Top Technician 2018 winner named

Berkshire-based mechanic Shaun Miller has been named as Top Technician 2018, identifying him as the best garage professional in the UK.

Top Technician saw another extremely tight final this year. Shaun, who is from Millers Garage in Newbury, claimed the title by showing first class diagnostic prowess and fault finding abilities on a range of vehicles. Shaun’s win follows his extremely good showing in 2017, when he was runner up.

Commenting on his victory in the competition, Shaun said: “I am so delighted to be Top Technician 2018. Half a lifetime has gone into this achievement, since I first started in the industry. I wanted to win Top Technician since I first heard about it seven years ago, and now I have. It’s amazing to have this trophy.”

Matthew Pestridge of D&D Autos Ashford, Kent was named as runner-up for 2018.

This year saw almost 1,000 techs take the initial online test, with that number brought down to ten for a practical semi-final and five for the final, where contestants have to show their skills fixing faults placed on vehicles by a team of industry experts. The final was followed by the Top Technician/Top Garage Gala Dinner, where the winners for both Top Technician and sister competition Top Garage were named.

As winner, Shaun received an extensive prize package, including items from all the sponsors as well as a cash prize from Aftermarket magazine. Matthew also received a runner-up prize package from the sponsors and the magazine.

Top Technician 2018 and Top Garage 2018 come to you in association with ABC Awards, Auto iQ, the Garage Equipment Association (GEA), the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) and the Independent Garage Association (IGA).

Top Technician 2018 and Top Garage 2018 are sponsored by Pico Technology, Pro-Align, Ring Automotive and Snap-on.

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Calls to replace HS2 with an autonomous vehicle superhighway presented at Future of Transportation Conference

A keynote speaker at this year’s Future of Transportation Conference has proposed transforming the HS2 rail project into the world’s first autonomous car and truck superhighway.

Tony Robinson, founder of the conference, said the “outdated” HS2 project could be converted at “a fraction of the railway cost”.

Talking in Cologne last week, he told delegates: “Right now we have the possibility of leading the digital revolution in transportation. Creating a superhighway for autonomous vehicles would be a far more efficient and cost-effective solution compared with building an outdated rail network.

“We already have a rail industry crisis. We’ve all-but nationalised our rail services and now we are spending £45 billion on a new rail network that nobody wants.

“On the other hand, we could build the world’s first superhighway for cars and freight, which would be a showcase for British industry just when Brexit gives the UK a negative global image. And what’s more, people would embrace an autonomous superhighway as opposed a project that, by the time it’s finished in 2032, will be hopelessly outdated.”

Robinson explained that autonomous vehicles are being held back by the complexity of the highway infrastructure.

“With the creation of an entirely new infrastructure that is in effect what HS2 is giving rise to, the UK will have a readily utilisable landscape for the operation of Level 5 autonomous vehicles, the level at which drivers can literally sit back and relinquish control,” he added.

Benefits include the potential for vehicles to platoon very close together, which could result in better capacity utilisation of the road network as well as better fuel efficiency, particularly in the case of commercial vehicles.

Statistics relating to cost universally suggest building a multiple lane motorway is a lot less expensive than building a lesser capacity railway.

Robinson concluded: “We have a fantastic, one-off opportunity. Let’s not be so wedded to old fashioned thinking that we miss it altogether. The decisions being made now will be fundamental to 2030/2040/2050. Let’s get it right.”

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DVSA ‘must do more’ to find HGV testers for MOTs

The Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) has welcomed the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) announcement that it will supply more testers, but says only time will tell whether it will be enough.

The warning comes after DVSA and trade bodies met for the first in a series of round table meetings to discuss challenges faced by the industry and DVSA at Authorised Testing Facilities (ATFs).

The meeting, which took place on June 13, included the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and concentrated on how DVSA, working with industry, could improve testing services for ATFs and operators.

DVSA director of operations south, Richard Hennessey, said: “We acknowledge that ATFs, operators and their representative bodies are very concerned about the availability of testing slots and the ease of securing a test booking.

“We are in the process of recruiting an additional 85 vehicle testers into the high demand areas. This will have the benefit of also relieving testing pressure in other parts of the UK.

“We have established measures to help ensure that there is adequate testing capacity in areas of high demand. These have already been put into operation for the busy summer period.”

DVSA is committed to improving the service and at the meeting agreed to: work with industry to help those unable to secure a test to find slots more easily; confirmed it would go ahead with plans to increase the number of network business managers; and issue more meaningful and regular management information.

Furthermore, it said it would improve the booking process from end to end, including exploring how we can make test availability more transparent to operators looking to secure a test slot.

It also vowed to consult with the industry on a review of the current testing model by the end of October 2018, and share and invite input into the terms of reference for that review with the trade associations.

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Autonomous containers take to the air

It might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but major parcel companies are exploring the possibility of using autonomous flying containers to replace trucks for long-distance haulage.

Elroy Air, a San Francisco-based start-up company, is in discussion with UPS and FedEx to pioneer the technology, which would use shipping containers with helicopter-style blades that operate using the same technology as drones, but in a much heavier duty form.

The idea is that the drone containers would fly to central cargo hubs, where they would be ‘landed’ onto trucks to complete the regional delivery cycle, reducing the need for trucks to cover such long distances.

“Companies that can respond and be faster and more flexible will be the winners as the logistics landscape continues to change,” said David Merrill, Elroy Air’s co-founder.

The Cargo drone companies will be among the first flying autonomous commercial aircraft, because they will initially fly in thinly populated areas where safety is less of a concern.

Elroy Air has already tested the flying containers in controlled airspace at Camp Roberts, a National Guard post in Central California. The prototype includes a detachable cargo pod that can be mounted onto a truck chassis.

“A lot of these companies like FedEx or UPS, with a fleet of aircraft to support their operations, are thinking very strategically about the long-term future of aerospace,” said Jesse Gipe, Senior Manager of Economic Development at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. “The consensus is that a lot of manned operations eventually will move to unmanned at those companies.”

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BMW response to Transport Select Committee request for further information

At the Transport Select Committee meeting held on 26th June, BMW were asked to provide furhter information with regard to the B+ battery connector recall. In their written response, BMW gave figures on the number of cases, a summary of lessons learned, processes that had changed and the benefits they perceived from these changed processes.

In addition, BMW stated that they had identified a number of areas where they believed improvements could be made across the industry.

BMW are now working on a solution through their ConnectedDrive system and Connected App (IT systems which allow the exchange of information between BMW, the vehicle onboard computer system and/or an App installed on the Customer’s smartphone) for new vehicles that would alert customers if their vehicle was subject to a service campaign or recall (roll-out 2019).

BMW’s industry-wide recommendations for process improvements include:

  • an industry-wide platform for recalls, non-coded actions or technical campaigns. This would ensure that independent service garages could identify and diagnose such issues without the need to subscribe to a wide variety of different manufacturer diagnostic platforms.
  • improved processes for the quick transfer of digital customer data held by the DVLA (at present a disk must be downloaded and sent by post which can take up to two weeks).
  • improved access to customers via email through the collection of email addresses as part of the customer data held by the DVLA. This would give an ability to make more effective use of the DVLA database and provide information to customers (for example, symptoms of prior-warming and helpful guidance on what customers should do if they experience an issue).

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BP buys UK’s largest car charging firm Chargemaster

Oil giant BP is buying the UK’s largest electric charging network, Chargemaster, for £130m.

BP runs 1,200 petrol forecourts, but said earlier this year it expected renewable energy to be the fastest-growing fuel source.

It said the number of electric vehicles in the UK is set to grow from 135,000 at present to 12 million by 2040.

The move echoes one made last year by rival Shell, which bought car charging company NewMotion.

All leading car manufacturers are moving into electric vehicle production. Volkswagen, the world’s biggest carmaker, has said it will offer an electric version of all its 300 models by 2030.

Chargemaster, which will be rebranded BP Chargemaster, currently has 6,500 charging points and also sells electric vehicle charging points for home use.

BP said the acquisition was an important move towards the company becoming the leading provider of energy to low carbon vehicles.

For a global giant like BP, £130m is small change. But the acquisition of Chargemaster could turn out to be lucrative.

The logic is simple. Electric cars aren’t yet a very common sight – but they’re expected to become much more so.

BP itself thinks there will be 12 million on UK roads by 2040. They’ll need access to chargers.

That’s why BP says a major goal of the deal is to step up the deployment of fast and ultra-fast chargers on UK forecourts.

It said one of its goals was to speed up charging capability to enable chargers capable of delivering 100 miles of range within 10 minutes.

Chargemaster, which was founded in 2008, runs POLAR, the largest public charging network in the UK. It has more than 40,000 customers, some of whom pay by monthly subscription.

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WAI product arrives at Marathon branches

WAI product has begun leaving Bognor Regis and arriving at Marathon Warehouse Distribution’s National Distribution Centre in Redditch and 14-branch network throughout the UK.

Motor factors are already benefiting from improved availability and a frequent same-day delivery service from the new WAI-Marathon agreement, signed at Automechanika Birmingham 2018.

Richard Welland, WAI managing director: “We have been delighted by the aftermarket’s reception to our new agreement and demonstrates our ability to react to market changes and ensure an almost instant parts supply to more than 85percent of the UK population through Marathon.

“Centred around this agreement is our desire to be as easy to deal with as possible and ensure the customers management of stock and core is made simple. We have some exciting developments to announce on this area very shortly.”

Colin Fisher, Marathon Warehouse Distribution sales and marketing director, said: “WAI have been excellent in supporting us with the promotion of the product range and we have received positive feedback from customers.

“Motor factors up and down the UK are already taking full advantage of our range and availability and we are working closely with them to ensure they benefit fully from our partnership with WAI.”

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UK Automotive calls for “business as usual” interim arrangements to avoid cliff edge

At the recent SMMT International Automotive Summit, the UK automotive industry called on government to seek an interim arrangement with the EU that would maintain membership of the single market and customs union until a final agreement on a new relationship with the EU is negotiated and implemented.

The sector accepted that the UK will leave the EU and fully supports a bespoke and comprehensive agreement on a new relationship with the EU. However, a final agreement would be hugely complex and it does not believe such a comprehensive agreement can be reached by March 2019 – just under 12 months’ time. Without agreed interim arrangements, businesses would be faced with the ‘cliff edge’ and forced to trade under the World Trade Organisation rules – the worst foreseeable outcome for the sector, its employees and the British economy.

Speaking as the sector announced its annual performance figures, SMMT said it was time to be pragmatic about what can be achieved in the time available and what the consequences would be if the UK left without a deal. The UK and EU automotive sectors are highly integrated and any new relationship will need to address tariff and non-tariff barriers, regulatory and labour issues, all of which will take time to negotiate.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “The UK automotive industry has always maintained the importance of the EU to its prosperity. The EU is by far the UK’s biggest automotive export market, taking over half our finished vehicles, four times as many as our next biggest market. The sector already exports to over 160 different global markets and has a consistent approach to free trade. It needs that trade to be tariff-free, as frictionless as possible to support the ‘just in time’ manufacturing process and with consistent regulation.”

SMMT’s tenth International Automotive Summit, a day-long conference held in central London on 26th June, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Mike Flewitt, Chief Executive Officer at McLaren Automotive and Ian Robertson, BMW Group as Keynote Speakers.

Panels at the summit covered the following topics:

The Route to 2040
The UK and Europe
The UK – An International Perspective
The Future of Border Logistics

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IAAF’s Williamson re-elected to FIGIEFA board

Wendy Williamson, chief executive of the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF), has been re-elected to the Board and made Treasurer of FIGIEFA, the association representing the needs of the European aftermarket to governments and legislators of the European Union.

Following her initial appointment as Treasurer and Board member in 2015, Williamson was re-elected at FIGIEFA’s General Assembly held in Brussels on 24 May, where members renewed its board for the upcoming three years.

The IAAF and FIGIEFA have a close working relationship, monitoring and contributing to new European legislation affecting the trade. It is this partnership that works to represent the interests of IAAF members in the UK to European and international institutions, promoting the contribution of the independent automotive aftermarket in order to achieve the EU’s goals for a competitive European economy.

Both organisations work together on a number of issues including type approval, roadworthiness proposals, EU Mobility Package, access to technical information and the Connected Car.

Commenting on her re-election, Williamson said: “I’m delighted that fellow members have selected me to continue working closely with FIGIEFA. It enables IAAF to maintain its key position of taking both the challenges and opportunities in the UK trade to European legislators, and to keep fighting for the independent automotive aftermarket.”

The FIGIEFA Board commented: “The automotive business, including the trade of parts and associated services, will face many great challenges, especially with rising digitalisation and connectivity. Technological development, as well as the threat from vehicle manufacturers trying to use it to secure a monopoly on repair and services, make it necessary to keep campaigning for fair competition and free choice for consumers. Together, we will continue to build on the hard work and momentum that has been accomplished in the last years”.

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InAutomotive joins IAAF

The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) has welcomed the automotive specific job board as the latest addition to its burgeoning network of industry professionals.

The Preston-based specialist recruitment website that employs over 50 people has joined as a Service Member, and in an effort to further support the industry’s employment needs is offering fellow IAAF members 10% off all job advertising.

Supporting the motor trade for more than 15 years, is the UK’s leading job website for automotive professionals who are looking for relevant work opportunities within the automotive industry.

Ian Partington, Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to join the ranks of IAAF, a fast-growing hotbed of industry talent and expertise. InAutomotive recognises a great opportunity in joining the IAAF to offer a specialist, extensive and tailored approach by supporting other members.”

Wendy Williamson, IAAF chief executive, said: “I’m delighted to welcome InAutomotive as a Service Member. The automotive industry provides more than 135,000 jobs in Production alone, generating nearly half a million more in the retail and maintenance sectors, and is responsible for an impressive diversity of professions, including MOT testers, technicians and engineers, to name just a few.

“Having InAutomotive on-board means that members who have work opportunities available can benefit from having excellent access to jobseekers with a wide range of backgrounds and specialisations.”

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