From potholes to petrol price – are you prepared this winter?

From the increase in ‘red’ categorised roads and winter tool theft, to the new mobile laws and rising price of fuel. Here’s everything you need to know.

A white commercial van drives along a snowy UK road

It’s has been great to see work vans out and about, back at work and in demand leading up to Christmas, as reported in our previous blog. But this winter, there are some interesting, additional considerations that may require more thought to avoid costly penalties or repairs.  Here’s our guide to some of the issues to keep an eye on.

Mobile phones and the law

A January 2022 shake-up involves the tougher rules surrounding the use of mobile phones while driving. New laws will make it illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, under any circumstances. And this could now mean taking drive-by photographs or video of a completed job from the warmth of your own van, let alone scrolling through those motivating playlists to get you from one job to another.

And it’s not just your own usage we are alerting you to. RAC research suggests that more than one-in-10 younger drivers admit to taking a photo or video while driving, while 6% say they have even played a game behind the wheel, so it’s sensible to keep your eyes very much on the road this winter.

It’s worth familiarising yourself with the rules now to avoid a £200 fine and 6 points on your licence.

The pitfalls of potholes

A bugbear of many a British winter, many of us have fallen foul of a pothole, and the pandemic hasn’t improved the situation. The RAC has recently expressed disappointment over the lack of progress in pothole improvements being completed over the last 18 months, feeling that this quieter period offered a great opportunity to complete repairs.

As frustrating – or damaging – as this can be, particularly to van owners as winter approaches, the findings by the Department for Transport indicate that this was due to a shortage of specialists available to conduct the road maintenance. Unfortunately, this still means that the numbers of ‘red’ categorised roads has increased from 15% to 17% since 2019/2020.

But what is truly shocking is the cost. The AA reports that potholes have cost the UK’s councils more than £3.7million in compensation in the last 18 months, but each pothole repair only costs around £39.80 on average. With the ability to cause significant tyre, wheel or even steering alignment damage, even at a slow speed, it is more important than ever to ensure that you report any that you are unfortunate enough to stumble across.

Comprehensive cover should cover you for pothole damage, but equally as important is ensuring you have legal insurance which will cover costs in pursuing the Local Authority where necessary. If you don’t have this already, simply give your branch a call and they will be happy to talk you through this.

The rising price of fuel

Driving during the winter months with cab heating and increased traffic on the roads are a sure way to burn through that fuel, so could it be that the trade will need to wrap up a little warmer with record high fuel prices on UK forecourts? With prices rising over the past few months, public opinion seems to feel that prices will continue to rise.

But why are petrol and diesel prices going up?

Over the last 12 months, the average cost of petrol and diesel has increased by around 34p per litre! Last week, This is Money spoke with the AA and RAC, who were critical of the record-high costs following a reduction in wholesale petrol and diesel prices.

Why are petrol prices going up? - A-Plan Insurance

It is clear that, while oil reserves have been released into the market to ease demand (and pricing) by the Government, little has changed with regards to the price on the forecourt. With the fear of rising costs over this period, and retailers unwilling to pass on the discounts, some drivers are scaling back on their Christmas travel and spending.

With fuel prices changing so quickly, use A-Plan’s handy fuel calculator to help you find the cheapest fuel in your area.   

Winter tool theft

Although vehicle related theft offences reduced by 23% from 2019 to 2020/2021, according the Office for National Statistics, these falls are likely to be driven by previous national lockdown restrictions. With darker nights and winter months well underway, we are now entering a period of increased risk.

It is inevitable that we will see an increase in tool theft from cars and vans, so it’s important to rebuild that vigilance. As a friendly reminder:

  • Always remove tools from your van overnight, where possible.
  • Consider a smart CCTV kit so that you can monitor any alerts on your mobile phone.
  • Keep your inventory list up to date, and include prices, so that if something is stolen, you can identify it quickly and speed up the claim process.
  • Engrave your tools, or use tools with smart lock functionality.
  • Park your van sliding door against a wall, and ideally, in a well-lit area.
Beware winter tool theft - tool insurance - A-Plan Insurance

And vitally, make sure your tools are insured under a separate policy, and at the right amount, to ensure you can get back to work with all the replacement the tools you need to finish the job. Unsure if you are correctly covered?

For peace of mind, just give your local A-Plan branch a call.

Stay warm

In addition to ensuring that you carry out all of your essential winter vehicle checks and maintenance, we also suggest you put together an emergency pack to keep in your van containing:

  • Warm winter clothing (coat, fleece, hat, gloves)
  • Blanket
  • High visibility jacket
  • Torch including spare batteries
  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Extra screen wash
  • Emergency contact information needed to call for assistance

Should the vehicle break down on a motorway, or anywhere the driver has to leave the vehicle to go to a safe location, the emergency pack should be readily available to grab and go.

Please do travel safely this winter! However, if you do find yourself in an unfortunate situation and need our help, call your local branch team, who will be right by your side throughout the claims process.