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LETTERS to Fleet News’ editor Martyn Moore.

Database is a trap for the unwary

If you as a fleet manager were asked “what are the chances of the police seizing your company vehicles on suspicion of no insurance?”, you would probably be pretty confident in saying “none” (unless of course you really don’t have any insurance!). But insurers and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) are campaigning to get the message to commercial drivers that they could be in for a shock if their vehicles are insured, but not on the Motor Insurance Database (MID).

Armed with powers to seize vehicles for non-insurance, and a “hot-list” of vehicles not found on the MID, the police are stopping and seizing tens of thousands of vehicles – and if your fleet details are not up to date, you could find your delivery van or company car is one of them. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras all over the country use this hot-list to identify vehicles which are suspected of being uninsured, and police teams are immediately alerted to stop the vehicle.

You don’t need the MIB to tell you that every minute an employee spends at the side of the road is costing you money – let alone the impact if the vehicle is actually seized and the employee left stranded, and any load undelivered. Then of course there is the possibility of your customers driving past and wondering why the driver of a “Speedy Software Services” van has been stopped by the police. Is that a company they will feel comfortable doing business with in future?

New insurance rules included in the Road Safety Act 2006, and due to come into force next year, will mean that keepers of all vehicles could also soon be facing automatic penalties if their vehicles are not on MID, even if they are not on the road.

If the vehicle continues to be missing, then DVLA wheel-clampers may be joining the police in the quest to immobilise uninsured vehicles – and inadvertently shackle your business.

Busy – and honest – fleet managers may be reaching for their lawyers and their local MP at the thought that their “legal” vehicles are at risk of being hauled off on a low-loader and only recovered after payment of hefty charges, but in fact a vehicle must, by law, be notified to MID immediately it comes on to a policy. So are your vehicles completely “legal”?

The police don’t want to waste their time impounding insured vehicles when there are around 2 million uninsured vehicles they need to tackle, but if MID has no record, how can they be sure? Fleet managers can help the police focus on the criminals (the ones costing motorists around £500m a year in additional premiums) by making sure they are fully up to date with their vehicle insurance details.

Meredydd Hughes, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police and the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) Lead for Uniformed Operations says, “Responsible Fleet Managers might argue that they are not contributing to the uninsured driving menace, but as long as they do not participate in the solution, they may inadvertently be adding to the problem and running the risk of having vehicles seized by the police. The police do not want to inconvenience commercial drivers as they go about their business but all vehicles are at risk of detection if details are not supplied to the MID.”

Avoiding this embarrassing and potentially expensive situation is not hard, and it should only take a few minutes of your time.

  • If you are one of the few, but persistent, companies not already notifying your vehicles, contact your insurer or broker immediately to find out what to do

  • Check that all your current vehicles are on MID – especially if you have recently renewed your policy or changed insurer
  • Remember to update the details every time a vehicle comes on or off the fleet – not just when the declaration is due

    NEIL DRANE
    Head of operations, Motor Insurers’ Information Centre

    More confusion over mobile phone laws

    IN the helpline section in the April 5 issue of Fleet News, David Faithful states ‘If drivers attempt to make calls while driving by physically dialling out they will be guilty of committing an offence’. Is this correct?

    I was under the impression that drivers can dial out by touching the phone providing it is a hands-free device – ie fitted into a cradle or an integrated phone. I also accept that they may still be committing an offence via careless driving.

    The laws appear to be confusing. Which of us is correct as I am now worried that our drivers may be in trouble if they dial using hands-free kits supplied by the company.

    NEIL DIXON
    Tetley Group

    Ashamed over tax change confusion

    I RUN a small fleet of vans which are used for courier runs and I am in touch with quite a few other van fleets in various other firms.

    I keep my finger pretty firmly on the pulse of the industry and I’m amazed at the number of my colleagues who are confused about the new benefit-in-kind tax for van drivers.

    Fleet News and Fleet Van have been highlighting this issue for months now and have been giving plenty of advice about what we should do, but several operators have phoned me recently seeming to know nothing about these changes at all.

    One seemed to think that if his van drivers took their vehicles home and used them for private mileage, they would have to pay £3,000 a year for the privilege. That seems to be the first general misconception.

    The £3,000 is a loading on the tax bill, which means a driver who is a 22% taxpayer will only pay 22% of £3,000, which works out at £55 per month.

    The second general misconception they all seem to have is that a driver will be taxed if he or she takes the van home.

    This is not true. Under the new rules drivers can take vans home and even use them for the odd trip to Sainsburys and not incur a charge.

    It is only if private mileage is done on a regular basis that they will have to pay.

    I am surprised and rather ashamed at my colleagues who have not taken the trouble to find out the facts about this important subject.

    I pride myself on being a professional and it is sad that so many other van operators don’t seem to want to do their jobs well.

    JULIAN SPINKS
    Bournemouth

    Why ignore smoking risk?

    I READ with interest the article ‘Fine gives drivers food for thought’ (Fleet News, March 29).

    I wondered how these two activities differed from smoking while driving.

    Surely it is as safe to have a swig of water as it is to take a cigarette out of a packet, light it and then smoke it.

    If one action is deemed to be unsafe how can the police justify the other?

    PETER ORRELL
    Director, FGF Limited

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