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Letters to Fleet News' editor Martyn Moore.

Heavy impact of test changes The proposal for compulsory training and possibly a test if a car and trailer combination is more than 3.5 tonnes is just a small extension of the changes that came into force on January 1, 1997 – “Towing tests on the way” (Fleet News, November 29).

Anyone passing the ordinary car (B) test after January 1, 1997, does not get a licence to tow heavy trailers so needs to take an additional test (B+E).

The number going through this new (B+E) test has been miniscule.

In 1997, just 20 drivers went through Driving Standards Agency (DSA) tests, and although the numbers increased to 4,000 tests in 2005 this is still a tiny number compared to the number who pass the car test.

The pass rate for the DSA B+E test has been running at less than 50%, so 4,000 tests means less than 2,000 new B+E licences whereas around 600,000 pass the B (car) test each year.

The implication of this is horrific for fleet operators who tow trailers or allow their drivers to tow a trailer privately.

More than six million drivers have passed the car test but less than 6,000 have passed the B+E test – 0.01% or thereabouts.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been doing rather better and around 4,500 drivers per annum have been passing the MoD test every year since 1997.

What is the implication?

Well if you see someone under the age of 27 or 28 towing a large trailer behind a car or van, the odds are probably 10-1 that he or she does not have the correct licence entitlement.

That, of course, means he or she is driving uninsured as well.

Do the authorities know this?

They should do as I have been pointing it out regularly to the DSA and others for the past 10 years, but to say they were disinterested would be an understatement.

Edward Handley, by email

Confusion over licence entitlement

As well as working as a fleet driver trainer I also teach learner drivers and most of them haven’t got a clue about the rules for towing trailers and never would if I didn’t mention it to them – “Towing tests on the way” (Fleet News, November 29).

Out of all of the post-test debriefs I listen to, only one examiner at the three test centres I use tells them about the rule.

It’s the same with category C1 (7.5-tonne) licences.

A lot of people think they automatically receive entitlement when they pass their category B test, just as their parents did.

I was teaching one young lad who told me that when he passes his car test his employer wants him to drive a 7.5-tonne truck.

His employer had a shock when told the lad wouldn’t be entitled. Apparently he had two other young lads driving it who hadn’t passed the C1 test either.

Jon Meddings, Driving 4U

Cutting the cost of congestion

I am writing about the article “Congestion gets worse in London” (Fleet News, November 15).

The headline implies the congestion charge is not effective because London’s rush-hour traffic now moves slower than before congestion charging was introduced.

So, is congestion now better or worse? Should we support congestion charging as it rolls out across the UK, or fight against it?

There is another important issue – the hidden costs of congestion charges for fleets.

In the first couple of years, many company car drivers failed to pay the charge and incurred fines.

Last year our customers paid a total of £295,000 in fines for non-payment.

The good news is that fleet managers and drivers are increasingly aware of congestion charging and saving money by reducing the number of fines they accrue over the year.

A recent customer survey revealed fines paid by company car drivers for non-payment of the congestion charge have fallen by more than 35% in the past four years.

In the past year alone there has been a reduction of 22%.

This at least is heartening news for fleet managers and business leaders, even if the state of London’s roads provokes an ever increasing amount of concern.

Philip Pile, head of administration, Lloyds TSB autolease

Don’t pigeon-hole culprits

I have to respond to the letter from Fred Macdonald – “Let’s target idiot mobile users” (Fleet News, December 6).

He correctly asserts that we should target idiot mobile users.

However, his examples of “white van man, mums on the school run and artic truck drivers” are not the only culprits.

Men and women of all ages are still using their phones while driving their own cars.

John Carrington, fleet & transport services manager, Liverpool City Council

Hands-free phone kit omission

I read Lynn Fortin’s feedback to my answer re: P11ds and phone kits (Fleet News, December 6) and must put my hands up.

I did overlook the area she highlighted. However, in my defence, my own firm’s fleet consists totally of vehicles to which we retrofit hands-free kits.

We do not buy vehicles with manufacturer-installed kits and so I overlooked them in my answer.

Fred Macdonald, Wilson Electrical Distributors

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