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2017 - A Year In Review

2017 – A Year In Review

It’s December already and we can’t quite believe where the time has gone as we edge into the New Year.  We’ve been reflecting on this past year at Drivers Direct, thinking about our success and the achievements of our team.

In February, we became members of the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) – following our MD Gethin Roberts’ attendance at an ARC presentation.  We found that our objectives and values ran parallel to ARC which was a deciding factor for joining, as well as the association covering issues that really matter to those working in the recruitment sector.

May saw us through to the finals at the Global Recruiter Awards in the Best Use of Social Media Category for our anti-drink driving campaign; where we used striking posters to show the devastating effects of drinking and driving.  It was fantastic to have been nominated for the category and a great day was had by all at the Café de Paris in June.

We had our successful annual black tie ball for our employees back in May, showing recognition to the branches whose hard work has really shone through over this past year.  The Doncaster office was named as one of the most successful branches with their manager, Jason Hardisty winning a trip to London.  Kaylie Parker at the Eastleigh branch won a trip to Paris following their win of the ‘Highest Margin’ title.

After providing Drivers Direct with 5 top quality years of service, Christopher Unsworth of the Leyland branch, David Dawson of the Sheffield branch and Maxine Mew of the Sutton branch were each given the ‘Five Year’ award – a well deserved nomination.  As the most top performing franchise, Manchester won ‘Franchise of the Year’, as well as a cheque for £1,500.  Scooping one of the top awards, Nana Bempong was dubbed ‘Employee of the Year’ as he was the most successful employee out of all the branches – quite the accolade!  As the Cardiff office was recognised as the most successful branch of all, manager Luke Davies, won himself the coveted trip to New York.

After creating a shortlist of charities to support at our annual ball, our staff chose the Victory Services Club which is a great cause which offers respite and welfare breaks, rewards and recognition along with a free membership for serving Armed Forces.  Everyone who attended our annual ball made a donation and in September we presented our donation to the club, having raised £250,000 for the charity – an achievement we’re incredibly proud of.  We hope with our donation further enables the club to give the best possible experience to those serving in the military, past and present.

All in all, it has been a great year for Drivers Direct. What’s on the cards for 2018? We’ll be opening 3 more branches, as well as setting our sights on moving to a bigger HQ as we look to further expand the business.

From all of us here at Drivers Direct, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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Speed Down Save Lives

Speed Down Save Lives

Taking place this week (20th-26th November), Road Safety Week is encouraging drivers to ‘Speed Down Save Lives’.  The road safety charity, Brake, have been spreading their life-saving messages since 1997 with a different theme every year and this year they’re encouraging people to spare a thought for the impact of breaking the legal speed limit.

The charity shares some startling facts to support the importance of this years’ theme:

  • Police records detail that travelling too fast is a contributory factor for one in four (23%) fatal crashes in Great Britain.
  • Drivers that have committed just one speeding violation annually are twice as likely to crash compared to those with none.
  • 4 in 10 UK drivers admitted to driving at 30mph in a 20mph zone, according to result from a Brake survey.

These figures are a prime example of why road safety charities are so important.  As a recruitment company for drivers, we see ourselves as ambassadors of the road and always promote the highest levels of safety.  We’re delighted to see Road Safety Week focusing on such an important issue.

There’s no limit on who can get involved with this awareness week, people from all sectors and organisations are encouraged to get involved.  Your support can vary from tapping into the hashtag “#speeddown”, on social media and thinking about your own speed on the road to ordering an action pack to use at your workplace or local community gatherings.  If you’re stuck for ideas on how you can fundraise for Road Safety Week – there’s plenty of donation inspiration on their website.

Making a donation to Brake can help run their helpline, provide picture books for children who’ve been affected by road accidents and source road safety packs for early years educators.  In May of this year, Brake also gave their support to the United Nations Global Road Safety Week – focusing on managing speed and prioritising road safety worldwide.  A small change makes big results with research showing that just a 5% decrease in speed can cause a 30% reduction in fatal road accidents.  To think such a small difference could save a life, it’s incredibly important for all drivers to keep these types of statistics in mind when they’re on the road.

Here at Drivers Direct, as professional and highly trained drivers we take road safety very seriously and we think this campaign goes hand-in-hand perfectly with the new speeding fines implemented back in April of this year.  We think these new fines are a great way to discourage speeding on our roads:

  • Band A – Although this relates to the lowest level of speeding, you could find yourself with 3 points on your license with a fine of 50% of your weekly income. This band equates to driving between 21mph and 30mph in a 20mph zone.
  • Band B – For more serious speeding, you could find 4 – 6 points on your license or even a disqualification between 7 and 28 days, including a fine of 100% of your weekly income. For example, you could be driving between 56mph to 65mph in a 40mph zone.
  • Band C – Reaching this band is a serious cause for concern as you would’ve been driving 51mph or above in a 30mph zone. That’s 6 points on your license and ban from driving from 7 up to 56 days along with a fine of 150% of your weekly income.

We encourage ALL road users to think about their speed and how a small decrease in speed can truly mean the difference between a normal day on the way to work or a fatal road accident.  If you’re aware of bad traffic on your route to work, you can actively make a change to your “need for speed” by leaving your house earlier than usual.

How will you be getting involved this year?

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Black Friday: Are You Ready?

Black Friday: Are You Ready?

The biggest sale event of the year is coming soon on 24th November, a day where the public tackle crowds and queues for their coveted Christmas shopping.  With the dramatic reduction in prices across retailers, sales will be set to soar – which will have a direct effect on the delivery industry.

An article in the Telegraph last November discussed how Black Friday doesn’t make people spend more money for Christmas, it just makes them spend earlier.  This leads to a demand not only during January clearances and the week run-up to Christmas, but also way ahead in November.

Most high street shops offer online shopping with the option to collect your items for free from your local branch.  However, customers are far more likely to opt for the consumer-convenient home delivery option; and Black Friday poses as an even greater challenge to drivers: with the dramatic reduction of prices comes a huge influx of online orders, each expected to be delivered directly to homes across the nation within a maximum of 5 working days.

Following last years’ reports on safety of delivery drivers during Black Friday, it’s important for retail managers to ensure that they have recruited enough driving staff to keep up with this high customer demand.  This is even more important given that last year the media reported empty high street shops as the Black Friday race took place online – leaving town centres quiet, but online shops full of people making their Black Friday purchases!

As Black Friday becomes more and more popular each year, it could be argued that November may replace December as being the peak trading month.  Not only that, online spends of up to £20 billion have been predicted – highly qualified, professional drivers will be more vital than ever for the consumer economy to run efficiently.

And although it is, of course, important to make sure customers are satisfied and receive their orders on time, it’s even more important to ensure that there is enough rotation amongst delivery staff to prevent fatigue behind the wheel.  Not only are well rested drivers a crucial health and safety measurement for delivery staff and other road users, but businesses will find that their retail supply chain becomes a far more seamless operation.

If you’re thinking about the logistics of your Black Friday sale, get in touch with our team of professionals today to discuss the benefits of taking on temporary driving staff during this busy season.

 

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Back to School: A History of Drivers Direct

As we move into a new academic season, we’re feeling rather reflective over the history of Drivers Direct and how far we’ve come in the last sixteen years.  Having been established in 2002 with just three branches – Feltham, Northampton and Runcorn – we have now expanded considerably with over 20 offices up and down the country.

In 2004, we became members of the Freight Transport Association which has helped us stay in the know about the latest industry developments, such as legislative changes and how national changes, such as Brexit, will affect the sector. 2004 also saw the opening of the Nuneaton, Eastleigh and Preston branches.  Fast forward to 2007 – another branch opened in Sutton and we set up our own NVQ training programme in December 2008.  By August 2010, we contributed to our employees achieving 1000 NVQ qualifications, a huge milestone for us and a vital aspect of the business.

Due to the high demand of our qualified drivers, we saw our business reach a 20% growth in turnover to £16.2 million which gave us the funds to open a branch in Liverpool, Swindon and Bishop Auckland.  This turnover contributed to an extra 180 jobs created across the UK which was a huge accomplishment for Drivers Direct.  Between 2002 and 2017, we’ve opened 19 branches and every year since 2014 we’ve achieved an excellent turnover – this year reaching a growth of 9.5%.

We caught up with Gethin Roberts, our Managing Director, to get his thoughts on the success of our business, what he sees in the company’s future and his advice for start-up businesses…

 

During your time as the Managing Director of Drivers Direct, what has been your greatest achievement?  

I think there have been many great achievements over the past 15 years. These achievements are not mine alone but that of the Drivers Direct team.  They include building a company literally from scratch to the one which you see today.  It turns over £30,000,000 with 22 branches employing 85 permanent staff and placing over 1000 drivers out daily, which now provides national coverage for customers. We survived the biggest recession of our lifetime and grew stronger following it. We also won a top 100 place in the Times Top 100, which was great recognition for the company. One of, if not the best, policy we have is to promote from within, a high percentage of our Managers, Regional Managers and Directors have all developed their career within Drivers Direct, we’re really proud of this achievement.

What helps you make your decision for selecting certain charities to support each year? 

We make the decision by asking our staff to nominate their choice of charity for the year ahead, once we have the nominations the board reviews these and a shortlist is produced. We then vote to decide which of the shortlisted charities will be selected for the coming year. We do try to nominate national charities, as we are a national company. In the past, we have also tended to nominate and choose children’s or cancer charities. However, this year we decided to choose a charity that supports injured servicemen, a charity that is particularly personal to me as I am an ex-serviceman myself.

Could you ever have imagined that Drivers Direct would have the number of branches it has now in 2017?

In 2002, when we started, we had an ambition to get to 5 branches, not even in my wildest dreams did I think we would get to 22 and own our own logistics company. I’m so proud of the team and what a journey we’ve been on together.

What are your milestones for 2018? 

We want to continue to grow the sales to £35,000,000, as well as opening 3 more branches.  Our sights are also set on moving to a newer and bigger HQ, one more suitable to support the Branch Network.

What advice would you give to people that are currently starting out with their own businesses? 

There are several things that are key in the early days of any business, things that looking back contributed to our growth and supported our decision making as we learnt how to run a business.  My advice would be to have a well thought out business plan and stay true to it wherever possible, but also allow yourself to be flexible enough to make changes when needed.

Make sure you have a great team around you and reward them when you can.  It’s important to set realistic targets and review them regularly.  Cash is King – so make sure you keep the debt to a minimum.  Have an accountant that keeps you well informed and produces monthly P&L’s so that you can track your profit.  Keep your bank informed of your progress, we found that by talking to ours regularly, they were always readily available with support and had knowledge of our future plans.

Above all, don’t be discouraged or too proud to ask for advice or help.

 

 

 

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Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

In 2008, Carbon Dioxide was considered a major greenhouse gas – accounting for 85 per cent of UK emissions.  According to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) support guide, if we want to reduce the risk of temperatures rising by at least 2° C by 2100, we need to cut emissions in half by 2050.

Whether you drive a car, van, truck or a motorbike, there are loads of simple changes you can make which can help to reduce your carbon footprint:

Within the freight sector, there are ‘smart logistics’ available in the form of telematics – which we’ve discussed previously in our blog as the future of driving.  The telematics system collects data from a GPS, a sensor on the engine and an accelerometer.  The sensor notes vehicle health data such as fuel economy, service needs and carbon dioxide output.  This allows companies to work out if they need new electric vehicle technology, which in turn would reduce carbon output drastically.  This technology will also highlight the vehicles that are no longer fuel efficient.  It is worth installing a telematics system in your vehicle so you too can do your bit for the environment.

The Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme is an industry-led approach endorsed by the FTA, looking to reduce carbon emissions from freight transport.  The scheme offers benefits to operators with cost reduction and efficiency improvements and there are annual reports on the progress of the participants.  The five efficiency indicators include fuel efficiency improvements, better commercial vehicle utilisation, use of alternative low-carbon fuels, less carbon intensive supply chains and use of low carbon transport modes.  This type of scheme could have a hugely positive impact on how logistics are managed in the future.

Whether you run a business or just run your own private car, the most obvious solution is to go straight to the source, and that’s the type of fuel you use.  Whatever vehicle you drive, why not opt for green fuel types?  If you have a petrol vehicle you could have it altered so it can run on LPG (liquid petroleum gas) which is used in camping stoves.  The conversion may be pricey but the benefits outweigh the costs when you’ve got a car that runs on cheap fuel.  The option for a diesel user is biodiesel, made from recycled vegetable oil.

The simplest and easiest way to help reduce your carbon footprint is to adapt to an efficient driving habit that is eco-friendly.  For example, don’t go beyond the speed limit to avoid emitting extra CO2 into the environment; this goes hand in hand with being safe on the road too.

Whatever road you choose to take, make sure it involves a reduced carbon footprint!

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music

Top 10 Songs to Improve Your Drive

Wednesday 21st June marks the start of the Fête de la Musique. Also known as ‘World Music Day’, it offers a global celebration of something that has a heavy presence within the majority of our everyday lives. Whether you’re a hairbrush diva or all your road trips have their own playlists, World Music Day should be celebrated – with experts concluding that there are a number of health benefits to listening (and singing!) to music at the wheel.

 

There’s nothing quite like a song you love, but had long-forgotten about, unexpectedly coming on the radio while you’re driving. But what exactly is the science behind that rush we get when we know every word to a nostalgia-filled song from yesteryear? Professor Stephen Clift, a leading authority on the health benefits of singing based at the U.K.’s Canterbury Christ Church University, says: ‘Singing loudly and free from inhibitions – really ‘letting go’ – means the mental release will be greater as more energy is put into it […] When we sing familiar songs loudly, we experience a ‘feel-good factor’ arising from deeper, slower breathing, and increased muscular activity. We feel less stressed and more relaxed.’ Even more of an excuse to crank up the volume!

 

Furthermore, Jan Schroll, supervisor Multi‑Media and Connectivity at Ford of Europe, says: ‘Experts agree that there are a range of health benefits to staging impromptu karaoke sessions at the wheel – ones we only feel truly comfortable giving when there is no one else around, and the in-car sound system is providing the backing. For many people listening to the music they love on the move is a fundamental part of every journey – it is the soundtrack to their own personal road movie.’ So, not only does blasting the tunes feel great, but it’s great for you, too.

 

Despite the huge shift towards more technological aspects of listening to music, such as streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, there’s nothing wrong with going old-fashioned, as displayed by a study from Edison Research. They conducted a study of more than 8,500 Americans aged 13 and over to determine where their time listening to music is spent. 44% of listening time was via AM/FM radio: by far the largest share. The number 2 share of listening time, at just 18%, was spent listening to music that had been purchased, such as CDs or digital downloads. So, if it’s the iPod you’re plugging in or relying on the good old-fashioned stereo, all evidence shows that it’s good for you in every way!

 

In celebration of World Music Day, here at Drivers Direct we’ve compiled a playlist of some of the best driving songs for your next journey:

 

Born To be Wild – Steppenwolf

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

Jessica – The Allman Brothers

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads

Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane

Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Mr. Blue Sky – ELO

Drive My Car – The Beatles

 

We hope this playlist will help you along your next long drive – and remember that as great as sing-alongs are, remember to keep focussed on the road and never let music distract you from safe driving.

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Young Driver Shortage – Enticing the Younger Generation

Many people dream of a job that allows them to travel the length of the country, head overseas, work flexible hours, meet new people every day and consistently receive professional support. Sound like it’s ticking all the right boxes? Some may be surprised to learn that the profession that perfectly fits this bill is a HGV driver, yet, despite its many perks, the industry is still struggling to recruit young people.

For the past two years, the haulage industry has been talking about the shortage of drivers. It is now, according to the House of Commons Transport Committee, widely accepted that this shortage reaches figures between 45,000 and 60,000. With 60% of HGV drivers aged above 45, and just 2% under the age of 25, the industry needs to find a way to motivate school leavers to consider choosing driving as a career path, so that when many of the existing drivers reach retirement, there will be a number of young people qualified and ready to step up into the available positions.

From being viewed as a ‘last resort’ career, to lack of awareness for the industry, there are a number of reasons why young people aren’t choosing the doors that the logistic industry opens. Largely, young people do not realise that the HGV industry is a viable career path; despite its net worth and its irreplaceable contribution to everyday life, the All Part Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Freight Transport claim that there is not enough career guidance or education on the HGV sector.

The availability of training for young people is there – they simply need to be told about it. The APPG found that there are 142 higher education courses on logistics (or related subjects) available to school leavers in the UK, which includes courses at 48 different universities. As the education leaver’s age has more recently increased to the age of 18, the age at which a C+E licence can be acquired, it is hoped that more people will leave school and head straight into the logistics sector.

However, their report also believes that insurance has a large contribution to the matter; many under 25s cannot afford to become drivers because of the cost of insurance, and without a full car licence, you cannot then proceed to become a HGV driver. To counter this problem, transport experts are recommending that student loans should be provided to cover the cost of vocational courses and any expenses they may have, which may include insurance.

There are increasing calls for the government to improve funding for the sector in a bid to encourage young people to pursue a HGV driver career. Here at Drivers Direct, we’re also keen for this to happen as we are very aware of the detrimental effects this shortage could have on the industry in the long haul.

At Drivers Direct, we believe that each of our drivers are happy and comfortable in their jobs, and under our care, each are trained to the highest standards. We hope that in the future we can overcome these difficulties and that our workforce can rapidly expand, which will in turn, enable the growth of the logistics industry as a whole.

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Keeping Healthy Behind the Wheel

After World Health Day was celebrated around the globe on 7th April, we began to think about ways which we could keep healthy whilst on the road. Many studies over the years have shown that those in the road haulage industry are at a higher risk of developing obesity and other relates illnesses, due to a combination of factors including shift times, the sedentary nature of driving, stress and the limited food options available for truck drivers. So what can be done to make sure that we keep ourselves healthy?

 

The first step towards leading a healthier lifestyle is to take a think about what we’re putting into our bodies. When deadlines are tight and life is hectic, it can be tempting to reach for the junk food, be that pasties, chips or chocolate – which isn’t helped by the limited options that can be found roadside. The way forward is to prep ahead! Take half an hour out of your day, and your body will thank you. Ditch the mayo-filled sandwich and tuck into this spicy chicken and avocado wrap; if you’re a pasta lover, why not try making your own pasta salad brimming with pesto, vegetables and tuna?

 

Another way to help look after your health is to try to work in even a small amount of exercise each and every day. Even if it’s only 10 minutes of a quick walk around the block or some basic stretches before bed, getting your blood pumping and raising your heart just a little will do your body the world of good. If you’re just starting on an exercise journey, it can be hard to find the motivation to turn it into habit. Writing down in a diary what you intend to do each day will help keep you on track, or partnering up with a friend or family member is huge help to encourage you to stick to your plan.

 

A key to good health which may slip many people’s minds is keeping hydrated. Drinking enough water is necessary for the body to work properly – water helps to transport nutrients and oxygen around the body, gets rid of waste products, helps control the body’s temperature and keep the digestive system working properly. Not only that, but drinking plenty of water helps to keep headaches and hunger at bay. Just how much we should be drinking varies on age, activity level and environment – though many people aim for 8 glasses of water a day. Keep a large water bottle in your cab to make sure you never run out, and set small aims for drinking a certain amount every hour if you struggle to drink enough.

 

As well as keeping our physical bodies healthy, it’s important to look after our state of mind healthy as well. The modern world brings a whole load of stresses to our every day lives, and it doesn’t take much to go from feeling a little stressed to completely burnt out. Mindfulness is a hugely popular technique where you start to focus on the small things you notice in the moment when you feel yourself started to get overwhelmed. Focus on how different parts of your body feels, the sights, sounds and smells that are immediately surrounding you that tend to fade into the background. If mindfulness isn’t for you, try to take 5 minutes every day (either before you go to bed, or when you start to feel getting stressed out) where you pick one thing or person that you’re grateful for, and immerse yourself in a memory of them to bring yourself just a few quiet moments of peace.

 

We hope that this blog helps you take some steps to kick start a journey to being a healthier you. If you are worried about any aspect of your physical or mental health, always contact your GP.

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Women In Logistics

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and we’ve been investigating women in logistics. Despite the fact that there has been an incredible rise of women in the business world, the logistics sector is one which remains male dominated. Only one to two percent of the workforce in the world’s logistics sectors are women, although 125 million people work in this industry.

 

Although this statistic is less dramatic in the UK, it still remains that less than a quarter of the 1.5 million within the logistics industry are female, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

 

Yet in recent years, some studies have concluded that having more female leaders, including board members, managers and supervisors, leads to better business outcomes.  Examples of this include higher levels of productivity, safety and improved financial returns, as referenced in the 2009 Women in Supply Chain report.

 

This insight was supported by the PWC Transportation & Logistics 2030 report, which stated that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least by an incredible 16% in return on sales, and by 26% in return on invested capital. These studies make a compelling business case for gender diversity and inclusion.

 

So if there are such strong evidence that women improve performance, why are we struggling to bring women into the logistics industry and what can be done to help resolve this?

 

The transport and logistics industry is typically described as a ‘non-traditional’ employment pathway for women and suffers from poor perceptions of its career opportunities for women.  Addressing perceptions that the logistics industry is a career option for all is a real challenge as it’s hard to escape the fact that roles can involve moving and lifting.

 

We need to focus on the fact that logistics is applicable to every industry and business sector in the world – retail, life sciences, fashion, technology, construction, transport and so on. This means that in addition to needing drivers and warehouse operatives, there’s also a requirement for business development and customer-facing personnel.

 

Encouragingly, several market developments are creating viable opportunities to include women in ‘non-traditional’ roles in the local and global industry. These include advances in technology such as automatic gearboxes and hydraulic lifting equipment, the retirement of existing workers, increasing levels of education and improved technical training among new entrants in the workforce.

 

For more information on Women in Logistics, visit the group online (aptly named Women in Logistics!). For more information on how you can join Drivers Direct, visit our website or give us a call on 01928 572200.

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Driving in the Rain – Dangers and Safety

Winter doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon, and that includes the fairly miserable weather that comes with it! There’s no escaping the wet weather in this country, but just how dangerous is it to take to the road when it’s raining, and what can we do to ensure our own and others’ safety?

First of all, make sure you leave yourself extra time to make your journey – don’t put yourself under pressure to make it to your destination on time when there may well be a likelihood of dangerous roads and congestion and you may endanger yourself and other road users to do so.

Many people may rush to their cars at the first sign of rain – but remember that the most dangerous time to drive in this bad weather is when it has just started raining. This is because the rain will mix with the oil and dust which has been sitting on the road surface

Driving in the rain can also seriously reduce visibility, so it’s vital to turn your dipped beam headlights on so that other road users can see you – even in the daylight. Be sure to check that your headlights are working before heading out in wet weather.

When on the road, remember that The Highway Code states that stopping distances are at least doubled in wet weather as the tyres will have less grip on the road. It is recommended to leave a 4 second gap between yourself and the car in front – count how long it takes the vehicle in front to pass a lamppost or other markings before you pass it yourself.

It is always a good idea to adjust your speed to meet the conditions in the rain, which can reduce the chances of ‘aquaplaning’. Aquaplaning refers to when your vehicle’s tyres come into contact with too much water than they can clear away, so the water builds under the tyre and lifts it away from the road surface so you are essentially ‘gliding’ across the water which has the potential to make you lose control of your vehicle.

You can usually tell if you’re aquaplaning if your steering wheel suddenly feels light and you can hear the rush of the water underneath your vehicle. It is essential that if this happens to you, that you do not brake – slamming on your brakes will make the car skid even further out of your control. Slowly release the accelerator and focus on keeping the car in the centre of the road, and eventually the water will be released and your tyres will grip the road again.

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