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HGV Cab Cameras and Media Perception: Is This The Turning Point?

This year, Highways England have harnessed HGVs to help tackle dangerous driving on our roads. Using secret wide angle cameras in unmarked lorries’ dashboards, the inconspicuous trucks have been capturing video records of unsafe driving behaviour.

 

The move follows the success of a trial last year, which saw over 4,000 dangerous drivers caught. By allowing unsuspecting law breakers to be followed by the cab and have their behaviour recorded, police forces could then pull over the offenders and deal with the situation – be it a warning, or a prosecution.

 

What was promising and encouraging to see is the mainstream media’s reaction to these announcements. Rather than berate the ‘spying’ HGVs, the reaction to the police and Highway England’s efforts to increase road safety through immediate intervention has been, on the whole, positive. Although the phrase ‘spy camera’ has a somewhat antagonistic feel, national news outlets reporting about the HGV cameras in a favourable manner.

 

With the exception of a few pieces implying that the new camera systems are an underhand enemy to be loathed, the majority focus instead on what is most important – the driving crimes which are being caught. These cameras aren’t just there to catch out drivers going slightly over the speed limit: they have caught drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel – the dangers of which have never been more prominent than in recent years – a driver writing on a notepad, one eating a meal and even another brushing their teeth!

 

So why is reaction so important? Historically, reporting on HGVs has taken the same one-sided route – sensationalistic pieces reporting lorries’ near misses and irresponsible driving. Although, of course, such behaviour from professional drivers is absolutely abhorrent and should be disciplined appropriately – the issue lies within the bias of reporting and how this influences public perception.

 

If the only stories the public read about the professional driving industry in consumer media outlets involve the few extreme cases of poor and dangerous driving, an assumption will grow about the whole of the driving industry. This can lead to misconceptions and seriously tarnish the reputation of the majority of the safe, skilful HGV drivers whose dedicated work allows the UK’s businesses to thrive. Without HGVs, the country and its economy would come to a standstill – an aspect which is never mentioned in stories reporting on dangerous HGV driving.

 

So the positive reaction to the HGV in-cab cameras is a step in the right direction – at the least, it gives another perspective to HGV stories. Although we are, of course, not there yet in a balanced and fair narrative on lorries in consumer media, we can take hope from the start of this movement and continue to raise the profile of the industry ourselves through our highest quality Barnes professional standards.

The Spring Budget and Logistics

Earlier this month, the Chancellor Philip Hammond presented his Spring Budget following on from the Autumn Statement in November. The Budget saw more money pledged to the education, health and social care, as well as the controversial tax rise for the self-employed which has since been reversed, but what elements of the Statement and Budget affect the world of logistics?

 

Firstly, the Autumn Statement announced another year with a freeze on Fuel Duty, which is the tax incorporated into the price paid for petrol, diesel and other fuels. A standard VAT rate of 20% is paid on Fuel Duty, but for years there have been warnings of a hike. At the Autumn Statement, Phillip Hammond stated: “Today we stand on the side of the millions of hardworking people in our country by cancelling the fuel duty rise for the seventh consecutive year.”

 

For the world of logistics, this is a great relief due to the amount of fuel needed to keep our fleets on the road for our clients and customers. As an integral part of what keeps the industry moving (no pun intended!), and with no option to hop on the bus or perhaps take the bike into work to save on fuel costs, a rise in Fuel Duty would hit the logistics industry the hardest.

 

During Phillip Hammond’s Spring Budget speech, he also announced that there would be no rise in VED for those in the haulage industry, and no rise in the HGV Road User Levy: “I am freezing for another year both the VED rates for hauliers and HGV Road User Levy.” VED – Vehicle Excise Duty, commonly known as road tax – refers to the tax payable on vehicles due to their emissions, and is based on engine size, or fuel type and level of carbon dioxide emissions.

 

Launched in 2014, the HGV Road User Levy is the charge payable by vehicles of 12 tonnes or more to contribute towards the wear and tear of the road network. The amount payable varies according to the vehicle’s weight, axle configuration and levy duration. This levy is now applicable to overseas vehicles as well, to ensure that British drivers are not having to bear the burden of wear and tear from foreign vehicles.

 

This freeze in VED for hauliers and the HGV Road User Levy is most welcome to the logistics industry, as it means that budgets do not have to be stretched to cover any additional tax costs and can therefore go directly into constantly improving the standard of service for our clients and the safety of our drivers.

 

Investing in ever greater safety and quality of service is something which we at Barnes Logistics always strive towards, and we are grateful that the Spring Budget has allowed us to continue this with frozen tax rates for the industry.

THE GOVERNMENT CRACKS DOWN ON DISTRACTED DRIVING

There has been a significant rise in the number of people using applications like Snapchat to record their latest rendition of Adele while driving; using Pokémon Go at a low speed in an attempt to ‘walk their eggs’ or posting status updates on Facebook, all from behind the wheel.

With a growing number of apps and distractions, It’s no wonder the Government has cracked down on the laws regarding the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. But what changes have actually been made to the laws, how do these new laws affect HGV/LGV drivers and when are the laws in effect from?

The previous restrictions on driving while using your mobile phone including texting, making calls, taking photos/videos could have seen you get 3 penalty points on your license and fined up to £100 with the maximum fine being £1000. For those driving large goods vehicles the stakes are higher and so, the fine could be up to £2500.

So, how common is it for people in the UK to use their handheld mobile while driving? According to a recent survey carried out by the RAC, a third of drivers admit to having used their mobile while driving and 14% admitting to taking photos and videos with their phone:

 

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These statistics are worrying, and do beg the question – how many incidents have occurred due to drivers using their phone while driving?

‘In 2013 the use of a mobile at the wheel was a factor in 22 fatal accidents and this is likely to be underreporting of the true figure.’ The RAC

With this set to rise each year, it’s become apparent why the government wants to clamp down on this particular law, especially when there are so many applications and devices to distract drivers.

The new penalties for using your phone while driving will include receiving a minimum of six points on your licence and a hefty £200 fine. Twice as many points and twice the charge as the current penalties for offending.

A higher fine up to £1,000 and a six-month driving ban could apply to more experienced or professional drivers including those operating HGV/LGV’s.

The Department of Transport has said the new laws are set to come into effect in the first half of 2017.

What are your thoughts on the new penalties? Do you think they are fair, too severe or not strict enough? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!