The latest on compliance: everything you need to know

Sometimes it can seem like a minefield trying to keep up with the rules and regulations of being an HGV driver. But, don’t worry, we’re here to keep you up to date with all you need to know every time you jump in the cab.

Each month, we’ll cover a different area of compliance – from licenses, hours and charges, to maintaining roadworthiness. This month, we’re going to look at the hot topic of vehicle emissions.

As the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) comes into force this month (8 April 2019) in central London – charging drivers of older, more polluting vehicles to enter the congestion zone area at any time – what do you need to know about vehicle emissions across the UK?

ULEZ is one of a number of environmental schemes being introduced in major UK cities, as part of plans unveiled by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to introduce five Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in England by the beginning of 2020.

A Clean Air Zone is an area targeted by local authority where measures are needed to improve air quality and address sources of pollution. In addition to the capital, the creation of CAZs will initially be in Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton, and is part of the Government’s broader Air Quality Plan. So, what are the plans?

London

Under the plans introduced this month, Transport for London (TfL) hopes to reduce the number of polluting cars in the capital and estimates about 40,000 vehicles will be affected every day.

Most vehicles which are not compliant will have to pay £12.50 for entering the area each day, in addition to the congestion charge. However, buses, coaches and lorries will need to meet or exceed the Euro 6 standards or pay £100 a day.

So, what are the Euro 6 standards? In a nutshell, it’s the most demanding EU standard to date on the reduction of emissions from commercial vehicles. As compared with Euro 5, test cycle particulate emissions are reduced by 66 per cent and nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) by 80 per cent.

Birmingham

This is one to watch. To date, Birmingham City Council is still considering how its Clean Air Zone will operate, which vehicles will be charged to enter the zone, and where it will cover, although it’s expected to be at least part of the city centre.

Derby

Like Birmingham, Derby City Council is still in discussions with key stakeholders to iron out plans for its Clean Air Zone.

Leeds

Leeds City Council is slightly ahead of its counterparts in Birmingham and Derby, and will introduce a Clean Air Zone on 6 January 2020. The zone, which will cover more than half of Leeds and charge the operators of vehicles up to £50 per day to enter the district, aims to reduce air pollution in the city by encouraging businesses to transition to cleaner, less polluting vehicles that won’t be subject to charges.

The Council has received £29 million in funding from the Government to provide a range of support packages for businesses based or primarily operating within the CAZ boundary. Only owners of the worst polluting HGVs, coaches, buses, taxis and private hire vehicles will be subject to charges.

Nottingham

Nottingham City Council is another city on the ‘watch list’, but its Clean Air Zone will run in parallel with other measures designed to improve the city’s air quality. These include an ‘Eco Expressway’ prioritising electric buses, a Go Ultra Low Nottingham scheme intended to encourage the uptake of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, and new cycle routes.

Southampton

In January 2019, plans to introduce a non-charging clean air zone in Southampton were unanimously approved by councillors.

The scheme, which will remove the most polluting taxis and impose new rules on buses, aims to bring air quality to within legal levels by 2020. It was criticised by campaigners after plans to charge vehicles were dropped. But the Council said it could meet Government limits through a "refined set of freight, bus and taxi measures". 

For more information on this, or if you have any other questions on compliance, contact us today.

Number of bridge strikes hits five per weeks

Did you know that every single day, five bridge strikes happen in the UK, with more than 40 per cent of drivers admitting they don’t know the size of their vehicle?

Recent figures from Network Rail have revealed that 1,800 incidents involving HGVs occur each year, costing millions of pounds in damage and delays. The research showed that while just under half of lorry drivers fail to check the height of their vehicle, 52 per cent admit to not taking low bridges into account when planning their route.

The rail provider estimates that each incident costs up to £13,500, including bridge repairs and compensation paid to operators, which adds up to almost £13 million per year. When you add the value of undelivered goods and loss of productivity, the cost of bridge strikes can rise as high as £23 million per year.

Aside from causing a serious accident, drivers are at risk of losing their licence. While Network Rail is urging van and truck drivers to "wise up and size up" their vehicle, Challenge TRG Group is on hand to help you understand your vehicle’s measurements and how to plan your journey correctly to avoid low bridges.

Here are our top tips of things to consider before setting off:

· Are you fit to drive? Make sure you’re able to drive safely – alcohol, drugs, medication, injuries, tiredness and your mood can all affect your driving.

· Keep things clear. Make sure you have your eyes tested at least every two years – if your eyesight’s not up to the required standard then you’ll be driving illegally.

·  Be aware of the rules. As you know, European Union (EU) rules limit you to driving for 9 hours in any 24-hour period, although this may be extended to 10 hours twice a week. Weekly driving mustn’t be more than 56 hours and fortnightly driving mustn’t be more than 90 hours in any two consecutive weeks. Work with us to keep tabs on your driving hours.

·  Plan breaks and rest periods. Under the EU rules, you need to ensure you’re taking breaks of at least 45 minutes in total during, or after, 4.5 hours of driving. Don’t forget you can split this break into two. What’s more, you need to rest from driving for 11 hours each day, so make sure you plan these into your journey and you’re up-to-speed with logging these on the tachograph.

·  Secure your load. Think about: what’s the load; is the vehicle right to carry it; is the load stable; and does it have the correct restraints.

·  Is the vehicle in good working order – check the oil, coolant, tyres, windscreen, battery, lights, horn, controls, mirrors, seat belts and brakes.

·  And finally, make sure all licences, V5C, tax, driver qualification card, annual test and insurance are all up-to-date.

 If you’d like to find out more, contact us today.

Life in the cab: how to keep fit and healthy

You spend hours on end sitting down, driving all day and sometimes into the night. We get that the job of trying to keep fit and healthy while at work might seem an impossible feat to achieve!

However, it doesn’t have to be. Our previous blog on battling fatigue provides some simple tips on healthy eating and the benefits of sleeping well, but here are our top tips on life in the cab: how to keep fit.

Tip one

Try and make walking part of your daily commute. For example, if you get public transport, why not jump on at a stop that’s a few streets away from home? Do the same on your way home to get a few minutes of exercise every day. If you drive to work, park your car in the furthest spot and walk to the depot door.

Tip two

You need to take a break during, or after, 4.5 hours of driving, so why don’t you use some of that time (45 minutes in total) to get out of your cab seat and walk around for a couple of minutes? A few circuits of the service station car park will do wonders for clearing your head and getting the heart pumping!

Tip three

When you’re not working, try and make exercise part of your downtime routine. The weekly recommended amount is 150-minutes, which is just 30-minutes for five out of the seven days. You don’t need to be aiming for marathon runner status. If you’re a beginner, but want to get fit, the NHS’ Couch to 5K programme is a great place to start.

Tip four

Check your posture when you’re driving and make sure that you sit up straight with your shoulders back. Avoid hunching or bending over at the wheel. When you’re stationary at the lights, or stuck in traffic, why don’t you try some simple stretches and exercises while sitting down. Stretch your neck by looking up, down, left and right. Roll your wrists, ankles and shoulders every hour or so. And, work your abdomen and gluteus by contracting the muscles, holding and then releasing repeatedly.

If you’d like more advice on staying fit and healthy while out on the road, contact us today.

What makes a great driver?

Driving a heavy goods vehicle takes a lot of skill – not just the ability to control an over-sized vehicle, with often valuable or hazardous cargo onboard, but the mental strength to work alone for hours on end in an ever-changing environment.

So, what makes a great HGV driver? Here are the top qualities we look for when strengthening our 1500-strong driver pool.

The basics

It goes without saying, but every HGV driver needs a good driving record and the correct licence for the type of vehicle they're looking to drive.

As you’re behind the wheel for so many hours, you also need to enjoy driving to keep your motivation up. Not only that, you must be physically fit to spend long periods on the road – this includes good eyesight and colour vision.

Concentration

EU rules limit the number of hours that you can be on the road continuously [link to low bridge blog] but, despite this, HGV drivers are still required to drive for lengthy periods, so maintaining concentration at all times is key. This is particularly so, given that drivers work in isolation for long stretches.

Customer service

While the vast majority of a HGV driver’s time is spent alone in the cab, when you reach your destination you’ll often need to interact with customers when it comes to unloading the delivery.

Drivers are an important extension of that business, regardless of their employment status, so it’s essential to be polite, friendly and helpful, particularly if you need to deal with difficult conversations about product issues or delays.

Attitude

A great HGV driver needs to have the right attitude when hitting the road – everything from calmness and tolerance of other drivers, to handling emergency situations, being aware of the surroundings and potential hazards, as well as an appetite to constantly learn and hone your driving skills.

Be prepared

To make sure you get from A to B on time, it’s important for you to plan your journey ahead of time and be aware of any potential hold-ups that might cause the delivery to be late. Added to that, you need to make sure your vehicle is up to scratch and ready for the journey.

Be one step ahead

There’s real skill in manoeuvring a heavy goods vehicle – steering, braking, changing gears and accelerating smoothly. But what differentiates a good driver from a great one is your ability to anticipate the actions of other road users and always be one step ahead.

It’s important that HGV drivers take a defensive approach to driving on the road. It’s all about anticipation – recognising and reacting to potential situations before they happen. This is not just for your own safety, but also other drivers.

Knowing limits

This not only applies to your own ability as a driver – knowing the road, causes of potential accidents and your own physical wellbeing – but also the limits of your vehicle. Drive within them and don’t push the lorry beyond what it’s capable of.

Mechanics

While we don’t expect drivers to be fully-fledged mechanics, you’re often required to carry out routine maintenance, so a good mechanical or engineering skill-set is key to keeping your truck in good working order.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a great HGV driver, speak to us today about doing your CPC training and getting onboard at Challenge Group.

Driver CPC: Are you up to date?

On 9th September, the deadline for Driver CPC will be here. Any driver who hasn’t completed the mandatory 35 hours of periodic training by that date won’t be legally allowed to drive their LGV and faces a fixed penalty of £50 and a potential fine of up to £1000 – so it’s crucial that you’re ready.

We’ve produced a series of modules to ensure that you’re compliant and up-to-date before the 9th September on how to:

·      Load vehicles safely and securely

·      Apply the rules of professional driving, such as drivers’ hours

·      Assess emergency situations and administer first aid

·      Optimise fuel consumption

·      Prevent trafficking in illegal immigrants

As a driver, it’s your responsibility to stay legal, so if your license status is due to change – for example, a court appearance for motoring offences – or if you have been through any changes, such as points on your license, you must inform us straight away. If for any reason you don’t think you’ll be able to complete the compulsory training before the deadline, please let us know as soon as possible.

To book on to one of our CPC courses, please visit our portal.

Useful numbers

Challenge-trg Group – 01942 826 107

DVLA – 0300 790 6801

DVSA – 0300 123 9000

JAUPT – 0844 800 4184

How to battle fatigue on the road

Long hours on the road, miles after miles, can take their toll on HGV drivers. But, as you know, it’s essential that you’re always switched on and alert to an ever-changing journey ahead of you.

So, what are the best ways to overcome the signs of fatigue and make sure you’re in the best shape possible to complete your drive safely and on time? Here are our tips for battling tiredness.

Eat the right things and often

It’s so easy to just sit and snack while you’re in the cab for most of the day, or night. But, it’s much better to eat small meals regularly and healthy snacks, to help keep up your energy – generally every three to four hours.

To help sustain energy, try to avoid foods that cause a blood sugar spike, resulting in the inevitable crash. Foods that are high in protein and fat content result in sugars being absorbed slowly by the body to provide longer-lasting energy. 

Get moving

This might sound like a ridiculous thing to say to combat tiredness, particularly when you spend most of your time in the driving seat, but, when you do stop for a break it’s important to get moving.

Regular exercise is proven to make you feel less tired in the long run, resulting in more energy. The recommended amount is 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise every week.

Fresh air can also work wonders. Research has shown that increased outdoor activity can improve concentration levels. So, if you’re suffering from fatigue, a single 15-minute walk during your rest-stop can give you that much-needed energy boost; the more you exercise regularly, the more your energy levels will improve. Even spending five minutes outdoors can help stimulate your circulation and give you the jolt of energy you need to regain concentration on the road.

What’s more, exercise boosts circulation, improves cardiovascular health and is proven to help you to sleep more soundly, as it’s great at combatting stress and helping to balance your mood.

Drink more water

Sometimes you feel tired because you're slightly dehydrated. A glass of water will do the trick. So, as soon as you feel an afternoon slump coming on, choose water instead of coffee and see how your energy improves.

Sleep more

It’s essential that when you’re not on the road, you get as much rest as possible. Under the EU rules, you need to rest from driving for 11 hours each day.

To improve sleep quality, experts recommend following a consistent bedtime routine: go to bed at the same time each night; get enough hours of sleep; and improve your sleep comfort. This can result in a deeper sleep, leaving you feeling refreshed and energised the following morning.

Napping is also proven to combat fatigue. A 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy.

Drink less alcohol

After a long journey, a pint of beer might be just the ticket! Even though it might help you fall asleep, drinking alcohol means you don’t sleep as deeply, so the next day you still feel tired, even if you’ve had the recommended eight hours.

Cut down on alcohol before bedtime. You'll get a better night's rest and have more energy.

Shed extra weight

If you’re carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting. It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Most experts recommend reducing portion sizes, eating balanced meals, and increasing physical activity, to help lose and maintain a healthy weight.

Cut out caffeine

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that anyone feeling tired should cut out caffeine. It suggests gradually reducing all caffeine drinks over a three-week period.

Caffeine is found in:

·  Coffee

·  Tea

·  Cola

·  Energy drinks

·  Some painkillers and herbal remedies.

Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less tired without it. 

If you’d like more information on combatting fatigue and driving safely, call us on +44 (0) 1942 826 107.

Breaking News....Challenge Group acquire Deployment Ltd

Combining forces and values…

We’d like to take this opportunity to say how excited we are to start working with Deployment Ltd, and welcoming Deployment colleagues to Challenge Group. This is a really exciting time for both Challenge and Deployment; we share the same values, and are both well placed to support each other and our clients moving forward.

 

Deployment have a long and successful relationship with Martin Brower UK in the North, and from this reputation for great service have been given the opportunity to supply MBUK’s new Coventry depot. This relationship will be strengthened further with the support of Challenge Group’s existing national network and proven ability to service in this area.  

 Are you up for the challenge?

**We currently have opportunities in the warehouse and for HGV drivers.

**Please keep an eye on our job page for excellent rates and opportunities across the UK. 

Hello Midlands…

Hello Midlands…

 

There are exciting times ahead for us as Challenge opens a new office in Daventry to support our growth in the Midlands area. We’re extending our footprint in the UK, and the Midlands is an obvious place for Challenge to grow. The benefits of having a base in the Midlands will be quickly felt by both current and new client contracts in logistics, further strengthening the Challenge offering nationally.

 

Daventry gives us, our clients, and our workers a Midlands “home”.

 

The new address is:

 

First Floor

Office 9

Cottesbrooke Park

Heartlands Business Park

Heartlands

Daventry

Northamptonshire

NN11 8YL

 

In opening a new office here, we can continue to grow whilst supplying labour and traction services locally. We are confident that our investment in the area will increase the quality of services to clients, as well as providing a dedicated space for workers to join us for an informal chat, catch-up with Challenge news, and grab a coffee. Not only that, but as Challenge grows we are creating more job opportunities locally and across the UK, as well as supporting local businesses.