Professional Driver Features

How to handle an HM Revenue and Customs Business Records Check

HM RevenueCustoms 300HM Revenue and Customs may be under fire for letting multi-national businesses such as Starbucks, Amazon and Google get away with sophisticated tax avoidance schemes. But while it might be difficult to get the big companies to pay up, HMRC is very adept at catching the little guy – especially if his records aren’t up to scratch.

On November 1, 2012, HMRC started a new approach to Business Records Checks (BRCs). The target audience of these checks are small businesses. And that means everyone from self-employed drivers upwards.

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Winter driving: darkness spells danger

PD-website-Night-driving 300Winter is upon us. The clocks have gone forward, and that means drivers need to be more careful now the days are so much shorter.

Many chauffeurs have found out over the past couple of winters just how tough driving can be when you’re at the wheel of a big, heavy rear-wheel drive saloon. A recent survey suggested that one in 10 drivers had crashed into another road user during the snowy and icy weather – so no matter how polished your driving skills may be, you need to take every action to minimise your risks.

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Safety first with winter tyres

PD-Web-winter-tyres-header-pic 300In response to the cold winters of 2009 and 2010, a number of manufacturers and tyre retailers launched cold weather tyre programmes to help its customers stay safe on the roads during winter weather.

Nevertheless, the safety benefits of fitting winter or cold weather tyres are still not fully appreciated by many fleet operators in the UK. We’ve heard from operators that fitted the tyres last winter, when the weather wasn’t quite so harsh as the previous years, but left them on in the Spring – and then wondered why their tyres wore out so quickly once the weather got warmer and drier (it did, for a few days in March!). 

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Death of an icon

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Mark Bursa examines how the woes of black cab maker Manganese Bronze could bring about a revolution in the taxi trade - with Private Hire operators the big winners

It’s not looking good for Manganese Bronze, parent company of LTI, the maker of the “iconic” TX4 London taxi. Receivers moved in to the business last week, and have started to wield the axe, making most of the company’s staff redundant.

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Paris Motor Show report

Mercedes-Benz S-class

The new Mercedes-Benz S-class is still 12 months away from UK showrooms, but Mercedes revealed some clues about the look of its forthcoming flagship in an artful presentation called Aesthetics S, featuring a sculptured projection wall, showing the key design cues for the car.

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Images of the S-class's predecessors, starting with the 1950s ‘Adenauer’ Mercedes saloon, were projected on to the screen, along with hints as to how the new S-class will look. 

Mercedes isn't giving too much away at this stage – the full unveil of the new S will take place at Shanghai Show next April – but the images suggest the new S will have a lower roof profile and a sweeping, art deco-inspired line running from above the front wheel arch to the lower part of the rear arch. The front wheel looks to be positioned well forward, further echoing the pre-war look.

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With the demise of the Maybach super-luxury brand, the S-class will resume its role as the biggest and most opulent car in the Mercedes range. As well as standard and long-wheelbase versions, there will also be an ultra-long Pullman version in 2014.


Range Rover

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The launch of the new Range Rover was overshadowed by the unveiling of the stunning Jaguar F-Type on the same stand - but the big, luxury SUV was still undoubtedly one of the stars of the show. 

It looks an imposing vehicle, with a number of retro touches that echo the original 1970 model – a longer rear overhang, and a steeper rake to the C-pillar. It’s bigger than the current model, but much lighter as the body shell is now made of aluminium rather than steel. 

And the flagship 4x4 will look even more impressive next year when a long-wheelbase version joins the range. The LWB version is expected to break cover at next year's Shanghai Show – strong demand from China for stretched versions is the reason for the development of the LWB Rangie. Jaguar Land-Rover managing director Jeremy Hicks would not confirm that the LWB version is coming to the UK - but he wasn't denying it either.

He said the Range-Rover's appeal would be significantly widened with the launch of a 3.0-litre V6 diesel-engined version – previously only V8s were available. The smaller engine takes the total weight saving up to 420kg, and delivers a 22% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, achieving figures of 37.7mpg combined and 196g/km CO2. A diesel hybrid model will follow later in 2013, with target CO2 emissions of 169g/km.

“Entry price starts at £71,295 for the 3-litre Vogue,” Hicks said, adding that the top-line Autobiography would cost “just under £100,000”. Existing trim levels – Vogue, SE and Autobiography – will carry across to the new Range Rover.


BMW 7-series

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Spot the difference – here’s BMW’s mid-life facelift for the 7-series, which externally features only a few tweaks to the front grille and new LED headlights, and no obvious changes in the cabin apart from an upgraded sat-nav system.

But a lot of work has gone on under the skin, with improvements to the powertrain and under-the-car aerodynamics giving staggering 50mpg performance for the new 730Ld, plus CO2 emissions down to 148g/km – very impressive for its class.

We’re also getting the new second-generation Active Hybrid version, which couples a 3-litre petrol engine to a 40kW electric motor to give excellent performance – though it can’t match the economy of the diesel. The new 7-series is now on sale – along with the much-anticipated 2-litre version of the 5-series Gran Turismo, the 520dGT.


Ford Mondeo

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Britain will have to wait until next November before the new Ford Mondeo hits the streets – but the impressively styled and finished car looks like it will be worth the wait. It’s recognisably a Mondeo, but with an aggressive new grille reminiscent of Aston Martin’s styling, and a very comfortable-looking interior.

As well as familiar 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels, the new Ford Mondeo will come with Ford’s astonishing 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, which delivers 125bhp and low CO2, and a ‘mild hybrid’ petrol-electric version was also on show.


Ford Tourneo Connect

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Ford also showed its new small van-based MPV, the Ford Tourneo Connect. This is based on the next-generation Ford Transit Connect, and is likely to form the basis of many taxi conversions. It could prove to be a useful alternative to the Galaxy, with sliding doors and plenty of room inside its boxy body. Quality of finish looks to be up to the standard of the larger Tourneo Custom.


 Lexus LS600 FSport

 

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The new Lexus LS looks muscular in new FSport trim – probably not the level you want for chauffeuring, but indicative of a new attitude at Toyota’s luxury division.

The new LS range goes on sale at the end of the year in the UK – pricing has not yet been announced. It sees the return of the 4.6-litre V8-engined non-hybrid LS 460 alongside the LS 600hL full hybrid, with improved performance across the range. CO2 emissions have been reduced - LS 460 emits 249g/km and LS 600h 199g/km.

Meanwhile combined cycle fuel consumption in the hybrid is on a par with a 3.5-litre petrol engine at 32.9mpg. And more importantly, boot space has been improved – the LS600hL now has 420 litres, up from 330 litres on the old model – still shy of the LS460’s 560 litres, but on a par with an executive saloon, making the big hybrid a lot more practical as a chauffeur car. 


Kia Carens

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Kia’s new Carens could be an ideal low-cost private hire people-mover - despite smaller overall dimensions than the car it replaces, it has more interior room thanks to some clever packaging. A 50mm longer wheelbase and a more cab-forward design ensures greater space for occupants. 

Kia UK managing director Michael Cole said Kia would probably only bring the seven-seat version to the UK, as the five-seater option did not offer a great deal more luggage space than the seven-seater with the third row of seats down. It’ll have 1.7-litre diesel engines with CO2 emissions starting at 119g/km, and will arrive in showrooms in the second quarter of 2013.

The seven-seater MPV uses the platform of the new Kia Cee’d hatchback, but uses a simplified rear axle set-up to give more interior space at the rear. Carens has three individual seats in the second row – the central seat back can fold flat, giving a wide tray with built-in cup holders between the two other seats.

“An MPV is all about space and variability,” said Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer. “We have a much better package than with the old car and a great solution for the second row, with three equal seats. Technically, it is a big step forward.”


Mazda 6

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The new Mazda6 made its debut with a surprising choice of body options – just saloon and ‘tourer’ estate, and no hatchback. And this, combined with an increase in size, could give the car executive chauffeur appeal. The new 6 is almost as long as a BMW 5-series, and roomier inside than the current Mazda6, but weighs slightly less. 

It will go on sale in the UK next January with the cheapest diesel costing £21,795 for the 2.2-litre 150PS Saloon SE, rising to £28,045 for the 2.2-litre 175PS Tourer Sport Auto Nav. Fuel economy targets for the new car is 68.9mpg combined, with CO2 emissions as low as 108g/km.