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Top 10 Songs to Improve Your Drive

Wednesday 21st June marks the start of the Fête de la Musique. Also known as ‘World Music Day’, it offers a global celebration of something that has a heavy presence within the majority of our everyday lives. Whether you’re a hairbrush diva or all your road trips have their own playlists, World Music Day should be celebrated – with experts concluding that there are a number of health benefits to listening (and singing!) to music at the wheel.

 

There’s nothing quite like a song you love, but had long-forgotten about, unexpectedly coming on the radio while you’re driving. But what exactly is the science behind that rush we get when we know every word to a nostalgia-filled song from yesteryear? Professor Stephen Clift, a leading authority on the health benefits of singing based at the U.K.’s Canterbury Christ Church University, says: ‘Singing loudly and free from inhibitions – really ‘letting go’ – means the mental release will be greater as more energy is put into it […] When we sing familiar songs loudly, we experience a ‘feel-good factor’ arising from deeper, slower breathing, and increased muscular activity. We feel less stressed and more relaxed.’ Even more of an excuse to crank up the volume!

 

Furthermore, Jan Schroll, supervisor Multi‑Media and Connectivity at Ford of Europe, says: ‘Experts agree that there are a range of health benefits to staging impromptu karaoke sessions at the wheel – ones we only feel truly comfortable giving when there is no one else around, and the in-car sound system is providing the backing. For many people listening to the music they love on the move is a fundamental part of every journey – it is the soundtrack to their own personal road movie.’ So, not only does blasting the tunes feel great, but it’s great for you, too.

 

Despite the huge shift towards more technological aspects of listening to music, such as streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, there’s nothing wrong with going old-fashioned, as displayed by a study from Edison Research. They conducted a study of more than 8,500 Americans aged 13 and over to determine where their time listening to music is spent. 44% of listening time was via AM/FM radio: by far the largest share. The number 2 share of listening time, at just 18%, was spent listening to music that had been purchased, such as CDs or digital downloads. So, if it’s the iPod you’re plugging in or relying on the good old-fashioned stereo, all evidence shows that it’s good for you in every way!

 

In celebration of World Music Day, here at Drivers Direct we’ve compiled a playlist of some of the best driving songs for your next journey:

 

Born To be Wild – Steppenwolf

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

Jessica – The Allman Brothers

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads

Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane

Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Mr. Blue Sky – ELO

Drive My Car – The Beatles

 

We hope this playlist will help you along your next long drive – and remember that as great as sing-alongs are, remember to keep focussed on the road and never let music distract you from safe driving.

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Driving in the Rain – Dangers and Safety

Winter doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon, and that includes the fairly miserable weather that comes with it! There’s no escaping the wet weather in this country, but just how dangerous is it to take to the road when it’s raining, and what can we do to ensure our own and others’ safety?

First of all, make sure you leave yourself extra time to make your journey – don’t put yourself under pressure to make it to your destination on time when there may well be a likelihood of dangerous roads and congestion and you may endanger yourself and other road users to do so.

Many people may rush to their cars at the first sign of rain – but remember that the most dangerous time to drive in this bad weather is when it has just started raining. This is because the rain will mix with the oil and dust which has been sitting on the road surface

Driving in the rain can also seriously reduce visibility, so it’s vital to turn your dipped beam headlights on so that other road users can see you – even in the daylight. Be sure to check that your headlights are working before heading out in wet weather.

When on the road, remember that The Highway Code states that stopping distances are at least doubled in wet weather as the tyres will have less grip on the road. It is recommended to leave a 4 second gap between yourself and the car in front – count how long it takes the vehicle in front to pass a lamppost or other markings before you pass it yourself.

It is always a good idea to adjust your speed to meet the conditions in the rain, which can reduce the chances of ‘aquaplaning’. Aquaplaning refers to when your vehicle’s tyres come into contact with too much water than they can clear away, so the water builds under the tyre and lifts it away from the road surface so you are essentially ‘gliding’ across the water which has the potential to make you lose control of your vehicle.

You can usually tell if you’re aquaplaning if your steering wheel suddenly feels light and you can hear the rush of the water underneath your vehicle. It is essential that if this happens to you, that you do not brake – slamming on your brakes will make the car skid even further out of your control. Slowly release the accelerator and focus on keeping the car in the centre of the road, and eventually the water will be released and your tyres will grip the road again.

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Telematics – The Future of Driving

Telematics is becoming essential for larger logistic companies with research showing that almost nine out of 10 fleets, with more than 500 employees, have introduced telematics. One thing’s for sure, with the rise of technology infiltrating our everyday lives more and more, it will become a fundamental part of fleet management over the next few years.

Innovations in technology are changing how the world does business, and technology is dramatically changing how the logistics industry function in nearly every aspect. From increased affordability and efficiency of the transportation management system (TMS) to the application of Bluetooth technology for superior tracking of product movements.

These advances have their advantages and telematics can help tackle four of the biggest issues facing fleets: cost control; risk management; carbon reduction; and fleet productivity.  Here’s a breakdown of the benefits….

 

1. Helps to reduce insurance cost

When a company installs GPS tracking devices in its vehicles, insurance companies give discounts on premiums. Therefore, by equipping all vehicles with GPS tacking devices, the companies tremendously reduce the insurance premiums that they pay every month.

 

2. Helps locate vehicles at any given time

Knowing the location of vehicles at all times helps a transportation company to communicate more effectively with not only drivers, but with its customers as well. By seeing the location of all company vehicles on a map, a company can tell its customers the exact time they should expect the goods being transported to them to arrive.

 

3. Helps improve safety

The safety of both driver and freight on transit has been greatly improved with GPS tracking. If drivers were ever to run into problems, they can get the help they need from their headquarters who will be able to locate them. If there is a problem with a vehicle, another vehicle can be sent immediately to the exact location of the vehicle that has problems. This has helped to minimize delays that can eat up the profits up these companies and affect customers expecting deliveries.

 

4. Helps companies to manage maintenance

Telematics create alerts based on mileage, engine use or time. This helps to develop an advanced vehicle maintenance schedule. Vehicles that are properly maintained and serviced will rarely develop mechanical problems that can delay the movement of goods, and improve driver safety.

 

5. Helps companies earn the trust of customers

GPS fleet tracking has enabled transportation companies to earn the trust of their customers. This is because a company that has GPS tracking systems on its vehicles is able to tell a customer the specific location of goods being transported at any given time. Also, a customer whose goods are being transported can know when their goods are going to reach the desired destination.

Although not the be all and end all, telematics stands out as being the single most cost effective answer to help deliver logistic goals whilst assisting with driver safety. It is certainly a technology whose advancement and development we are eager to see.

 

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HGV Drivers Push For Government Funding

With so many lorries and operator vehicles on UK roads, one wouldn’t think there was a shortage of drivers in the haulage industry, however, driver shortages have been well documented.  Now that we are heading into the peak shopping time of the year, there has been a rise in concerns over the high demand for goods to be delivered quicker than ever before.

The figures speak for themselves as this year alone, it is now expected that there will be a demand for approximately 45,000-60,000 professional drivers to supply goods across the country. Companies now need to ensure their logistic operators are prepared to have enough manpower to be able to deliver on their promises, particularly as customer expectations are rising and next day delivery being expected almost as standard.

So where did this shortage of drivers come from?

HGV drivers are now required to carry out a compulsory test which will award them with a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) once completed. The new test takes 35 hours to complete and will costs the individual £500.

However, failure to complete the training will result in a £1000 penalty. It’s estimated that this alone has already motivated more than 20,000 drivers to quit or take early retirement. This figure has put pressure on the industry, as without enough HGV drivers, our retailers and other businesses could potentially have ‘empty shelves’ leaving customers short of vital supplies.

There is also a push to train younger drivers, particularly as recent research found the average age of a HGV driver is 53, much older than most industries. Only 2% of HGV drivers are under 25, while 13% are over 60 years old. The industry has asked for £150 million worth of training for thousands of drivers, urging the Government to act now before the shortage hits and affects the UK’s supply system.

As a compromise the Government has promised to review the speed at which driving and medical tests take place for HGV drivers and will consider how they can speed up this process. Funding support for the training will also be looked into, however this is not guaranteed.

At Drivers Direct we understand the need for more drivers and as the freight industry continues to develop and the pressure on deliveries continues.  HGV driving can be rewarding and enjoyable career choice with the right training and support.

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It’s that time of year again…

After the year that called for lower alcohol limit, we are now heading into the party season and there has been a fresh call to reduce the drink driving limit.

The move follows new statistics which show that drink-driving figures have shown no improvement since 2010.  The figure of 240 people killed in collisions where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit has remained unchanged since 2013.

The new campaign for a lower limit is being led by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) and supported by a number of stakeholders including the RAC Foundation, the AA, IAM RoadSmart Brake, PACTS and the Police Federation.  The current 80mg limit in England in Wales was set in 1965, but in 2014, Scotland lowered its drink-drive limit to 50mg/100ml – bringing it in line with the rest of Europe.  Malta is now the only country with a drink-drive limit the same as England and Wales, and is also set to lower its limit to 50mg/100ml, leaving us behind.

According to the IAS, reducing the limit to 50mg/100ml would save at least 25 lives per year.  The Department for Transport statistics also show that drink driving costs Great Britain £800m each year, and a British Social Attitudes Survey shows 77 per cent of the public support a lower legal limit.

Due to car and technological advances, we have seen a continual improvement in road safety in every other area except in regards to drink drinking.  Every year more than 3,000 people in the UK are killed or injured as a result of crashes on our roads relating to drink–driving and this number predictably spikes over the Christmas period.

So whilst we pick out our outfits for the office party season, forces across the country are braced for their traditionally hectic festive and New Year period, trying hard to raise awareness of the dangers on our roads and keep people safe as they travel around. It’s a busy time for us at Drivers Direct too with the placing of drivers of all classes for clients who need support either on a temporary, seasonal or more permanent basis.

Even a very small amount of alcohol can affect driving performance with two drinks almost doubling the risk of a fatal accident.  In general, people are getting far better at staying away from the wheel after one too many during the night but too many are quick to jump back behind it after a sleep, unaware that they are still over the limit.

So don’t take chances. Drive safe and stay safe this winter.

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Everything you need to know before taking to the road this winter

Our unpredictable and destructive winter weather conditions can cause issues for everyone on the roads, in particular professional drivers who have to operate large and heavy goods vehicles. To help prepare for the season ahead, we’ve put together some advice to prepare professional drivers for the winter weather.

No matter how the weather seems on the day of your journey, you will always need to check the weather forecast ahead of time to prepare your vehicle accordingly for any unexpected weather conditions. Not only that, you will want to take a thorough look at your planned route for any information on road accidents or weather-related collisions to help prepare you and your vehicle for the journey ahead.

Vehicle checks are always essential before any journey specifically during the winter as the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable. You’ll need to ensure you have all of your necessary equipment with you to check your vehicle on the go and well insulated clothing for checking your vehicle in cold weather or if you were to break down.

Even though your daily checks will include ensuring your wipers, screen wash and de-misters are appropriate for driving, you’ll need to make a habit of ensuring your windows, lights, plates, and reflective markings, steps and handrails are clear of ice, snow, and dirt.

The weight of your vehicle can make a substantial difference to your vehicle’s handling at this time of year when gusty weather is likely to occur. Getting the right balance is key in windy weather. If your load is too light you could get blown off course by a strong side wind, but if it’s too heavy your vehicle handling can become increasingly difficult; especially around corners.

If extreme weather conditions come into play like heavy ice and snow, gritters and snow ploughs should be around to clear main roads; but don’t assume smaller, rural roads will be covered too. You’ll need to exercise extreme caution on all roads in these weather conditions, especially if your route requires you to take rural roads.

Most importantly: don’t take dangerous risks with yourself or your cargo.

If you come into contact with dangerous weather conditions on your journey and you do not feel equipped to deal with it, take a break in a place that’s safe to stop and only continue your journey when you feel safe enough to do so. It would also be worth reporting back to base to let them and other know of the situation before continuing safely.

 

 

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ARE WE HEADING FOR A CHRISTMAS OF CHAOS?

Nearly all of the food we eat, most of our clothes, and almost everything we use to build and furnish our homes is, at some point, moved by road transport. With over two million UK employees, road haulage is the UK’s fifth largest industry and contributes over £70 billion to the UK economy annually.

Haulage isn’t just about transportation of goods from A to B, its relationship to the success of British business is similar to the role of worker bees have in food production – critical.  But like the threats facing bees, the sector is facing unprecedented challenges this Christmas.

It is now widely accepted that there is an increasing shortage of drivers that ranges from about 45,000–60,000 depending on your source.  Drivers are retiring from the industry in high numbers, while the sector is also suffering from an inability to attract new talent as HGV licence applications have also dropped by more than 32,000 in the past five years.

The frustrating thing however is that for every driver the sector needs, there are actually three people in the UK with a valid LGV license who could do the work but two in three choose not to, so why is this?

The industry must take steps to improve its conditions so it can recruit and importantly retain the drivers it needs. The starting point has to be greater investment in recruitment, training and driver welfare following years of under-funding as well as roadside facilities for drivers which are currently scarce and inadequate, so must be improved.

Currently the industry is predominantly made up of over 45s, white and male.   Until more is done in regards to the approach to driver training, the funding of license acquisition, and facilities for drivers, then it is unlikely the sector will be able to broaden its appeal.

Why does it matter so much?  Quite simply without the haulage industry there is a very real likelihood of stores suffering from low levels of stock, with any lack of availability having a massive knock on effect on retailers, the construction industry or manufacturers all of whom rely on the sector to keep their businesses, and the UK’s economy, on track.

This Christmas is set to put a massive strain on depleted resources, yet is one that’s critically important to get right with a quarter of all personal spending taking place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season.  This puts an inevitable strain on the already under staffed haulage industry.

There are however some positive changes in the mix. There are just over 400,000 heavy goods vehicles registered in Britain and although the number has remained fairly static for many years now, productivity of new vehicles has increased.  The vehicles are also larger in terms of space they take up on our roads but also offer greater capacity.

There also continues to be a big increase in double-shifting – not of drivers but of vehicles. The newer vehicles are much more efficient and require less downtime. The sector is also embracing new technologies and is becoming an increasingly IT-driven industry allowing logistic businesses to use technology to plan, monitor and manage how a vehicle is best used.

It’s likely to be a challenging time this Christmas as businesses compete for the limited resources.  Let’s hope however that with continued improvements to technologies, transport and training the sector is once again able to take on the challenges it will undoubtedly face this Christmas.

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Business After Brexit

It’s now a couple of months since Britain took the brave step to exit the EU.  Since that time we’ve seen a new Prime Minister and Cabinet appointed, a volatile stock market and turbulent exchange rates as well as interest rates reach record lows.

Although only few may have predicted this situation at the start of the year, the reality is that the world continues to turn and that this economic environment is the new ‘norm’.  The good news however is that British businesses have been fast to react and return to business as usual.

According to the first estimate of the Office for National Statistics, GDP growth strengthened to 0.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2016, although much of that increase in activity was concentrated in the earlier part of the quarter, with a falling away seen in May and June as uncertainty crept in.

Although figures released last month show that the UK economy contracted by 0.2 per cent in the month following Brexit, the latest forecast from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) is that it’s increasingly unlikely that Britain will tip into recession.

Earlier this month the Bank of England also forecast that the economy would narrowly avoid a recession, largely because of its decision to cut interest rates to a new historic low of 0.25 per cent and restart its Quantitative Easing monetary stimulus programme.

With the various initiatives in place to stabilise the economy and confirmation from Teresa May that Britain will leave the EU, we are however seeing more certainty and with it confidence return to the marketplace.

It is also important to also differentiate between Brexit’s long-run impact, and the short term consequences of the vote itself and then any fallout from the negotiations, when they actually begin.

Admittedly, the longer term outcome will be dependent on what deal we obtain from the EU as well as the extent of the new trade agreements we sign with other countries, how migration is managed and the policies that the UK adopts to make it more competitive in an era of self-government.

So how big will the short-term hit be? HSBC’s guess is that the Bank of England will revise its growth prediction to 1.7pc this year, from 2pc, and slash it to just 0.5pc next year, from 2.3pc.

On the more positive side, sectors that were expected to take a hit, including property and retail companies, have shared their results this month and reported ‘normal’ activity and numerous investment projects – essentially business as usual.  It seems that the ‘Lehman Brothers moment’ has passed and we should now work to build on the new position.

The financial markets have also coped well and stabilised, the credit supply remains at pre-Brexit levels (though demand is unclear) however the pound’s exchange rate remains the biggest casualty.  Although many experts believe it may slip further as it remains overvalued in the new world order, however so far at least it has stopped falling.

As the dust settles from the announcement companies and customers must now embrace the new order and accept the change in order to protect and maintain their customer bases.

Let’s also hope that after the initial shock of Brexit that UK businesses recover to deliver a Nike-style swoosh of recovery as Gerard Lyons, Boris Johnson’s former chief economic adviser has suggested.

As we stand today it’s negativity and fear that has the biggest effect, not an actual reduction in output.  So what else should be done?  Perhaps a cut to corporation tax, Stamp Duty and/or VAT to encourage business will help bring a feel good factor to consumers.  It’s this consumer confidence that is perhaps the most important thing of all.

We should also not look to hide behind Brexit as an excuse for all our ills.  The sector in which we operate has a number of challenges including an inability to attract new talent as HGV licence applications have dropped by more than 32,000 in the past five years due to the cost of licence, lack of understanding of the industry and poor industry image.

Work also needs to be done to secure more funding for vocational training, better driver facilities, quicker turnaround of medical queries by the DVLA and a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of working in the sector.  Perhaps money that has previously been allocated elsewhere could be diverted into these areas?

These measures, together with an aggressively pro-business Chancellor and Prime Minister, ought to help stabilise and encourage the economy in the short term.  It just then leaves us to build our own trade agreements and to negotiate a longer term position that is right for business after Brexit.

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Independent Driving Over Manufactured Manoeuvres

As the practical driving test celebrates its 80th birthday, the DVSA wants to change the format of the current test to better assess learner drivers on their ability to drive independently on busy, modern roads; rather than focussing on ‘manufactured manoeuvres’ such as a driver’s ability to turn the car around in a back street.

As yet there’s no change announced for to those preparing for their HGV license, although no doubt examiners will be on the watch to see how successful the new driving test would be before deciding to roll it out to other classes.

So what’s different?

One of the changes include ‘show me’ and ‘tell me’ questions that will be asked while the vehicle is in use on the road to access the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle’s controls safely while driving.

The trials will also look at increasing the duration of independent driving from ten minutes to twenty minutes; with the added use of a satellite navigation system (operated by the test instructor) that will be used during the trial test.

There will also be a change made to some of the test’s classic manoeuvres.  Instead of being asked to turn in the road, reverse around a corner or reverse park (either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road) the DVSA is now asking for drivers to “Drive into and reverse out of a parking bay, pull up on the right, reverse, and rejoin the traffic or reverse parking (either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road)”.

There is also some good news for those trialling the test.  For the learner drivers that take part in the trial driving test, if they are successful they will obtain a full UK driving license as the test being used in the research is an actual driving licence acquisition test.

The changes are designed to help new drivers and make them better prepared for modern roads and modern driving conditions.  As a further element to this, the DVSA will be introducing the use of satnav during the test and excluding manoeuvres that new drivers will rarely use like the ‘3 point turn in the road’.  This will leave more time for learners to show their abilities of driving independently and confidently – skills that will be essential to them when they pass their test.

So are you in favour of ditching the dreaded ‘turn in the road’ for more independent driving during a test?  Let us know in the comments!

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Calls for new drink driving regulations

Drink driving is once again in the news due to a publication released earlier this year by the Parliamentary Advisory Committee for Transport safety. Last year Scotland lowered their legal drink drive limit from 80mg/100ml down to 50mg/100ml and now there is calls for England and Wales to follow suit.

GEM Motoring Assist says the UK Government must accept that the drink drive limit in England and Wales is too high. There are calls for an immediate commitment to reducing the limit, combined with increased police activity to enforce the law.

The demand follows the publication of the new ‘Fit to Drive’ report by the Parliamentary Advisory Committee for Transport Safety, showing that alcohol impairment continues to be a major contributory factor to crashes. Around 4.5 fatal collisions every week in 2013 (the most recent figures available) were related to drink driving. To put that into perspective, one in six deaths on the road involved drivers that are over the legal alcohol limit.

GEM chief executive David Williams MBE commented: “It’s believed that reducing the limit from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml would save around 25 lives and 95 serious injuries every year.”

The current 80mg limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is higher than most other European countries and Northern Ireland is already consulting on whether to lower its limit to 50mg for most motorists, with an effective zero limit for learner, novice and professional drivers.

Although alcohol is the biggest reported impairment to driving, the report also highlighted that motorists may be taking to the roads impaired from other causes without knowing it.  Impairment from drugs, uncorrected defective eyesight and mental or physical illness or disability continue to be issues within the motor industry.

“There is a fundamental expectation that drivers should be fit to do so,” says Professor Oliver Carsten, lead author of the report. “Short-term factors based on personal behavior such as alcohol and drug use are widely known to affect fitness to drive. However, there are long-term factors such as physical or cognitive impairment that account for 6 per cent of all fatal crashes, while fatigue is a factor in 3 per cent.”

Consequences for those caught over the limit are strict with a 12month ban being a minimum sentence as well as criminal record and hefty fine, when it comes to drink driving the rules are clear and simple, so it’s always better safe than sorry.

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