Roddy Graham's Blog: March
28 March 2007
I was driving down the A329M followed by the M4 the other day...
28 March 2007: Road un-works
I was driving down the A329M followed by the M4 the other day. It took a while to filter onto the A329M as there were road works. Down to a single carriageway between the Coppid Beach roundabout at Bracknell and the M4, you can imagine the traffic queues! Having finally cleared the slow moving traffic I swung down the slip road onto the M4 only to be confronted with a 50mph temporary speed limit sign. More road works! Wonderful! I estimate in total I travelled some three miles along the A329M and a further four miles along the M4 before finally clearing snarled up traffic and, guess what; there wasn't a road worker in sight. Now that really puts me in a good mood.
Compare the above to my experiences abroad. I was recently in Florida and drove north from the airport in Miami to our hotel. Not a road work in sight during the day. That evening I had to drive back to Miami for a function and the road was being repaired so the journey took a little longer. No problem though as there was very little traffic. Now that's what I call proper planning.
Even the French are better organised. Last year, I drove over to Val Thorens and, on the main motorways, the road works were confined to night. With lower traffic at night it makes eminent sense to plan the works then, freeing up the roads and, more importantly, the economy during the day!
23 March 2007: Budget review
Yesterday's headline in The Independent - '2p or not 2p' - sums up this latest Budget perfectly. The politically-charged last Budget from our 'illustrious' Chancellor was pure sleight of hand. It gave with one hand and took with another.
Where does it leave fleets? Bemused unless you drive a gas-guzzler, in which case you'll be downright fuming.
That said, taxing vehicles according to pollution emitted has to be the way to go. In fact, it should actually be applied even more vigorously if we are to attain the 9% carbon dioxide reduction target by 2050 considered essential by most scientists - Government please take note 60% is not enough! Really, other than the big hit for gas guzzlers, there were no real surprises and at least the consultation exercise on ECOPs will receive hopefully a proper airing.
21 March 2007: Climate Change Bill is Blair's best
So the Climate Change Bill going through parliament will make us the first country in the world to set legally binding targets for reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.
A good precedent to set.
Let's hope the larger economies such as the USA, China and India follow suit or else we are still in trouble.
That said, it's got to be one of the best things this Blair Government has set out to do. The targets are not bad - a reduction of between 26% and 32% by 2020 and 60% by 2050.
However, there is a strong body of opinion that states to make any difference the 60% target should be at least 80%.
Indeed Colin Challen, a Labour MP, has declared it should be at least 90%, as does the Green Party.
There will be five-year reports on the potential impact of climate change, a new system of five-year 'carbon budgets' to cap total emissions and limits set 15 years in advance to help business planning.
But what if Government misses its targets?
There will be no ministers in the dock. They will be simply named and shamed. With the Arnie Schwarzenegger photo opportunity to underscore Blair's claim of an 'historic day' in the battle against climate change one still is left with a degree of scepticism as to how much may be 'hot air'.
To make a real difference, we need all the economies to sign up to Kyoto, which means President Bush getting his head from out where the sun definitely does not shine, and to follow our lead by setting their own targets. Then, we need the UN to undertake a 'climate peace-keeping' role to ensure all countries stick by their undertakings, which means something with more teeth than merely naming and shaming ministers.
13 March 2007: Road Charging - You are having a laugh
Apart from the spy in cab being really abhorrent '1984' style stuff in any government's hands, the proposals are ill thought-out, subject to the standardisation of a yet un-defined vehicle black box and network to control it, which by current standards of governmental cost control will probably cost £3000 per vehicle (per annum). Moreover, the national systems deployed to operate it WILL fail. (NHS exemplifies all, for goodness sake). They are simply incapable of ever deploying anything like this in an effective fashion.
Depressingly, they are so stupid they actually think they can.
I suspect it is more about control, as is this lot's wont.
I actually think it will have a depressing effect on the economy, too - end consumers will pay for it personally and again, proportionately, in everything they buy, and it will make us less competitive overall than other nations not carrying this heavy operational on-cost (the rest of the world).
Even if one could get the operational cost to circa £100 pa (no chance with this lot), times the 30m cars in the UK, the true operational cost is £3bn a year at the most conservative of estimates. The leasing industry drives very hard bargains and it can't get below £155 pa per unit for the most basic GPS black box today. While it pains me to say it, £3bn pa (but more likely £10+bn) would be better taken as tax and spent within the economy rather than on an abortion of a scheme where the consultancy types would become overnight millionaires advising this shower of gross incompetents. The equipment and network suppliers would become billionaires within 2-3 years. This roughly equates to the annual tax grab on pensions by Brown - it is not small-scale stuff.
Even if one could quarter the cost, it makes not a jot of economic sense.
As normal, it would also bring every charlatan supplier out of the woodwork for the Government to waste millions on evaluating each one as to fitness, only to end up awarding contracts to the very worst. This sector (GPS black boxes, and their connectivity and supply) is riddled with some of the very best practitioners of the "get rich quick and run" brigade, akin to the rogues that plagued the mobile phone industry in its earlier days.
The ONLY practical way to deal with the whole issue in a cost effective way is via fuel tax as I have said to you before! No other, and certainly not in this lot's hands.
The whole thing is a truly glorious piece of unadulterated trash and with that miserable Scotsman Brown looming up large and clunky-fisted upon us, we have enough problems to contend with, with him bleeding the country dry to keep the huge (and ever growing) numbers of public sector employees at their current, well salaried and pensioned levels. His raising of taxes via all manners of surreptitious schemes marks him out as being unfit as a chancellor, let alone an un-elected PM. He is a true tax and spend type of Labour man, despite his more cultured Edinburgh tones hoping to disguise his true intent. To my mind, the country is simply grossly mis-managed in virtually every respect. Were it a business, it would be bankrupt several times over.
I believe history will mark the pair of them down as having pawned the family silver and left the nation immeasurably poorer long term - Blair being every bit as guilty as Brown fiscally - he is supposed to be in charge after all, even although he doesn't seem to actually have taken any real decisions other than Iraq. Legacy - ha!
Politicians - aagh - drown the bloody lot!
Grumpy old man you might say - you betcha - I know the last couple of paras are a rant, but disgruntled - yup - I surely am. I am in a state of total disbelief that this lot (or any other government) could be so stupid as to even contemplate this path.
12 March 2007: CSI London
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill is slowly creeping forwards, or is that backwards? It's been through the House of Lords and has now reversed back in to the House of Commons. I have two problems with this. The speed of its progress (maybe we should have congestion charging within the two chambers?) and the title.
Since when have we been living in the USA? Don't tell me, I know, ever since President Blair kowtowed to Prime Minister Bush. But seriously, first, we had the liberal use of the word 'jail' as opposed to 'prison' and now we have 'homicide' as opposed to 'murder'. A case of too much CSI London!
In terms of the Bill's aims I have no qualms. All businesses need to meet their duty of care responsibilities, including those covering their company car and 'at work' drivers.
Perhaps one day, fleet management will have a higher place on the corporate agenda.
27 February 2007: Check staff phone records
I warmly agree with the proposal that all drivers involved in accidents should have their mobile phone records checked to ensure they weren't chatting away at the moment of impact. Mobile phone usage while on company business is a major Duty of Care issue for companies and any moves to discourage the use of handheld mobile phones must be encouraged.
26 February 2007: A tribute to Peter Moxon
Peter Moxon, a founding council member of the ICFM, sadly passed away on 16 February this year. Aged, 67, he was undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia when he suffered a heart attack.
While the idea for the ICFM was founded on the basis of an article by David Lee, suggesting that there needed to be recognised qualifications for those working in car fleet management, the idea was turned into reality by Peter and Alan Myers of McKenzie Myers. Between them, they 'rounded up' eight other eminent fleet managers of the day and formed the ICFM in late 1992 with Peter appointed as the first director and secretary.
It is fair to say that without his vision and, in the first instance, the financial backing of his company, the ICFM would not exist today.
During his seven-year term, Peter was a wonderful ambassador for the ICFM and was held in high esteem by all who served with him. He even found the time to write an 'Agony Aunt' column on behalf of the ICFM.
Peter was recognised as a kind, gentle and generous man. Most of us last saw Peter at the 10th ICFM Conference, where he was an honoured guest. He gave so much of his time to the ICFM and will be sadly missed. We as the current ICFM council will continue to work very hard to further raise the profile of our organisation and honour the memory of Peter for his great work and vision.
Peter is survived by his wife Louise, son David and daughter Carol.
The thanksgiving service will take place at Christchurch on Canterbury Avenue, Fulwood in Sheffield on Monday February 26 at 10.00 a.m. followed by a cremation service at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium on Archer Road, Sheffield at 11.00a.m.
The family kindly requests that donations are made to St Luke's Hospice in lieu of flowers. These can be sent payable to St Luke's Hospice (please include a note that the donation is on behalf of Peter Moxon), c/o John Heath & Sons, 2-16 Earsham Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S4 7LS.
19 February 2007: Simple solutions are the best
The more I think about road charging the more absurd I believe the idea is. Let's face it, the technology required will probably be the most expensive investment the Government will ever make and, if past performance is anything to go by, then this is likely to be disastrous. Then, of course, there will be those motorists who will find a way of by-passing the system, not to mention parts of the system breaking down, resulting in loss of income. While we must accept that we must price journeys to preserve our environment, why make something so complicated?
The best ideas are always the simplest. Why not go back to basics and load up fuel at the front end with the requisite 'green' taxation? That way Government is guaranteed to receive the full amount it requires. There is no possibility of anybody dodging the system, as no fuel equals no journey! Taxing fuel even more heavily also addresses the issue of the gas-guzzlers. It will have a direct drain on the pockets of those owners of four-wheel drives and high performance cars that are uneconomical. And taxing fuel more heavily but on a sliding scale dependent on fuel type can help steer drivers to more environmentally-friendly and efficient fuels.
Government could even eliminate road tax, by again loading up the cost of fuel. That would benefit it in two ways. First, those running un-taxed vehicles would no longer get away with it and second, it would significantly reduce administration, thus saving on overheads. This latter point is also pertinent to business, as road-charging will add more to company overheads than simple 'green' fuel taxation at the pump.
If the green lobby are concerned that all vehicles would be treated the same, then maybe Government could introduce a sliding scale charge for the cost of MOTs based on CO2 emissions.
A significantly higher charge at the pumps is more likely to make motorists think twice about whether a journey is really necessary.
Am I missing a point or isn't 'green' taxation at the pump by far the most effective and simplest solution?
13 February 2007: A listening Government?
With every news report over the past couple of weeks talking about the 1 million plus signatures and rising on the Downing Street petition against road charging do we really think the Blair Government will pay any attention?
After all there were mass demonstrations against the war in Iraq and against the Hunting With Dogs Bill, despite all of this, the Government did not change it's mind. Surely realistic and workable alternatives should be proposed instead of simply petitioning against an existing proposal - history suggests that the Government doesn't listen!
7 February 2007: State of the nation
Given the overall success of our cricket team Down Under I wondered what they would be if they were a car...an Austin Maxi perhaps? Heralded as the saviour of Austin's fortunes, it proved an abysmal failure and was unreliable to boot! Any other suggestions?