A war of words has erupted between the Freight Transport Association and the Local Government Association after a Daily Mail article was published today raving that ‘Foreign HGVs bring bedlam to UKs roads by ignoring restrictions on country lanes’. The LGA claims that there has been a spate of large commercial vehicles hitting buildings and becoming stuck in lanes too small to take them.
The FTA has responded by asking people to look at the facts involved, and that four incidents in 10 years doesn’t constitute a spate at all!
The story emerged when the LGA demanded new powers for village councils to enforce regulations on HGVs taking shortcuts along unsuitable roads. The LGA claims that foreign drivers are ‘blindly following satnavs’, and consequently getting stuck. It was also suggested that HGV drivers routinely ignore weight and size limits on the roads.
By return the FTA has said that there are now a number of special HGV satnavs on the market that detail where trucks can and cannot go. Christopher Snelling, Head of Urban Transport at the FTA said, “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.”
There is some feeling in the general public that all trucks weigh the same, regardless of load. Snelling added, “Weight limits are not HGV bans and residents may not understand different sizes of trucks.”
Once more, there would be a lot of difficulty carrying out the LGA’s demands, with villagers needing a lot of specialist training to get the expertise to enforce the new regulations – assessing whether the truck was on legitimate business, what the axle weight was during the incident, as well as the size of the vehicle are all specialist skills. Snelling pointed out, “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.”
Thousands of deliveries take place on the UK’s narrowest country lanes every year. I’ve been confronted by an articulated cattle truck on a Herefordshire lane before, and even on my bicycle couldn’t get past him. Where I was using the road for leisure, he was there on agricultural business, and arguably had more of a right to be on that road than I did. In regards size and weight restrictions, Snelling said, “Most operators do follow the rules, and the handful that don’t should be detected and dealt with.”
The LGA told the Daily Mail that over 50% of motorway deaths every year have HGVs involved. This is quite an inaccuracy, with less than a third of deaths being linked to HGVs in the last year.
For better or worse, some people resent large vehicles in their quiet retreats. Industry will always require heavy goods vehicles, and by far the bulk of drivers and companies observe the law. A few bad apples, it seems, make a good tabloid story…