRAL and local government must deal with the quality issues concerning public transport.

The root of this problem is the individual's lack of accepting responsibility for their own actions and for parents/ guardians not being held responsible for their youngsters' actions. If this is addressed, then personal safety and reliability in public transport would improve.'

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