3. The Matrix
3.1. This section presents the findings relating to Questions 4 and 5, covering issues relating to the matrix as set out in the consultation document.
3.2. Question 4 asked:
Under the Scottish Government's proposals, as set out in Annex E, the regulations would prescribe different charges for different vehicle categories and incident scenarios. Do you agree with the current categories and scenarios? If not, what factors do you think should be taken into account in deciding those scenarios (e.g., type of vehicle to be removed, vehicle condition, vehicle position including whether or not upright, geographical location, nature and state of any load)?
3.3. Almost all of the respondents addressed this question (33, or 97%), and only one did not. Of these, most (28) answered the closed part of the question ("yes" or "no"), while 5 did not express a clear view.
3.4. Overall, a majority of respondents stated "yes", indicating that they agreed with the current categories and scenarios. Around a third stated "no".
3.5. Respondents' overall views of the "yes/no" element of the question are summarised in the table below:
Table 4. Responses to Q4
Do you agree with the current categories and scenarios?
|Did not express a clear "yes" or "no" view||5||15|
3.6. Of those who did not express a clear view, four did not address the closed part of the question, while one gave an ambiguous and apparently contradictory response, expressing different views in their "tick box" answer and their detailed comments.
3.7. By type of respondent, a majority of local authority and vehicle recovery professional or trade bodies, as well as the insurance professional or trade body and the police, answered "yes" to this question. Views were mixed among individuals and VROs. Among the insurance companies, just under half stated "yes", and only one stated "no", but just under half expressed no clear "yes" or "no" view. One of the road haulage professional or trade bodies did not express clear agreement or disagreement (and one did not address this question).
3.8. Most respondents provided additional comments at part 2 of the question, which asked them to identify factors that should be taken into account in deciding the scenarios. Those providing such comments included not only those who expressed disagreement with the current categories and scenarios in the closed part of the question, but also some who expressed agreement, and some who did not express a clear view.
3.9. Two main themes were identified in the detailed comments, and these focused on:
- The general nature of the matrix.
- Specific factors the Scottish Government should take into account in deciding scenarios.
3.10. A few respondents made other comments, relating mainly to the actual operation of the scheme.
3.11. Further details of the comments are provided below.
The nature of the matrix
3.12. Around three quarters of those who provided additional views made additional general comments on the nature of the matrix to be adopted.
3.13. Among these, some reiterated their overall agreement with the proposed scenarios or the matrix approach overall. Comments included, for example, that: the approach in England and Wales had been proven to work; and that the matrix appeared to cover most scenarios.
3.14. Some respondents, however, identified cost issues with the matrix. It was suggested, for example, that the matrix did not reflect the actual costs of recovery and disposal, nor did it reflect all types of recoveries or scenarios. One respondent also suggested that it did not reflect the impact of inflation since 2005.
3.15. One respondent stated that there could be charging anomalies, where vehicles which could be recovered in the same manner may be charged at different rates. The same respondent reported the view that recoveries which were not done through the police and recovery scheme could be as much as 50% of the matrix set prices.
3.16. Suggestions were also made about the need for the matrix to reflect costs relating to, for example: the actual cost and difficulty of the recovery; the number of visits which may be required for abandoned vehicles; the difficulties faced in tracing registered keepers; and exceptional circumstances. A few respondents suggested that, in the case of the latter, it should be possible to negotiate additional charges. A few mentioned that the charges should be subject to periodic review (an issue explored specifically in Question 7).
3.17. A few respondents identified definitional issues in the matrix for clarification, relating particularly to: the nature of "significant" damage (an issue explored specifically in Question 5); and the need to define "on/off-road" (given the variety of different potential scenarios encompassed by this). One respondent suggested that further discussion with insurers and VROs could help to finalise adequate and workable definitions.
3.18. A small number of respondents commented on the overall need for the categories to be simple, and the charges easy to administer. One suggested that the matrix, as presented at Annex E, was too complex.
3.19. A few respondents submitted their own draft matrices for consideration (one also submitted an outline menu-based schedule). Although these will not be described here, they are available to the Scottish Government.
Specific factors to be taken into account
3.20. The other very common theme at Question 4 was the identification of specific factors which respondents believed the Scottish Government should take into account in deciding the scenarios. Comments were made on this by most respondents who provided additional views.
3.21. The most common factors identified related to the nature of the incident, and, within this, the largest number of comments focused on fatalities.
3.22. Respondents expressed mixed views of whether fatalities should be taken into account in developing scenarios. A few (all of which were insurance industry respondents) stated that charges should not differ simply because there had been a fatality, as, in some of these situations, a simple recovery may be required.
3.23. A few respondents, however (including two of those mentioned in para 3.22 above), suggested factors relating to fatalities which they believed should be taken into account, or situations in which fatalities could warrant additional consideration. These included where:
- VROs had to spend additional time at the scene.
- Police requested a specialised uplift.
- There was an increased cost for processing evidence.
3.24. A few other types of incident were identified (by a small number of respondents in each case) which it was suggested should be taken into account. These included:
- Vehicles which had caught fire or burned out.
- Multi-vehicle collisions.
- Stolen vehicles (the removal of which, it was suggested, may be complex for various reasons, and may require additional time or labour).
3.25. A few respondents also suggested that account should be taken of the involvement of other specialists, such as:
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
- Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCOs).
3.26. A further factor which several respondents identified as requiring to be taken into account in deciding the scenarios related to the type of vehicle involved.
3.27. Within this, a few mentioned two-wheeled vehicles specifically, and comments included that:
- Large / heavy two-wheeled vehicles (such as motorcycles) which are off-road require at least two staff and specialist equipment to recover, and there should be two rates in this category.
- Having a two-wheeled vehicle with reduced charges does not allow for two-wheeled caravans and trailers, and the complexity and cost of these.
- Caravans and trailers should be included in some form in the matrix.
3.28. One respondent made comments relating to the 3.5-7.5 tonnes category, including that:
- The proposed rate for 7.5 tonne vehicles was too low to cover the real cost of removal, particularly where the vehicle may be fully laden.
- All of the 7.5 tonne rates were low and should be increased significantly to match the work and equipment used.
- Vehicles over 2.5 tonnes should be included with the 7.5 tonne vehicles, as they require the same recovery equipment.
3.29. One individual respondent stated that there should be an increased cost for commercial vehicles.
3.30. A further factor identified by several respondents was a perceived need to take account of issues relating to loads, including the state and nature of these.
3.31. Among the suggestions were that there was a particular need to consider:
- Hazardous or dangerous loads.
- Perishable loads, or goods for consumption (with both milk and beef mentioned as examples).
3.32. A number of respondents mentioned the removal and disposal of spilled goods. Two suggested that this should be separate to the statutory charge, and should be carried out at commercial rates, while a few others suggested that this should be reflected in deciding the scenarios.
3.33. One respondent expressed the view that "loaded" did not only mean fully loaded, but also covered part-loads or the presence of containers not normally in a vehicle.
3.34. Several respondents commented on factors to be taken into account relating to location issues, although differing views were expressed about whether geographical location was a relevant consideration. Two respondents, for example, stated that it was not (with, in one case, the exception being removals from off-shore islands). Others, however, expressed the view that it should be taken into account, with specific factors identified including:
- The distance travelled by a VRO.
- Ferry charges.
- Rural and island situations.
- Agricultural / forestry land.
3.35. A few respondents expressed the view that the actual position of the vehicle should be taken into account, with examples being:
- Vehicles submerged in water, where this was above car seat level and divers were required.
- Vehicles off-road by a considerable distance.
3.36. Two insurance industry respondents, however, stated that the use of the term "off-road" could be problematic, as many vehicles were simply at the side of the road to allow traffic to flow. They suggested that, in such cases, there was no impediment to a simple recovery, and the position should not merit additional charging.
3.37. A small number of other comments were made by respondents to Question 4, most of which related to the operation of the scheme.
3.38. It was suggested, by one respondent in each case, that:
- Where the police ordered a removal with no charge, the VRO should be able to recover their expenses from the disposal proceeds (where crushed) or from fines paid by the owner.
- The regulations should extend to vehicles seized under PACE.
- Time limits should be set for release before a vehicle is crushed.
- Where an owner had no license, the vehicle should only be taken by / released to someone with a driving license and valid insurance certificate for the vehicle on hold.
- Where a driver was unknown, warning letters could be sent to the last registered keeper.
3.39. One respondent suggested that rates should be set on advice from the recovery sector, based on evidence for each scenario within the matrix. It was suggested that this would set fair rates for all road users. They also made comments on management fees (discussed at Question 7).
3.40. One respondent made comments on Question 3, which were included in that analysis.
3.41. Question 5 asked:
The Scottish Government's proposals, as set out in Annex E, include allowing for more to be charged for a recovery of a vehicle that is not upright or is "significantly damaged". Do you agree with this approach, and with the Scottish Government's definition of "significant damage"? If not, what alternative approach would you suggest?
3.42. Almost all of the respondents addressed this question (33, or 97%). Only one respondent did not. Of these, most (26) expressed a clear "yes" or "no" view, while 7 did not.
3.43. Overall, a majority of respondents (67%) either stated or indicated "yes", suggesting that they agreed with the approach, and with the Scottish Government's definition of "significant damage", while only 4 respondents (12%) either stated or indicated "no".
3.44. Respondents' views of the "yes/no" element of the question are summarised in the table below:
Table 5. Responses to Q5
Do you agree with this approach, and with the Scottish Government's definition of "significant damage"?
|Did not express a clear "yes" or "no" view||7||21|
3.45. Among those whose overall view was unclear, two respondents did not state either "yes" or "no". A further five were included in this category, however, because although they ticked "yes", they either stated "no" in relation specifically to the definition, or they expressed concerns about the definition which suggested they were not fully supportive of this. (It should be noted, however, that, if they were included in the "yes" category, this would rise to 82% of those who addressed the question.)
3.46. By type of respondent, all, or at least around two thirds of the following categories of respondents answered "yes" and expressed agreement with the approach and definition: individuals; VROs; local authorities; vehicle recovery professional or trade bodies; and police. Views were less clear among respondents from the insurance industry, where some (along with a small number of respondents from other categories) either did not tick "yes" or "no" or raised issues with aspects of the definition.
3.47. Most respondents provided additional comments at part 2 of this question, which asked them to identify an alternative if they did not agree with the approach or definition.
3.48. Two main themes were identified on which comments were made, and these were:
- General comments about the approach and definition.
- Specific suggestions about the definition.
3.49. A small number of respondents also made other comments.
3.50. Further details of the comments are provided below.
General comments about the approach and definition
3.51. Many respondents made general comments about the approach and / or definition. Among these, the most common related to respondents reaffirming their support for these, or providing reasons for their agreement with them. Comments included that:
- The approach was preferable to a "menu" system.
- Vehicles that had suffered significant or substantial damage and / or those that were not upright would be more difficult to recover, and may need specialist equipment, thus warranting a higher charge.
- There may be storage implications, where police needed more time for forensic investigation, using an operator's business facilities.
- The definition was reasonable and fair.
3.52. One respondent also mentioned a need, in expressing their agreement with the proposal in principle, to take account of the factors highlighted at Question 4 above.
3.53. Some respondents, however, made comments relating to general problems or issues with the definition of "significant damage". Two mentioned the importance of an agreed definition in creating a stable and consistent charging regime which would allow recovery operators to be fairly compensated, based on the work they had completed.
3.54. Two highlighted difficulties in the interpretation of "significant damage", particularly where there were differences of view about what constituted this, and whether or not a vehicle was "significantly damaged". Another respondent stated that, in their view, "significant damage" was an issue which constantly brought problems.
3.55. One respondent suggested that the given definition suggested that generally there would be no need for additional time or resources. They expressed the view that this was not the case, as any vehicle with damage would require additional time and resources. They also stated that the pricing system would need to reflect this.
3.56. A few respondents made other comments about the nature of the issue. One, for example, stressed the impact of damage incurred, stating that this determined the deployment of equipment and resources. They stated that, the better the system, the faster the recovery.
3.57. Another suggested that, in their view, there was no reason why a vehicle owner should not be charged the going commercial recovery rate.
3.58. A further respondent stated that while for them, the definition was clear, the contractor (who would normally decide whether to invoke higher charges), would have a financial incentive to do so.
3.59. Several respondents (mostly from the insurance industry, but also including a VRO and a road haulage professional or trade body) also made general suggestions for the way forward, which included a perceived need for:
- Clear guidelines on the description(s).
- A photographic record of the scene.
- An arbitration or dispute resolution process.
- Clarity on how vehicle owners can contest charges based on a vehicle being assessed as having "significant damage".
- Clarity on who would make the determination (with one respondent stating that they would be uncomfortable for this to rest with the operator who rendered the charge).
- Further discussion with insurers and operators to finalise adequate and workable definitions.
3.60. One respondent stated that they disagreed with the inclusion of "significant damage" as a factor, citing instances where a vehicle may have been damaged by actions of others who were not the keeper, but where they would still face an increased charge. The respondent also suggested that the approach was overly complicated.
Specific suggestions about the definition
3.61. Several respondents made specific suggestions about the definition, suggesting amendments or alternatives.
3.62. A few respondents expressed views about the potential to base this on whether or not a vehicle could be driven. Suggestions included:
- If a vehicle could not be legally driven under its own power.
- Whether a vehicle would steer or roll.
- If, in the reasonable opinion of a constable, a vehicle could not be driven safely on the road.
3.63. One respondent stated that the damage categories for insurance purposes could be adapted as a cross-platform standard and applied to the new system, or something similar which could indicate the vehicle's drivability could be used. They also suggested that this could apply to any trailer.
3.64. One respondent, however, stated specifically that they disagreed with the approach suggested at the third bullet at 3.62 above, and proposed a definition more clearly linked to the vehicle's actual situation and the work involved in removing it from the scene.
3.65. Two respondents suggested that the current definition referred to vehicles being unable to free wheel, stating that this did not always impede a simple recovery. It was also suggested that the definition should describe scenarios that were clearly connected to the vehicle's actual condition and would lead to longer, more complex and more costly recovery operations; and that the effect that any damage had on complicating the recovery should be given more prominence in the definition.
3.66. Some respondents made a small number of other comments.
3.67. A few, for example, suggested a need to define "off-road" clearly, or identified problems with this. Comments included views that:
- There could be different interpretations of off-road which could lead to charging discrepancies and higher charges.
- Off-road should reflect the actual difficulty and cost of the recovery.
3.68. Two respondents made specific suggestions about when a vehicle should be classed as "off-road", which were, for example, in cases where:
- Most wheels were off the hard surface.
- An incident vehicle was three quarters or more off the road.
3.69. One respondent made comments relating to Question 3 which were included in the analysis at that point (beginning at Para 2.48).