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The terrorist attacks that, last year, saw rented vehicles used as lethal weapons in two different UK settings could mean that van fleet operators see rising insurance costs this year. That's the warning recently delivered by Bob Baillie when speaking at the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association's industry outlook conference. He warned that fleet operators might have to, in an attempt to absorb these increasing costs, hike their daily rental prices.

A £150 million problem waiting to be solved

The insurance sector was not expected to be the only reason for increasing costs this year. However, Baillie cited one of last year's vehicle-based terrorist attacks in admitting: "The first one on Westminster Bridge, you're looking at claims costs predicted in excess of £150 million". As Fleet News reports, he added that "we as an industry and as the smaller operators, the independents, we have to try to embrace those costs in the insurance and the re-insurance market".

Another costly problem acknowledged by Baillie was that of last year's changes in vehicle excise duty, which have also impacted the rental industry. There are also general overheads to consider, and Baillie conceded: "There is a lot of education we need to do with customers and we need to wake up to perhaps trying to pass on some of those increased costs to our customers - not an easy task". There is also reason to expect terrorism using vehicles to rear its ugly head again.

How terrorism has emerged across the continent

A recent survey conducted by training provider Fleet Source and reported by Commercial Fleet revealed that over half of commercial fleet drivers felt shocked by the increased frequency of VAAW - 'Vehicle as a Weapon' - attacks during the 18 months to January 2018.

In 2017, there were high profile reports of such attacks both in the UK and overseas. On two separate occasions cited by The Guardian, a van was ploughed into people in a London-based terror attack. Those two attacks were at Finsbury Park and London Bridge. There was also a third attack which instead involved a car on Westminster Bridge.

In August, 13 people were killed by a van on the well-known Barcelona thoroughfare of Las Ramblas. The April before, five people died in a similar attack in Stockholm - and, in 2016, a lorry was sent through crowds marking Bastille Day in the French city of Nice. This attack caused 86 deaths, while 12 people died due to a lorry driver at a festive market in Berlin that same year.

Are commercial fleet firms capable of countering terror threats?

Naturally, steps have been taken to help prevent such atrocities happening again. These steps have included the fitting of barriers in some London streets, while the terrorist alert level in the UK has been set to severe. However, drivers could apparently benefit from additional education on how to help lower the probability of their vehicles being used in terror attacks.

In Fleet Source's survey, 76% of commercial fleet drivers expressed their wish for training in handling the danger of their vehicle getting stolen and hijacked and used for terrorism. However, 74% of these drivers reported being offered almost no training in helping to protect their vehicle against such risk. Referring to the VAAW incidents, Fleet Source managing director Nick Caesari said: "the industry should be doing all they can to prevent drivers from being involved in these horrific events."

Don't cast just a fleeting glance at fleet insurance

Fleet Source has recently launched a new training scheme under the banner of 'Terrorism Risk and Incident Prevention', or what the company itself has abbreviated as 'Trip'. This training is intended to help commercial fleet drivers, managers and operators learn about terrorism risks, the kind of threats with which they could be met, and safety precautions for helping prevent terror incidents.

"The research suggests drivers feel that authorities are not taking responsibility for the safety of the transport industry when it comes to the danger of terrorism. This is why we created Trip," Caesari explained. Theoretically, Trip could also help commercial fleet companies to reduce their insurance premiums - as such training could lead insurers to deem firms with it less likely to make claims.

Not the only idea for reducing insurance premiums...

Another way in which these companies could help control rising insurance expenses is having an entire fleet covered under a single insurance policy. This is possible with fleet insurance where, with every vehicle that is added to the policy, the less needs to be paid for insuring each vehicle. However, companies should be careful exactly where and how they source this insurance...

This bears emphasis because, by considering various fleet insurance policies before settling on just one, the company can increase its chances of sourcing the best-value quote. However, as the company may lack time to manually compare many of these policies thoroughly, it could instead task an insurance broker with fulfilling this responsibility on their behalf.

The commercial fleet firm could turn to Be Wiser Business Insurance, a Hampshire-located broker which, for each of its UK clients, can quickly compare commercial fleet insurance quotes before presenting the single most cost-effective of these quotes - at no financial charge.

One size does not fit all

There are also various categories of fleet insurance to consider. Such categories represented in Be Wiser's offerings include mini fleet insurance, should you want to insure a maximum of five vehicles - plus large fleet insurance, for when up to 500 vehicles need to be covered instead. The same broker also offers policies which can cover cars and bikes