Trucks are sexy, get used to it!
Even as a libertarian sort, I can understand why some are predisposed to calling for bans, irritation will do that to certain people. Lord knows I can get quite tetchy when UB40 or Wet Wet Wet are played on the radio, I have a unilateral ban on such nonsense especially on the road where I suspect Red Red Wine, particularly, could have well have sent enough drivers to sleep as to be considered a serious safety risk!
However, it takes the extra ingredient of selfish arrogance to demand personal irritations be inflicted on everyone else by way of a ban. Couple that with a little bit of power, and we end up with mind-mincing dickery like this.
The incoming president of the Institute of Highway Engineers risks the wrath of truckers - but may earn the adulation of weekend motorists - as he calls for the UK to consider banning HGVs from its motorways on Sundays.Sorry, Dick, but yes. Yes it is.
“Restricting HGVs’ use of the road network on Sundays is commonplace throughout the rest of Europe and it is something I strongly believe we should consider introducing in the UK,” says [Richard] Hayes.
“Weekends should be a relaxing time on our roads when the network is used mainly by the general public going about their leisure activities. Many drivers are intimidated by heavy lorries thundering up and down our motorways and major A roads. Surely it is not too much to ask that we take some of the tension out of the system for one day a week.”
One wonders if this guy sees Sunday driving as something from the set of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with brightly-dressed families with perfect teeth, gambolling gently along a highway, singing songs and giggling at the butterflies playfully dancing around their heads. It's not, and hasn't been since Sunday trading laws were relaxed in the 90s.
From a transport point of view, there is so much wrong with his bone-headed idea that I almost don't know where to start.
Firstly, restricting freedom and hampering businesses merely on the pretext that a few nervous drivers don't like lorries is absurd. It may well be a pain getting past them sometimes but that's part of modern society ... especially if the public want the seven days a week shopping culture mentioned above, which they overwhelmingly do.
It's a simple fact that the reason supermarkets, and other shops, arrange daily deliveries is to save on costly retail storage space. The reason it is costly is - as you won't be surprised to learn - because they are hammered on business rates for each square metre. If he wants fewer journeys, perhaps he'd like to talk to the government and local authorities about reducing these bills. If not, businesses will be forced to save cash by storing goods in less pricey areas until demand means it's worth the cost of stacking them in store, as they do now.
Dick might come up with the old chestnut about sourcing from local producers instead, but does he really believe that businesses wouldn't have looked at that already? It's a basic economic principle of a business that they will always look to maximise profit - just as any human looks for value unless they're an utter loser - so if it was an option, it would be happening already.
If forced to go the local route by Dick's ban, some lines will disappear altogether which will restrict choice, while others will rise in price if they are indispensable, both of which will be as irritating to the public as having to put their foot down for a few blasted seconds to ease past a lorry with a speed limiter.
He points to the fact that such bans are commonplace in Europe and he's right. Being the owner of a Certificate of Professional Competence in international transport (this is a qualification I was forced to gain by the EU to prove I am capable of running a business I had done perfectly well for a decade at the time) I know chapter and verse the regulations in countries like Germany, France and Spain amongst others, and believe you me they all cause problems for hauliers on both sides of the channel. Just the fact that others have enacted stupid laws is no reason to do likewise if we can avoid it.
And, lastly, those other countries don't hammer their freight transport industry anywhere near as heavily as we do ours. Our petrol and road taxes are the heaviest in Europe, meaning no lorry runs unless it is absolutely necessary that it does so. These rigs aren't on the road for fun, they are there because they are needed.
If Dick wants to take away one of the seven days they are allowed to operate, it should be the very least the government can do to reduce road taxes and other eye-watering costs - in an already intensely-regulated trade - by around a seventh. Well, that's if they don't want truckers clogging up Park Lane in anger again, that is.
Taxes, tolls, licences, environmental levies, emissions zones, VOSA, MOTs, all are paid for by haulage firms on the understanding that - by paying these huge sums - they will be allowed to use the roads. Now this prat wants to keep the money and tell them they can't use what they have paid out disproportionally for because Maud in her Nissan Micra gets a bit peeved on her way to cousin Enid's for Sunday lunch?
I think the best I can say about the story is that it hasn't been picked up more widely. The less we hear from this newly-installed IHE head the better, I suspect.
Filed duly under "good grief with bells on".