Our A47 Alliance needs your support
Sir – I am writing to all fleet drivers and managers who are frustrated with the poor state of the A47 from Yarmouth to the A1. It is meant to be a major route and it is a designated TEN (Trans-European Network) route. It is only dual carriageway along a small part and the commitment to dualling it completely does not even appear in the Government’s 30-year plan. It is now one of only two such roads in Europe (the other is in rural Greece). We are looking for any organisation that is disadvantaged by this state of affairs to get in touch with us – the A47 Alliance. It is a public/private partnership set-up in Norfolk, but wants to bring on board parties along the road from Lowestoft/Yarmouth, across Norfolk to Kings Lynn, and on through Wisbech to Peterborough and the A1. This is not just people along the road (important as they are) but organisations whose life would be commercially enhanced by this route being upgraded. I am deputy chair of the Alliance, as well as director of Signs Express and I am president of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. There is a small active steering group and behind us we are looking for members who agree to have their names added to our list of supporters (100 significant ones already) to whom we will report progress twice yearly. I look forward to hearing from readers. The more members we have the louder our voice.
Signs Express, Norwich
No safety rules for staff on commission
Sir – While I agree that it is wrong for employers to require employees to answer or make phone calls on the move, I believe the current regulations do not go far enough. Some (many?) unscrupulous companies use agency staff on a commission-only basis to negate their responsibilities. Home improvement salespeople spring to mind. Many of these are given poor hours, no employee benefits, poor pay and conditions, and are required to use mobile handsets while driving, safe in the knowledge that the people engaged in this occupation are not employees. Agency agreements are so termed as to totally eliminate any potential to work for multiple employers and are really a responsibility-avoidance measure. Vicarious liability, employer liability, tax collection, NI collection, European directives regarding working hours, norms regarding unsocial hours, meal-breaks etc are all flouted in an attempt to reduce costs, and maintain high profits for those persons at the top of the corporate tree. Perhaps such agency agreements should be outlawed and all the responsibilities enacted in employee legislation forced upon such companies. As one of those currently working in the industry trapped by ageist attitudes in many workplaces, I am reluctant to speak out publicly for fear of losing one of the few occupations where I can earn a reasonable wage but also fear for my life at times due to pressures of work.
A Commission-Only Kitchen Designer
Name and address supplied
No sympathy for camera whingers
Sir – I am getting increasingly alarmed at the disproportionate emphasis in the media on a small minority who do not like safety cameras. The most recent independent report makes it quite clear that the vast majority of the population support safety cameras and recognise their purpose as beneficial. If fleet managers are having to pay large numbers of fines then they are surely failing in their duty to their companies and their drivers. I have little sympathy for fleet managers who whinge on about safety cameras. Give your drivers proper training, safe driving schedules and stop them breaking the law. The limits are placed there for the public’s protection, not as a revenue-earning exercise.
Tax avoidance rules and cash-for-car
Sir – I read with interest the article on tax avoidance rules (Fleet NewsNet, August 5). It is my understanding that the new tax avoidance rules will not catch all employee car ownership schemes but, given the complexity of the legislation, it is best that those intending to introduce a scheme obtain professional advice on the matter. It is my opinion that the rules will apply if the finance to the employee is underwritten by the employer or if the scheme is structured with the use of a special purpose vehicle company. A number of providers have historically structured arrangements such that they would not get caught. The rules are not designed to catch ECO schemes but have been drafted so widely that they catch some arrangements. We have approached the Inland Revenue to see if, in view of the circumstances, they wish to revise the rules and take ECO schemes out. It is always our practice to obtain Inland Revenue approval to such schemes and to disclose seems like duplication. We need to see what develops over the next few weeks.
Director PAYE/Ni Solutions, Ernst & Young
Hailstone repairs a concern for buyers
Sir – I read with interest that Dent Wizard were called on to attend to dents on hundreds of vehicles in Dover following a recent hailstorm (‘Hailstones cause havoc at port of Dover’, Fleet NewsNet July 29). While I believe that such repair techniques are a valid way of reducing minor repair costs, I am glad I am not the prospective ‘proud owner’ of the vehicle that had 400 dents removed from its bodywork! With repairs of this scale on new cars, such repair techniques are not sufficient to remove all distortion from the previously moon-scaped panels. I was also surprised to learn that effective repairs can be undertaken on such a scale, in such a short period by so few people. Hopefully, the new owners will be blissfully unaware of their new cars’ previous ‘injuries’.
Let’s get facts right on legal alcohol limit
Sir – Your article ‘Drink-drive shock study’ (Fleet NewsNet, August 12) was a helpful addition to the debate. But it shows that the most important way forward is through education. The drink-drive arena is changing so fast – your box ‘what constitutes one unit of alcohol?’ demonstrates this. A 125ml glass of wine will be 12% abv (9% is unheard of nowadays) – which is 1.5 units, not one. Furthermore, a 125ml glass is extremely rare – 175ml is the standard now (two units) – though in my local, if I ask for a glass of wine I’ll get 250ml (three units) unless I ask for a small one. We need to say a glass of wine is two units.
Avoidd – Training & Education
Alcohol units table needs updating now
Sir – In your article ‘Drink-drive shock study’ (Fleet NewsNet, August 12), you gave a short table about units of alcohol. It showed how much of each of certain drinks would contain one unit. There are a couple of problems here. The first is that the article didn’t say what a unit of alcohol is: so let’s put the record straight and say it is 10ml of alcohol. The second is that your figures for wine and beer are wrong. You quote half pint of average-strength beer, or a 125ml glass of wine, each having one unit of alcohol. In fact, these each contain about 50% more alcohol than you suggest. A half pint of beer would contain one unit of alcohol only if it was 3.2% abv (alcohol by volume) but average-strength beer these days is 4-5% abv. A 125ml glass of wine would contain one unit, only if the wine was 8% abv, but most wine now is 11.5-12% abv.
Fleet Driver Trainer, Birmingham