End of the line for Seddon Atkinson

Iveco has upset dealers by deciding to follow in the footsteps of Paccar and dump its 'niche' UK brand.

An Iveco spokesman confirms: "As from the introduction of Euro-4 in October, Iveco will no longer be producing Seddon Atkinson vehicles.

"The cost of designing a new municipal and refuse vehicle along with Euro-4 engine type approval has proved prohibitive - particularly as Seddon Atkinson registered just 284 units last year."

Paccar gave notice of its planned retirement of Foden to dealers and the press last August. Iveco, by way of contrast, issued no press release and is understood to have upset dealers with its letter to the network in March.

"We are currently in open discussions with the network over what opportunities may exist," the spokesman reports.

The closure of Seddon Atkinson also signals Iveco's withdrawal from the manufacture of low-entry refuse trucks which are popular with UK waste collection operators.

"Seddon Atkinson had been part of a European project to develop a new range of low-entry trucks, but the costs associated meant the project was not viable," the spokesman adds.

The Seddon Atkinson offices in Oldham will close at the end of the year, with personnel re-deployed elsewhere in the Iveco organisation "where vacancies exist". The Oldham factory was closed in 2004 when production shifted to Iveco's factory in Madrid.

New speed-limiter law for vans coming in January

Next year white van man, that demonised representative of the road transport industry, will find himself unable to put his foot on the gas quite so hard. The final phase of EU speed-limiter legislation will cover CVs from 3.5-7.5 tonnes first registered on or after January 2005. Currently these vehicles are allowed to do 70mph on the motorways, just like private cars - but from 1 January 2008 they will be limited to 56mph. The change, driven by European Commission Directive 2002/85/EC, will bring a whole new class of vehicles into line with LGVs, which have been running at that speed since 1992.

This affects a significant number of vehicles: according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, there are currently 226,022 3.5-7.5-tonners running on UK roads, of which the SMMT says 85,245 are definitely classed as vans. Courier firms which use light CVs around the 3.5-tonne mark for same-day or next-day deliveries will not be affected by the use of 56mph speed limiters on their bread-and-butter urban work. But running at the lower speed on motorway runs might require some changes to delivery patterns.

Bunching is an obvious potential problem but the Department for Transport will not be influenced by concerns about a general slowing down and greater congestion on motorways as trucks, coaches and vans all lumber along at 56mph. After all, it now has no choice over implementing the EC Directive, which must be enshrined in UK law.

But the DfT has said that the proportion of the vehicle parc affected is not that large, pointing out that even after January's change, only about 15% of total traffic will have limiters. It is also clear about the rationale for extending speed limiter use: "Statistics show lower average speeds equal fewer accidents and therefore fewer casualties. At the same time lower running speeds equal fuel savings and lower emissions."

To back up this claim the DfT reports that motorway accidents involving LGVs fell by 34% in the decade following the introduction of limiters in 1992. Save lives and save the planet... it's an impressive mix. And the DfT is not the only organisation to argue that the new legislation will make road transport safer. Road safety campaign group Brake also welcomes the change, saying: "One in three crashes involves a vehicle being driven for work, and our research has found these drivers are more likely to speed. Road crashes devastate thousands of families every year, and cutting speed saves lives.

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Limiting the speed on the vehicles which are most likely to break speed limits on fast roads is essential in cutting the numbers of deaths on our roads." It seems a compelling argument. But the Freight Transport Association is not so sure that this particular class of vehicles requires any sort of restraint: "Road safety vs congestion is the top and bottom of it. In terms of vans' ability to overtake there may [now] be a problem. And the other side of it is that the safety record of vans is already very good."

Indeed it is: taking into account all types of road, LGVs are involved in seven accidents per 100 million vehicle kilometres, a safety record which puts them well ahead of cars (nine accidents) and motorcycles (137 accidents). But the light CVs which will be fitted with speed limiters from January boasts an accident rate of just 3.6 on all roads - and this drops further to 1.4 on motorways, where the new limiter legislation will have the greatest impact. "The image of 'white van man' isn't borne out in the accident statistics," the FTA points out. "Any suggestion that these vehicles need restraining is not justified by the figures."

So much for current driving habits. But what about road conditions after 1 January 2008? In terms of congestion things will probably not be so bad on three-lane motorways, but dual carriageways and two-lane stretches of motorway may present a more frustrating experience for motorists as tens of thousands more vehicles are limited to 56mph. Only time will tell how many accidents will be caused by frustrated car drivers taking risks to overtake slower-moving traffic.

"We may also be getting into those categories of vehicles where operators don't even realise they need limiters," the FTA warns. "The issue last year was that operators were having trouble fitting limiters by the due date and that's the warning we should perhaps issue now: the situation is cut and dried and if your vehicle needs retrofitting it is better to do it now than wait until 31 December."

What the latest changes mean

  • 1 January 2008: All new vehicles of 3.5-7.5 tonnes GVW first registered on or after January 2005 and used solely in the UK will have to be fitted with limiters set at 56mph. All vehicles now in production are being fitted with speed limiters.

Who already has limiters?

  • 1 January 2007: Vehicles over 3.5 tonnes registered between 1 October 2001 and 31 December 2004 and used exclusively on UK roads (56mph limit).
  • 1 January 2006: Vehicles over 3.5 tonnes registered between 1 October 2001 and 31 December 2004 and used on international operations (56mph limit).
  • 1 January 2005: All new 7.5-12-tonne vehicles and all new vehicles over 3.5 tonnes on international work (56mph limit).
  • 1992: All CVs over 7.5 tonnes were fitted with limiters at 60mph under domestic law. At that time, EU legislation on limiters only applied to CVs over 12 tonnes.