Thursday, 30 July 2015

Councils want powers to enforce truck restrictions . . .


Councils want powers to enforce truck restrictions

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The Local Government Association has called for powers to enable councils in England outside the capital to enforce local vehicle weight and width limits, just as they can in London and Wales.

If such measures were introduced, councils would be able to task officials with upholding weight limits and issuing tickets to offending companies, possibly through the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

LGA transport spokesman councilor Peter Box said: “There has been a spate of accidents involving lorry drivers driving irresponsibly and bringing bedlam to small rural communities – and action must be taken immediately to curb this.

“Councils are doing everything they can to help their residents, working with communities by organising lorry watch schemes. But they are trying to take action with one hand tied behind their back and urgently need tougher powers.

“If a community is being plagued by problems at an accident blackspot, councils should be able to respond to communities’ concerns by issuing fines to act as a deterrent.

“We would stress that most lorry drivers are reputable and drive responsibly. These powers would be targeted at the minority who do not follow the law. This is also about protecting the drivers’ safety as well as the safety of residents and other road users.”

The LGA quoted three ‘case studies’ (in the form of links to local newspaper reports) in support of its position.

One involved a confused Bulgarian driver who passed a 7.5-tonne limit sign in Kent and caused damage to vehicles and property in the village of Iwade; the second happened when a truck was diverted off the M5 in the small hours of the morning and clipped housefronts and overhead wires in Uffculme, Devon after apparently following the wrong diversion signs; and the third when a truck rolled on an unrestricted rural road near Chippenham, Wiltshire.

It is not clear how giving the local council enforcement powers would have prevented any of these incidents. But another issue raised by the LGA was that drivers can tend to blindly follow satnav instructions on unfamiliar rural roads, making them less alert to road signage and the nature of the road that they are on.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT) appeared to rule out any immediate change to the law, stating: “The police already have the necessary power to take action where it is needed, and there are no plans at present to give local authorities greater powers to enforce moving traffic contraventions.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) denied the LGA claims that lorries were ‘bringing bedlam’ to British villages.

“FTA fully supports enforcement of weight and width restrictions and actively helps its members to adhere to these with regular updates on regulations and industry innovations,” said Christopher Snelling, head of urban logistics at FTA.

“Transferring responsibility for policing these restrictions to local residents would be fraught with problems because most would not have the relevant knowledge to make judgements.

“Weight limits are not HGV bans and residents may not understand different sizes of trucks. Also, most weight restrictions are on an ‘except for access’ basis – some HGVs may be making legitimate visits to local business or indeed residents, such as home removals or washing machine deliveries.”

FTA also pointed to DfT figures showing that deaths and serious injuries involving lorries had halved in the last decade.

He added: “The logistics industry is working hard to reduce the problem of HGVs using inappropriate routes, such as HGV-specific satnavs that are now on the market. Most operators do follow the rules, and the handful that don’t should be detected and dealt with.”

“The four examples in the past 10 years quoted by LGA don’t illustrate that the problem of lorries in villages constitutes a ‘spate’ or are getting worse,” said FTA.

Meanwhile, John Howells, southern and eastern regional director for the Road Haulage Association, questioned how such a policy would be enforced.

He told the BBC: “In London the roads are filmed with cameras. In the country it will cost the communities a lot of money to have cameras.

“There is a problem with poor signage. On some roads lorry drivers do not know that there is a weight restriction and people use satnav so drivers are very reliant on signage.

“But it’s not just the drivers. We also need the authorities to provide lorries with alternative appropriate roads when main roads are closed.”

The build-up of HGV traffic in villages is an issue that recently reared its head in parliament. Last month Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general and MP for Beaconsfield, spoke of how it had impacted on his constituency.

Mr Grieve said that the village of Iver was: “experiencing a catastrophic problem with heavy goods vehicle movements.

“The number of transport depots in the immediate vicinity of the village, many of which have grown up out of existing planning uses that predate the arrival of planning control, mean that the village is slowly being strangled by the HGV movements.

“If one stands in Iver village high street, one will see a heavy goods vehicle coming through every 58 seconds on average.”

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