Fuel duty freeze won’t stop rising pump prices, experts warn

Fuel duty freeze won’t stop rising pump prices, experts warn

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the fuel duty freeze will be extended for its tenth year, but experts warn that pump prices could continue to rise significantly in the coming months.

Since 2011, fuel duty has been at a fixed rate of 57.95p-a-litre, accounting for approximately 47% of what drivers pay for at petrol pumps. Before the Chancellor announced the budget last week, there were concerns that the fuel duty freeze may be revoked, resulting in higher petrol prices at a time of economic difficulty.

The revelation that fuel duty would still be frozen, therefore, was met positively by many.

RAC Head of Policy, Nicholas Lyes, commented on the positive impact the fuel duty freeze would have on drivers: ‘Drivers will breathe a sigh of relief that the Chancellor has decided not to ‘rock the fuel duty boat.’

He added: ‘We feared this would only pile further misery on drivers at a time when pump prices are on the rise, and many household incomes are being squeezed as a result.’

He also hinted at how devastating the alternative outcome could have been, considering the already colossal impact of the pandemic on drivers everywhere:

‘Many drivers see their cars as a safe way to carry out essential journeys and believe having access to a vehicle is even more important as a result of the pandemic. If the Chancellor had raised fuel duty, he could have risked choking any economic recovery as it would have led to increased costs for consumers and businesses.’

Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, Brian Madderson, also praised the decision to extend the fuel duty freeze: ‘As the PRA has campaigned heavily against any rises in fuel duty, we naturally welcome the Chancellors decision today.

‘Fuel duty is a regressive tax on business and livelihoods, so any attempt to increase it would have been entirely counter-productive as the economy gets back on track.’

However, not everyone is convinced that this extended fuel duty freeze will have the desired effect on reducing costs for drivers.

Fuel duty won't stop rising pump prices

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

Experts warn pump prices will continue to rise

Following the fuel duty freeze announcement, the RAC has warned that there is ‘great uncertainty over the future of forecourt prices, with fears of further rises looming large.’

It has been reported that a spike in oil prices will force pump prices upwards, and we could see prices of up to 130p-a-litre by the end of this year. This would serve to cancel out any money saved by motorists off the back of the fuel duty freeze.’

In describing the issue with oil prices, RAC fuel spokesman, Simon Williams, said: ‘Oil shot up to $10, a barrel price last seen in January 2020, which led to a 3p-a-litre hike on the cost of both petrol and diesel.

‘The worry now is whether analysts talk of oil reaching $80 by the end of the year will prove accurate. If it does, we could see a litre of unleaded top 130p and diesel 134p.’

Williams also suggested that the pandemic coming to an end is what will cause the increase in oil prices:

‘There’s a big concern that they won’t release enough supply to soak up the increased global demand as life begins to return to normal, which could cause the price to go up further. If this proves to be the case, drivers will inevitably be hit badly at the pumps.’

Of course, this news about frozen fuel duty also comes when the Government is supposedly striving towards a more environmentally friendly approach for the motoring industry, with a 2030 petrol diesel ban looming.

Mike Childs – Friends of Earth Head of Policy – was astonished by the announcement and has suggested that ‘Rishi Sunak should be doing more to discourage the purchase of these polluting vehicles – such as slapping a significant increase in road tax on them.’

Despite concerns from all corners, however, it seems that the Chancellor is confident in his decision: ‘Right now, to keep the cost of living low, I’m not prepared to increase the cost of a tank of fuel.’

The Government has suggested that Rishi Sunak’s decision will ‘cumulatively save the average car driver £1,600 compared to the pre-2010 escalator.’

Are you pleased with Rishi Sunak’s decision to extend the freeze on fuel duty? Will it make a difference to you? Or do you think rising pump prices will cancel out the benefits?

Let us know in the comments.

New LitterCam means more fines for motorists

New LitterCam means more fines for motorists

In a bid to rid our roads of rubbish, a new anti-litter scheme is being rolled out in some areas, with the installation of the new LitterCam to begin in April. Maidstone Borough Council in Kent will be one of the first to introduce the scheme.

The LitterCam will be able to identify motorists who discard litter from their car windows whilst driving, with fines being as high as £120. Litter includes items such as coffee cups, fast food, cigarette ends, and even apple cores.

This new initiative comes after Highways England revealed that a staggering 200,000 sacks of litter are removed every single year from England’s road, often including items that take several years to biodegrade.

While motorists can already be fined for littering, catching offenders in the act has previously been the responsibility of wardens, meaning that many motorists have continued to litter unnoticed.

However, with the new LitterCam, offending motorists will be caught on video footage that will then be scanned by high-tech LitterCam software. The video footage and photographic evidence will then be passed on to the DVLA after the vehicle number plate has been verified. As with speeding tickets, an address for the vehicle’s registered keeper will be identified, and a fine will be sent out. The fine begins at £90 and will rise to £120 if left unpaid for 15 days.

The initiative has been met positively by motoring organisations and environmental experts alike.

Freda Rashdi, Highways England, stated: ‘The simple fact is that if litter wasn’t dropped in the first place, it wouldn’t need to be picked up.

‘Litter is not only unsightly and a risk to wildlife and the environment, but it also puts our workers at risk collecting it and diverts time and money that could be better sent improving the network.’

Environmental expert and presenter Jeremy Paxman also praised the initiative and questioned the conscience of those who litter from their cars without thought:

‘What goes through people’s minds, I guess, is that they want to keep the inside of the vehicle clean and therefore throw the rubbish out the window without realising they’re making it a problem for everybody.’

New LitterCam means more fines for motorists

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

LitterCam latest in long line of new fining initiatives

While the LitterCam initiative is a positive step towards improving our roads for all, it has been noted that there appears to be an upward trend in the number of fineable offences coming into play for motorists.

In January of this year, for example, it was revealed that in addition to motoring offences like speeding, drivers will now also be at risk of being fined for more minor offences. These include driving in cycle lanes, failing to follow one-way systems, entering yellow-box junctions without clear exit and failing to give priority to oncoming traffic.

Similar to the LitterCam scheme, the minor traffic offences initiative uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to catch offending motorists and issue fines of up to £130.

Understandably, this was met with some contempt from motorists: ‘Most motorists think local authorities will rush to install cameras as a way to generate extra revenue’, said head of road policy, Nicholas Lyes.

He also stated: ‘Two out of five drivers we spoke to fear road layouts and signage will be made deliberately confusing to increase the number of penalties issued.’

Despite concerns, however, motoring lawyer Nick Freeman has defended minor offence fines, including the LitterCam and the penalties that come with it, even suggesting that this may not be enough to deter litterers completely:

‘Plans to use cameras to catch drivers dropping litter is a good idea in principle. But what’s the point of catching offenders if you then don’t punish them in a way that hurts? It’s just doing half a job.’

He continued by suggesting that a fine was not a heavy enough deterrent and should be accompanied by penalty points or even litter picking duties:

‘A fine isn’t enough. An endorsement of three penalty points is much more powerful.

‘What’s more, if offenders have to spend half a day picking up rubbish as part of their punishment, then they’ll literally have to clean up after their crimes.’

He concluded by dubbing the offence of littering a ‘shameful behaviour’ and suggesting that he is hopeful that the new LitterCam scheme will ‘lead to a change in attitude and prevent reoffending.’

Are you pleased that the LitterCam will catch offenders in the act? Or are you concerned about the increase in fines for motorists?

Let us know in the comments.

Motorists blamed for misunderstanding smart motorways

Motorists blamed for misunderstanding smart motorways

It has been announced this week that instructions for using smart motorways will be added to The Highway Code after Highways England suggest they become dangerous when motorists misunderstand how to use them safely.

Head of Road Safety at Highways England, Jeremy Phillips, stated that:

‘We know more needs to be done to help motorists understand exactly how modern motorways and high-speed roads operate.

‘The updated edition of The Highway Code will help inform the next generation of road users as well as giving important updates to those with many miles under their belt, to help us all stay safer.’

The announcement has been met with contempt, however, as those impacted by smart motorway accidents brand the development ‘insulting.’

Claire Mercer’s husband, Jason, 44, lost his life on a stretch of the M1 with no hard shoulder in 2019. She has spoken out against the comments made by Phillips:

‘They keep referring to “educating users”, but how do you educate someone who’s broken down in a car in a live lane of traffic with lorries zooming past? We need action that will result in tangible change. Everyone keeps saying, “It’s not my responsibility”.

‘This change to The Highway Code is just too little, too late. There are 44 people dead already. The fact it’s taken them a year is even more ridiculous.’

Updates to The Highway Code concerning smart motorways could include instructions on what to do if your vehicle breaks down in a live lane, how motorway operators warn of broken-down vehicles ahead with signage, and how to use emergency refuge areas safely if necessary.

Motorists to blame for misunderstanding smart motorways

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

Is updating The Highway Code enough to improve smart motorway safety?

Currently, refuge areas on smart motorways are 1.5 miles apart, and high-tech safety measures such as cameras that identify stationary vehicles have yet to be rolled out on many miles of smart motorway.

Advice for motorists broken down in a live lane of a smart motorway includes attempting to reach an emergency refuge area if possible, turning on hazard lights and exiting the vehicle (through the passenger door) to stand behind the crash barrier.

If done successfully, this still leaves a stationary vehicle in the path of fast-moving oncoming traffic.

Over the last few months, issues with smart motorway safety have been frequently addressed, and the update to The Highway Code is just one step in the government’s 18-point plan to reduce the risk of accidents.

Motoring experts are still concerned, however, that updating The Highway Code or making any other small changes to smart motorways when other safety measures are already lacking will not be enough to prevent further tragedy, and instead have suggested that smart motorways should be scrapped altogether:

‘How many people must die before you will make a decision and immediately suspend the use of the hard shoulder for driving traffic? Enough is enough,’ questioned shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon, earlier this year when announcements for smart motorways to stay were made.

Rotherham Labour MP, Sarah Champion, has also previously commented that: ‘The government needs to grasp that there is nothing ‘smart’ about creating death traps.’

However, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has insisted that scrapping smart motorways altogether would do more harm than good: ‘I don’t think there’s a route to simply undo it. We’ve got to make what’s there safe.’

Instead, Mr Shapps feels that ‘an update of The Highway Code to provide more guidance’ will be a positive step forwards in improving the safety measures on smart motorways.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport spoke to support Mr Shapps decision, despite public concern: ‘The safety of the drivers and passengers using these routes remains the Transport Secretary’s personal priority. He will press Highways England to deliver improvements as soon as possible.’ 

While improving motorway safety may be a priority, experts like RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes have still been left wondering whether any changes made will prove successful in reassuring road users that smart motorways are safe:

‘Even when all these issues are addressed, we wonder whether they will go far enough to overcome people’s fear about the permanent removal of the hard shoulder on these schemes.’

Is driver misunderstanding to blame for smart motorway safety issues? Do you think enough is being done to keep prevent further smart motorway deaths? Or do you think the issue will persist until smart motorways are scrapped?

Let us know in the comments.

Petrol prices set to stay high after lockdown ends

Petrol prices set to stay high after lockdown ends

With petrol prices already high despite the current restrictions on driving, the RAC has warned that they may not yet have reached their peak and could soar after lockdown ends.

The concern comes after the revelation that the price of petrol in the week beginning 15th February was up to 122p-a-litre, jumping from 114p-a-litre in December.

During the first half of the pandemic, back in March 2020, petrol prices reached a low of just 106.48p-a-litre due to travel restrictions and lack of demand, but the price has been rising steadily ever since. For example, just in January of this year, it was revealed that motorists were paying up to £3 more than they were in March 2020 to fill up the average family-sized car with a 55-litre tank.

As restrictions begin to lift, however, and demand increases, petrol prices are set to sky-rocket.

After the current lockdown ends, we could see these numbers rise again to record highs of 143p-a-litre for petrol and 148p-a-litre for diesel, says the RAC.

Reasoning behind the sharp predicted rise is based on the assumed jump in the cost of oil due to the rolling out of the global Covid vaccination programme, which will have increased travel and pushed prices upwards.

Some analysts have predicted that this year, the price of oil could reach $80-a-barrel, while JPMorgan has indicated that in 2022, it may reach highs of $100-a-barrel, resulting in those much higher petrol and diesel prices.

Expert motoring organisations are concerned that, with the impact of Covid and lockdowns on people’s personal finances, the hike in petrol prices may not be viable for many motorists up and down the country.

The AA’s fuel price spokesman, Luke Bosdet, stated that: ‘As they struggle to get their working lives and family financiers back on an even keel after Covid, there is going to be a real sense of being under assault for needing to drive a car.

‘The bonus that the fuel trade is giving itself is just part of the financial pressure likely to be heaped on drivers this year – particularly those on lower incomes.’

There are also concerns that when the Chancellor announces the Budget next week, the freeze on fuel duty could come to an end, causing the price of petrol to rise further and pose even more of an issue for those struggling financially.

AA fuel price spokesman, Simon Williams, commented that: ‘With the Chancellor’s Budget now less than two weeks away, the last thing drivers, and possibly the economy, need is a fuel duty increase – not least as petrol prices have been rising for thirteen consecutive weeks.

‘A hike in duty at a time of rising fuel prices could put unprecedented pressure on lower-income households and might have a negative effect of forcing everyone who depends on their cars to consider cutting back on other spending.’

Petrol prices set to stay high after lockdown ends

[Image Source: Shutterstock, February 2021]

What impact will fuel duty have on petrol prices?

Fuel duty has been frozen since March 2011, saving motorists around £1,2000 in the last decade, but the freeze may no longer be possible, with Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, saying that ‘we can no longer afford’ to do so.

Reports state that fuel duty, if unfrozen, could rise by 5p-a-litre in next month’s Budget.

As aforementioned, this has understandably raised concerns about the impact this would have on petrol prices, particularly in a time of such economic hardship due to the pandemic.

The RAC’s Simon Williams explained that: ‘The Chancellor faces a difficult decision as to whether to pile further misery on drivers by raising fuel duty when pump prices are on this rise and many household incomes are being squeezed.’

When speaking to ITV News, Mr Williams also commented that: ‘Storm clouds are once again gathering over UK forecourts.’

‘Ironically and rather unfortunately, as economic confidence grows as measures to combat the coronavirus take effect it is likely to mean drivers end up paying more to fill up in the coming weeks.’

While the loosening of pandemic induced restrictions is a positive step forward in many ways, it seems that the motorists will have to bear the brunt of the impact Covid-19 has had on the price of petrol.

Are you concerned that petrol prices will remain high after the lockdown ends? Do you think now is the right time for Rishi Sunak to revoke the freeze on fuel duty?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Drivers to give up cars for cash in government’s go green plan

Drivers to give up cars for cash in government’s go green plan

Would you give up your car for £3,000?

In a new government proposal to cut emissions and ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, drivers could be given cash in return for swapping their car for more environmentally friendly travel options like electric scooters and bicycles. It will form an essential part of the government’s go green plan.

The scheme will be particularly prevalent in more built-up areas and offer motorists ‘credits’ to be used on alternative modes of transport, like buses, bicycles and electric scooters.

The government hopes that this scheme will reduce car dependency and help the country gradually move towards the end goal in 2030.

It is thought that a trial roll-out of the scheme will first take place in the West Midlands before moving further afield.

Candidates were asked to volunteer to test out the new scheme, and West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, has been pleased with the uptake thus far: ‘We have a number of candidates lined up in Coventry following a public appeal for volunteers last year and are putting processes in place to allow them to scarp their own cars in exchange for transport credits later this Spring.’

The trial will be part of a £22 million initiative to improve the way travel happens within this area, with an overall goal of significantly reducing emissions by promoting the use of congestion-easing modes of transport.

The plan has been well received by some organisations with the chief executive of Sustrans cycling and walking charity, Xavier Brice, stating that: ‘It is great to see local authorities considering new ways to reduce car dependency, including mobility credit… better, more affordable, public transport is critical to combatting air pollution and carbon emissions.’

However, others feel that the initiative is an unusual one, with concerns raised about the impracticality and wasted efforts.

AA president, Edmund King, suggested that: ‘The money probably would be better spent on providing electric charging points for those without off-street parking rather than giving mobility credits for services that people will use when they need to or feel safe to.’

His comment could refer to the recent announcement from Jaguar that their vehicles will move to pure-electric within the next five years. Other car companies are following suit, with Ford declaring that they will sell only electric cars in Europe in 2030, in line with the government’s 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars.

The comment also refers to concerns that local councils are falling behind with implementing necessary measures like installing enough EV charging points to accommodate the electric shift.

While the cash for cars initiative may have good intentions, it seems it may be unnecessary amongst the changes that are already taking place.

Drivers to give up cars for cash in government's go green plan

[Image Source: Shutterstock, February 2021]

What is the government’s go green plan?

All of these initiatives feed into the pledge that Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has begun to lay out over the last few years, in what experts are calling an ‘ambitious’ target.

In a video addressing the need for a move towards greener living, Mr Johnson set out that the UK is ‘going further and faster than ever before with a new target to cut emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030.’

He hopes that this target will set the country ‘on course to hit net zero by 2050’ and stressed his pride in the fact that the UK was the ‘first economy to pass a law requiring us to reach net zero.’

While every step taken towards making this challenging target a reality will eventually have a positive impact on the environment overall, there are already many hurdles to jump.

It was revealed recently that a large proportion of drivers are reluctant to make the switch to electric vehicles because of impracticality caused by lack of charging points within their area, which could impact the efficacy of the 2030 petrol and diesel ban.

There have also been concerns raised about the number of electric vehicles that could be on the roads compared to the amount of specialist mechanics trained to work on them, with just 5% of mechanics currently being able to do so.

The uncertainty over the practicality of initiatives already in place has left some organisations questioning whether this new cash for cars initiative will prove to be worthwhile or not.

How would you feel about giving up your car for cash? Do you think the go green initiatives in place so far are working?

Let us know in the comments.

Drink-driving related deaths reach highest level in 10 years

Drink-driving related deaths reach highest level in 10 years

Statistics have been revealed this week that show deaths related to drink-driving have reached their highest levels in a decade.

A ‘central estimate’ from the Department for Transport found that on average 280 people were killed on the road in 2019 in casualties that involved one or more drivers being over the limit.

This is an increase of 17% on the previous year and is the highest drink-driving death rate since 2009.

Understandably, this revelation has left motoring groups concerned about what the rise means, and what may need to be done to keep the trend from continuing.

‘This report really moves the debate on when it comes to drink-driving in the UK. The plain fact is that there has been virtually no progress in reducing drink-driving deaths for nearly a decade, so something different clearly needs to be done,’ says RAC spokesman, Simon Williams, in response to the release of the statistics.

He continued by offering advice on what the government could be doing in order to make a positive change: ‘The UK Government should consider all options, including increasing enforcement at the roadside, the use of alco-locks for those already convicted of driving under the influence and even looking into the merits of reducing the drink-drive limit in England and Wales to bring it in line with most other European countries,’ says RAC road safety spokesman, Simon Williams.

The introduction of alco-locks for previously convicted drivers means that drivers would have to take a self-breathalyser test before being able to start their engine. If the test was failed, their ignition could lock for up to 24 hours, preventing them from driving and potentially causing accidents.

Other countries, including France and the USA, already make use of the alco-lock system in an attempt to curb drink driving levels, leaving England and Wales to catch up:

‘Arguably, given that England and Wales now have the dubious distinction of having the most lenient drink-drive limit in Europe, there is also a good case for the Government to examine the merits of bringing it down. A lower limit is something our research shows the majority of drivers would be in favour of.’

Drink-driving levels rise and stricter reinforcements called for

[Image Source: Shutterstock, February 2021]

Legal limit should be lowered, but will that be enough?

Currently, the alcohol limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland stands at 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath and 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine. However, some experts are calling for these levels to be changed as a direct result of these most recent drink-driving statistics.

Scotland currently has a lower limit – 22 micrograms in breath and 50 milligrams in 100ml of blood.

Executive Director at PACTS, David Davies, stated that: ‘The legal limit should be reduced in England and Wales, police should be given additional powers to test drivers, the High Risk Offender scheme should be reformed, and rehabilitation courses should be designed for those with mental health and alcohol problems.’

Mr Davies made it clear that it would be a combination of these factors that would reduce drink-driving casualties and that the government should not rely on lowering the legal limit alone:

‘A lower limit is not a magic bullet, but government policies to reduce drink driving will lack credibility as long as they avoid this change.’

It has also been suggested that, in combination with limits that are too high, repeat offenders are playing a large part in the increased casualties. In a study conducted by the RAC, it was revealed that since 2010, nearly one in five drink driving charges were committed by a repeat offender.

In a comment on the high levels of repeat offenders, Simon Williams said: ‘Seeing as the level of reoffending is so high, we believe this needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency. A year and a half ago the government said it was looking at the benefits of so-called ‘alco-locks’ to reduce reoffending, so it is high time a clear plan was put together that sets out how this technology will now be introduced to reduce future deaths.’

While it is still uncertain as to how the government will rise to the challenge of quickly and effectively reducing alcohol-related road casualties, it is clear that something needs to be done imminently.

Do you think the government is doing enough to tackle drink-driving? Are alco-locks the answer, or should they be looking at lowering the legal limit?

Tell us in the comments.