Q&A David Beer, Senior Manager at Transport Focus

25 June 2020

Q&A David Beer, Senior Manager at Transport Focus

Transport Focus is a watchdog that carries out a survey of 40,000 bus passengers every year across England and Scotland and in urban and rural areas. This year services have seen serious drops in passenger numbers during lockdown. But what can the bus operators do to get them back, and what are passengers looking for when they use the service? We spoke to David Beer from Transport Focus to find out.

What are the takeaways from your annual bus survey?

We need to get a real measure of satisfaction and the surveys show that operators are, generally, meeting expectations. For example, nine out of ten passengers are satisfied with their overall journey but when you start talking about punctuality it’s only three-quarters. Then only two thirds of people think they get value for money. When you are talking about commuters and young people), the levels of satisfaction get even lower.

Why is that?

Young people want the bus service to be as easy as ordering a pizza. They have some anxieties when it comes to travel and don’t really know where to go to find the information: it’s all a bit of a closed book to them. When you look at other experiences such as booking cinema tickets or ordering a takeaway, the systems are really intuitive and there’s minimal interaction or little scope for getting it wrong. Young people need the systems to be designed better and the bus industry could do well to learn from other sectors.

What else can bus companies do to improve the experience?

Any operator has to resolve issues with timekeeping and give people useful real-time information at stops, and on board. Drivers need to be approachable and able to give information to people about when they get to their destination. People need to know how they can get the best ticket for them and what discounts they are entitled to.

What about improvements to technology?

We know from this year’s annual Bus Passenger Survey that if you put audio-visual information on board, it improves people’s satisfaction by a matter of 20%. That sort of ready real-time information is important both on board and at bus stops. You want reassurance that the bus is on its way or, if it’s delayed, what that delay might be. Passengers need that information before they leave home.

Bus companies are learning from the likes of Uber, which tells you where the vehicle is, what it is and what you will be paying in advance. And it’s not just about the timeliness of the bus arriving, it’s also about knowing what the journey time will be.

In response to the crisis we’re seeing more bus operators introduce the technology we’ve been pushing for. With better and new use of apps, there are a host of factors: there’s the availability of seats on-board and the availability of the space for wheelchair users. Even down to when the bus was last cleaned! We shouldn’t forget the role of the bus driver too. Drivers are ambassadors for the industry, and they can make a real difference, where they can make a journey not just satisfactory, but enjoyable too.

Is it just about giving a smile then?

It can be, but it’s also about the information. We know that passengers want to be informed and it’s often up to the bus driver to provide that. We know from other surveys that passengers want to know why the bus is sat is traffic, for example, and why they may not get to their destination on time.

They might want advice from the about where they can get off and indicate if they are getting near to the stop. They need to know about how to pay, whether it be contactless, or cash or what’s the best ticket to buy.

In terms of value for money, it’s not just about the price of the ticket, it’s the whole experience.

What about third-party information providers? Bus apps, for example.

The information doesn’t need to be provided by the bus company themselves and the continued rollout of the ‘bus open data’ programme between the Department for Transport, third parties such as transport apps including Moovit and Whiz, and the bus companies is really important. But as ever with information, the data has to be correct and checked when it’s pumped into the system for passengers to use.

Some people are reverting back to their cars following the lockdown. What’s your take on that?

We have carried out research each week on peoples’ experiences and what we are seeing is that the majority of people are returning to driving. The number of people who are happy to return to public transport is only about one in five and that means there’s a real need to build that trust again. Face coverings are mandatory, and people want to be reassured that everyone is doing that. People need to know what to expect when they board a bus. The information about things like that and social distancing must be crystal clear.

Our research has shown that nine out of ten people are questioning the feasibility of social distancing on buses and that’s why people need to know what the guidelines are. The use of hand sanitiser is another way of getting people’s trust back in the services again.

Half of people surveyed think they might not go back to public transport at all and that creates a headache for the DfT and local authorities in terms of congestion. However, innovation can rebuild passenger trust as long as the basics – punctuality, comfort, flexible ticketing, clarity over fares and excellent drivers who show they care for their passengers – are in place.

New Arrival aims to shake-up bus market

25 June 2020

Billion-dollar British automotive start-up Arrival has revealed a series of images showcasing its plans for an electric bus it hopes will reshape the face of public transport.

The London-based company also released a video showing an early prototype of the vehicle of the futuristic-looking zero emission model in the Beta testing phase of its development.

According to Arrival, the bus has been designed to offer an ‘exceptional passenger experience’ and is equipped with features that ‘promote a positive perception of public transportation’ and ‘create an environment evoking a sense of space, cleanliness and wellbeing’.

The teaser images also show that connectivity and passenger infotainment are high on the company’s design agenda.

While few details have so far been released, it’s widely reported that Arrival’s unique assembly model, which will see vehicles produced in local microfactories, will mean the final design will be modular and highly customisable, with assembly tailored to meet the specific needs of the customer.

Kwame Nyanning, Chief of Experience at Arrival, said, “We are very excited to bring the Arrival Bus to markets around the world and make the passenger experience of bus travel a positive one.

“By working in partnership with businesses to develop the entire ecosystem around our vehicles, we are supporting their goals of making Public Transport appealing whilst achieving carbon neutrality.”

Ben Jardine, Chief of Product for Arrival Bus, added, “As Arrival partners with governments and cities to create an Integrated Public Transport ecosystem that supports their net-zero emission goals, the company is also developing cars for sharing, taxis, buses, delivery robots, charging stations, Microfactories and digital services that enable ‘best in class’ public transport without the need for subsidies.

“This is possible because Arrival’s solutions are intelligently designed, with the Arrival Bus priced the same as a fossil fuel equivalent and realising even greater savings over its lifetime.”

Arrival says its bus will be produced in local microfactories which are designed to be capable of assembling all vehicles from Arrival’s portfolio. These microfactories, it claims, will support the creation of market-specific products and will regenerate regional economies through the use of local supply chains, retention of talent and payment of local taxes.

DAF introduces advanced autonomous braking as standard

25 June 2020

DAF Trucks has introduced an improved autonomous emergency braking system as standard across its range of LF, CF and XF models.

AEBS-3 – the third generation of the firm’s system – can provide autonomous braking assistance to avoid collision with both stationary and moving vehicles up to a speed of 50 mph.

The system works alongside DAF’s Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning systems to provide a comprehensive suite of safety technology.

AEBS-3 uses a high precision dual radar, enabling detection up to 250 metres away and providing earlier recognition of potentially critical situations.

A 120˚ near range angle of view enables earlier prediction of cut-in situations – even in harsh weather conditions and in situations with poor visibility such as fog and low sun.

Via audible and visual alerts and a firm haptic brake pulse, the system prompts the driver to react to an imminent potential collision. If the driver fails to react, the truck automatically initiates emergency braking to avoid, or mitigate the impact of, a rear-end collision.

Leeds expands EV fleet

25 June 2020

Leeds City Council has launched a new scheme to encourage businesses to switch to ultra-low emission vans after taking delivery of 122 all-electric Renault Kangoo Z.E.33 models.

Most of the vans will be used in the delivery of a wide range of services across the city, but 20 will be made available to local businesses through its new EV Trials Scheme.

The scheme, launched in partnership with Highways England, will allow West Yorkshire businesses and organisations to enjoy a completely free trial of an electric van per company for up to two months.

Each van will be equipped with telematics devices which gather journey and charging data. Users will receive a tailored report highlighting the findings, and the environmental and potential financial benefits that transitioning to an electric vehicle can generate for their business or organisation.

The additions to Leeds City Council’s fleet will boost the number of pure EVs it uses to more than 330. Councillor James Lewis, Deputy Leader at Leeds City Council, said, “Leeds City Council already operate more electric vehicles than any other local authority and we are a proud signatory of the Clean Van Commitment. We’re looking forward to sharing the benefits of these vans free of charge with businesses and charities across West Yorkshire as part of our EV Trials scheme.”

Vincent Tourette, Managing Director, Groupe Renault UK, said, “We are delighted that the Renault Kangoo Z.E.33 has such a significant role in not only transforming the efficiency of Leeds City Council’s fleet, but that its deployment in the Authority’s new EV Trials Scheme will also help many of the city’s businesses experience how electric vehicles can, literally, work for them.”

New dates for Cenex-LCV and Cenex-CAM events

25 June 2020

The annual Low Carbon Vehicle and Connected Automated Mobility shows will now be held on November 18th and 19th, organiser Cenex has announced.

As usual, the events will be held at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, with the organisers and venue working together to ensure the latest COVID-19 protection measures are in place.

The decision to proceed with the events on a virtual basis was taken in view of their importance for technology showcasing and networking of the UK motor industry innovation community.

But, as a safeguard, plans are being put in place to host the event virtually should the pandemic worsen with tighter controls be reintroduced.

To keep up to date with Cenex’s 13th annual Low Carbon Vehicle event, Cenex-LCV2020, and its second Connected Automated Mobility event, Cenex-CAM2020, please visit www.cenex-lcv.co.uk or www.cenex-cam.co.uk, or follow @LCV_event on Twitter.

Member Profile – The Institute of the Motor Industry

25 June 2020

Tell us a bit about your association. When were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is the professional association for individuals working in automotive and 2020 is our centenary. 100 years ago, society was experiencing rapid technology-driven change and the IMI was created to establish new skills and knowledge benchmarks for the emerging automotive industry. Wind forward 100 years and the IMI is still at the forefront of emerging automotive technologies, championing the best skills as well as preparing the sector for the new automotive revolution, from ADAS and autonomous driving to zero emissions.

Headquartered at Fanshaws in Hertfordshire, the IMI employs more than 100 automotive and education professionals, with a network of regional representatives providing support to individuals and businesses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, our reach goes well beyond the United Kingdom. Through alliances with like-minded professional bodies and automotive employers around the world, the standards designed by the IMI are setting the benchmark for the best in automotive learning and continuous professional development globally.

What does the business do?

The automotive sector is crucial to the UK economy. But our industry also faces a number of critical challenges: attracting and retaining talent; skills gaps at senior and entry level; regulatory change; and overall public confidence.

The IMI supports the automotive retail sector by benchmarking skills, developing relevant qualifications and delivering training through its network of more than 600 approved IMI Centres nationwide. It also assesses and accredits the competence of those working in the sector, helps people develop their careers through more than 350 regulated qualifications and over 25 accreditation routes, and supporting apprencticeships. In addition, the IMI runs an international membership community of automotive professionals and campaigns to build public confidence in the sector.

How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?

Clearly 2020 is proving to be a year unlike any known in our lifetime. But that has meant the role of the IMI has become ever more crucial. Our 70,000+ members, as well as our UK and international IMI approved Training Centres and the employers who rely on our standards, are all looking to us to help them navigate through the changing landscape created by COVID-19.

As such, while 2020 was going to be a year of celebration for our centenary it has become a year of focus and action to support individuals and businesses that have seen their circumstances change beyond recognition. We have created dedicated resources for those who have found themselves furloughed or made redundant, and for businesses that had to shut during lockdown. We have accelerated our programme of online e-learning tools. We have worked in partnership with other leading industry bodies, like SMMT, to provide automotive retail businesses and training centres with the support for reopening safely, as well as identifying ways to get customers back through their doors – physically and virtually.

Another big challenge for 2020 – and beyond – is the sustainability of apprenticeship recruitment in the sector. The IMI is an authorised End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) for no less than 20 Apprenticeship Standards, which cover the traditional technical bases such as Light Vehicle Technician, Heavy Vehicle Technician, as well as specialisms such as Sales, Management & Supervision, Automotive Finance Specialist and many others. The automotive sector has been a strong advocate of apprenticeships for many years. However, as COVID-19 impacts income for many businesses, there is a fear that apprenticeships may be cut. The IMI is therefore working hard to lobby government as well as provide support to training centres and employers to try to find ways to maintain apprentice recruitment and employment in 2020 and future years. It is vital that the sector remains focused on skills development, particularly with so much innovation coming down the line, regardless of COVID-19.

What are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?

There are some considerable challenges facing the automotive sector in the next 10-15 years, not least of which is the proposed ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and, potentially, hybrid vehicles that is currently being consulted on by government. The continuing development of autonomous motoring, in all its guises, is another big challenge for the sector. However, whilst these challenges can appear daunting, the IMI is excited to be working with individuals, employers and training centres to ensure that motorists are given the confidence that their safety and wellbeing will always be paramount. And that IMI Registered Professionals, who have achieved the appropriate industry agreed standards, can be relied upon to have the knowledge, skills and professional competence to cope with whatever technological innovation brings.

Steve Nash, Chief Executive Officer at the Institute of the Motor Industry

Don’t miss SMMT’s International Automotive Summit Live

18 June 2020

Although there is still much to do even as we edge out of the crisis and towards the recovery phase, we need to look ahead to the major long-term issues affecting our industry. To address this, for the first time this year our International Automotive Summit will move to a digital format, happening live online next Tuesday 23 June.

SMMT’s annual Summit is the definitive event in the automotive calendar, exploring the state of the industry and its future prospects. We have a great line up, including two keynote speakers, Nadhim Zahawi MP, Business and Industry Minister, and Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Business and Consumer Minister, who will be discussing the UK’s recovery from Covid-19 and other key topics.

Of particular interest to the CV sector will be a panel discussing the uptake of zero- and low-emission vehicles. As this gains momentum, industry experts will look at what needs to be done to ensure the rapid adoption of these technologies. With reference to the latest analysis of infrastructure and government incentives, the panellists will review the adoption of commercial vehicles and cars.

It will certainly be a transformative next few months for the automotive industry. Don’t miss out on your chance to learn about what lies ahead in 2020 and beyond, and how to prepare for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

If you would like to join us, you can register here.

Learning in lockdown – Q&A with Nick Caesari, CEO of Fleet Source

18 June 2020

Transport for London (TfL) has given the go-ahead for driving training company Fleet Source to deliver FORS-funded training on road safety and environmental responsibility during lockdown. Fleet Source will provide the theory element of Safe Urban Driving, Van Smart and LoCity training but its online training is altogether different. We spoke to Fleet Source’s CEO, Nick Caesari, about its new lockdown-friendly training method.

Tell us more about this project?

We have been working with TfL since 2014 delivering its funded training programmes. TfL invests in FORS operators and contractors to allow them to meet FORS requirements with regards to vulnerable road users and environmental training.

What are classified as vulnerable road users and what does the Safe Urban Driving Course, in particular, do?

Cyclists, pedestrians, motorbike riders and horse riders are classified as vulnerable road users – anyone who is vulnerable when using the road network.

The Safe Urban Driving course is about giving drivers defensive driving skills: the ability to anticipate what vulnerable road users are about to do. It’s about building empathy in terms of space, particularly important when it comes to cyclists, and also the behaviours in and around small vehicles and horses.

Do all drivers have to go on the course?

Yes, every driver must undergo 35 hours of approved training every five years if they are driving heavy goods vehicles. That is governed by the DVSA. Typically, a driver will have seven hours a day of training over five days to get their 35 hours in that five-year period. The five-year term ends in 2024. FORS also has specific courses that FORS employers must undertake to meet accreditation requirements.

How many drivers will benefit?

In relation to this FORS training, there will be funding training available for around 5,000 drivers

How has the training changed during lockdown?

Before lockdown the basis of our training was classroom-based with up to 24 in a class. For obvious reasons, it was not practical to put 24 people in a classroom. A lot of our competitors moved to webinar platforms, like Zoom, and started delivery that way.

We wanted to differentiate our offering to make sure that engagement was at a higher level, so we effectively built a TV studio to deliver that training. The benefit over the traditional webinar is that in those instances the screen is dominated by a Powerpoint and you’ll be lucky to tell which one is the trainer.

With our training the delegate gets a full view of the trainer so you can see their face clearly. The trainer also has a presentation screen next to them – just think of Sky News and it’s exactly like that.

We are using the latest green screen technology, and in our studio environment the trainer gets to look at a 3.2-metre by 2.4-metre screen so he or she can see every single delegate clearly. This ensures higher engagement between trainer and delegate. The only challenge is that we are dealing with up to 20 different environments – people’s homes – so we do have speak to people about the importance of not being interrupted and keeping background noise down. We’ll mute them if it gets too noisy.

How do you monitor who’s watching and how do you know they have done the full required hours?

We have strict enrolment requirements to make sure the drivers are who they say they are. Licence checks have to be carried out beforehand as well.

In terms of the sessions themselves we have a tech team that monitors behaviours throughout, so if anybody disappears for some time, we monitor and track how long they went away from the course. We also monitor their attention to the screen to give us what we call an ‘attentiveness score’.

Operating in a similar way to a classroom, we build in rest and bathroom breaks, but if a student does need to step away from the course, we clock up the amount of time they have left to see if they meet the pre-determined pass threshold required for the course.

How many people can you get in on training course at any one time?

It’s limited to 20. They must register, providing a photo of themselves and their driving licence. On the morning of attendance, they must verify their identity. There are three forms of ID required.

Will this kind of training be the new normal?

We want it to be the new normal – we have invested in this. The benefits of doing it this way, outside of lockdown, are numerous. There is the great reduction of commuting time which also comes with additional environmental benefits, as the need for travel is eliminated completely.. We are collecting the data, with the objective of demonstrating to DVSA that Fleet Source Live truly has a place in driver training.

Bridgestone launches first all-season tyre for trucks

18 June 2020

Bridgestone has launched its first all-season tyre for the light truck segment.

The DURAVIS All Season has been designed with both small and large fleet operations in mind, enabling them to use the same tyre all year round.

The company claims the new tyre will help fleets reduce total cost of ownership. Available from August 2020, it will be available in 23 different sizes, including three HRD sizes and five high load sizes (10PR).

Emilio Tiberio, Chief Technical Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Bridgestone EMIA, said, “The DURAVIS All Season, our first-ever all-season tyre for light trucks, helps to provide the business efficiency fleets are seeking. We’re very excited to provide our customers with a durable, all-season model that can ensure peace of mind in all weather conditions, minimize downtime periods and reduce overall total cost of ownership.”

Ford and VW extend CV and EV alliance

18 June 2020

Ford and Volkswagen have expanded their global alliance to further develop the commercial and electric vehicle offerings of both companies and to better meet the ‘rapidly evolving needs of customers in Europe and beyond.’

The alliance will allow the companies to bring new vehicles to market more rapidly, incorporating relevant technologies and offering greater model choices.

They anticipate continued growth in global industry demand for commercial vehicles and for high-performing electric vehicles.

The alliance will:

Produce a medium pickup truck engineered and built by Ford, for sale by Volkswagen as the Amarok starting in 2022 within the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles line up.
Further strengthen the commercial vehicles businesses of both companies as early as 2021 – with a city delivery van based on the latest Caddy model, developed and built by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, and later a 1-tonne cargo van created by Ford.
Lead to a highly differentiated Ford electric vehicle for Europe by 2023 built on Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive (MEB) Toolkit, expanding on Ford’s zero-emission capabilities in the region.

Volkswagen Group CEO Dr. Herbert Diess said, “In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts on the global economy, more than ever it is vital to set up resilient alliances between strong companies.

“This collaboration will efficiently drive down development costs, allowing broader global distribution of electric and commercial vehicles.”

Jim Farley, Ford chief operating officer, added, “Commercial vehicles are fundamental to Ford today and an area where we will accelerate and grow, and working with Volkswagen on these platforms will provide both of us significant financial advantages in things like engineering, and plants and tooling. Separately, Ford will add battery electric versions of Transit and F-150 in the next 24 months for commercial customers who increasingly need zero emissions and the power of connectivity, data and artificial intelligence.”