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LETTERS to Fleet News’ editor Martyn Moore.

Automated scheme is not flawless

HAVING read John Cotton’s letter on the congestion charge (Fleet News, December 7) in which he refers to my letter in a previous edition, I would like to explain the reasons behind my comments.

John refers to the Transport for London Automated Scheme and how easy it is to use. I have also registered our vehicles on this scheme and agree that this is probably the easiest way to avoid fines.

However, there are other issues which start to complicate things.

The invoice received each month still has to be checked in detail, especially now there is an increasing number of cases of vehicle registration cloning.

I have had a case where we were charged for a car entering the charging zone when it was actually in Glasgow all day.

Trying to get a refund for this was a lengthy procedure, as it has been for other errors which have been made.

This also means I have to check with drivers if the details are correct, again causing more work if they haven’t given me the correct information at the beginning.

In theory, the scheme does work very well and should prevent unnecessary fines, although in practice it is not always that simple, hence my comment.

The MIB database is a doddle in comparison.

Fleet controller, Fibernet UK.

Confusion over Audi’s power band

I HAVE just read Paul Clark’s mini-test of the Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 170 (Fleet News, December 7) and am puzzled by the following two sentences:

‘In practice, the 170’s theory works – the slick six-speed box is almost superfluous such is the engine’s torque, up from 236lb-ft in the 140 to 258lb-ft from the same 1,750rpm.

‘That translates to fine mid-range punch and superb overtaking power, though the narrowness of the power band has you constantly grabbing gears and there’s not a great deal of flexibility either side.’

Which is it – does it have such high torque that there is little need to change gear, or a narrow power band which means constantly changing gear?

ECIS Paul Clark, editorial director, Emap Automotive Contract Publishing: The point is that when the engine is ‘on the boil’ – ie within the peak torque band of 1,750rpm to 2,500rpm, which is where most normal driving takes place, flexibility is strong and there is seldom any need to change down a gear to get you past slower traffic.

It’s when engine revs dip below that threshold that this outstanding flexibility falls away, which means you have to select lower gears to keep the revs up and the engine within the peak torque band – as illustrated by the roundabout scenario example. And because there are six closely-spaced ratios it means there are plenty to choose from, hence the expression ‘constantly grabbing gears’.

Police driving does need to be improved

I READ with interest the claims by John Gorton, head of transport at Essex Police, who said police driver training was very stringent (Fleet News, December 7).

Unfortunately this is not the perception that motorists on the road will have been given. Regardless of the type and amount of training police drivers receive, I believe there has been a marked deterioration in the skill and judgement of police drivers on the road over the past 15 years.

Steve Botham states that the training is adequate, and I wouldn’t argue with this.

However, considering the level of risk I think the training needs to be exemplary.

If my fleet had caused even a 10th of the number of fatalities of the police fleet we would have to shut down the company.

In the past, UK police drivers were renowned for their skill and courtesy. Now, most drivers will have experienced poor police driving at some point on UK roads. The recent case of the police driver in Telford driving at nearly 100mph in built-up areas shows, in some cases, that the public’s concerns aren’t taken seriously by police officers.

I would also dispute the comment that they buy the most suitable vehicles for the appropriate role. Why do many forces insist on providing large 4x4 vehicles for motorway patrols?

I suggest this is sensible for rural areas but not for traffic police in other areas.

They no longer clear broken-down vehicles from the carriageway and surely the Highways Agency traffic officer vehicles fulfil this role now. The answer, I suspect, is that they aren’t taxed on the emissions of vehicles and ultimately don’t have to pay for the fuel they use.

Therefore these concerns aren’t high on the priority list when selecting suitable vehicles.

BMW X5s are not suitable for most of the public and certainly shouldn’t be sourced using the taxpayer’s money.

Name and address supplied

Visibility is appalling

I TOTALLY agree with Trevor Pollitt’s letter urging Trevor Gelken to have another look at the cab door windows of the new Citroën Relay (Fleet News, December 14).

As a plylining and accessories company we drive most vans and while the new Relay is comfortable to drive I too found the side visibility appallingly bad.

I am 6ft tall but don’t have the seat all the way back. The first time I drove one I found myself at the top of a dual carriageway slip road and I had to almost lie on the steering wheel to see if it was safe to join a busy roundabout.

The window is too small for the job – a problem that is compounded by the driver’s seat being further away from the window than in other vans. This is because the handbrake is on the right-hand side.

While we are on the subject of visibility on these vans, has anyone looked into the cost of a replacement wing mirror with two motorised mirrors and an indicator lens?

City drivers be aware and take a good test drive.

Director, van-eXtras

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