Thursday 28 June 2012

Shut The Truck Up!

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.

“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.”
Sorry, Dick, but yes. Yes it is.

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".


PeterA5145 said...

Or just-in-time deliveries on Sundays would be switched to vans, thus increasing costs and clogging up the roads even more.

tinks said...

Did you say his name was Dick?

Dick_Puddlecote said...

You got it.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

His name is Richard, I was being familiar (though he abused the name, tbh). ;)

Bucko TheMoose said...

What a bellend!

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DP, I know it may well be a 'tall order' and you may not have the time, but:
what does this certificate entail and how much does it cost; what are the regs abroad you have to observe; and what are the problems you encounter?

A blogpost?

Dick_Puddlecote said...

You read my mind. Seriously!

Dick_Puddlecote said...

It's complicated and an ever-changing feast. If you remind me, I'll email you the syllabus. I still have the study materials but it would cost around £15 just to post them!

Edgar said...

Ooh, no, Dick, I cannot agree with you on this one. Those nasty big lorry things should be totally banned all together, it's only green, isn't it? We won't starve; there's a nice chap up the street grows cabbages in his allotment, and broad beans, too. The rest we can easily do without, isn't it?

Mudplugger said...

Unlike you, Dick, I am not a trucker or connected with the transport industry at all.  I am however, a consumer.  I consume vast quantities of what the transport industry brings within easy reach, most of which it does almost invisibly.

I am however also a driver, with far more than a million miles on the clock to date.  I have never once felt intimidated by large vehicles professionally driven, rather I remain truly impressed by the overall standards of road-craft (and certainly close-quarters shuffling) which their drivers manage to display with these load-efficient monsters.

I know that whenever I'm out driving on a Sunday afternoon, I'd far rather encounter a hundred professional artics than a single Aunt Maud in her murderously mercurial Micra.

Without truckers doing their thing, our whole lives would be emptier, poorer and slower.  Keep at it - some of us appreciate you guys.

20Rothmans said...

 I think that you are being too harsh on your dick there - er - Dick

Richard Hayes has the right idea. There has never been a better time to put another yoke on business and drive up inflation a bit. Moreover, I'd put him on my Christmas card list for making Saturdays even more unbearable.

"Surely it is not too much to ask that we take some of the tension out of the system for one day a week.”
Surely it is not too much to ask Richard Hayes to stop breathing for one day a wee.

Mark Ellott said...

France has had a lorry ban for years. it is widely flouted as the drivers view the occasional penalty as an occupational hazard. it is also worth pointing our that France does not operate a 7 day a week consumer society - they shut shop on Sunday and Monday (mostly - sometimes they shut shop on Wednesday afternoons depending on where you are).

So he is not exactly comparing like with like.

I get irritated when a couple of trucks play leapfrog at 56mph clogging two lanes of the motorway unnecessarily, but intimidated? Nah.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yep, and ration cards would help in that respect. I don't know what I was thinking of. :)

Woodsy42 said...

It's clear we need to reorganise the calendar and have an 8 day week. That way trucks could drive on Sundays while we all shopped to buy the stuff they deliver but we could have octoday to relax and be lorry free. That would work!
And you are right France basically closes for Sunday - although it's changing fast and picking up all our bad habits. Even some rural supermarkets open on Sundays and of course bread shops always do.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Nice sentiments, MP. :)

They should get better too, as - via the EU, again - the CPC qualification I hold is also now something drivers themselves have to have. 35 hours training are required on a regular basis to allow them to keep the jobs some of them have had for years. Of course, it's going to cost them a load of dosh.

As a result, the industry is losing some of its most experienced older drivers as they throw their hands up and retire. It's not like their current costs and training aren't onerous enough already.

Freelance drivers, especially, need Richard Hayes's idea like a bloody hole in the head!

SadButMadLad said...

Sounds like the council official who was in charge of roads but who didn't drive - no concept of what the subject they are supposed to manage works.

I bet he went to Europe for a holiday and found out this rule via some conversation and then didn't fully investigate it but thought "what a brilliant idea that I can make my mark with in my new role". With what Mark says just above it does sound like he hasn't researched it at all.

One of those dangerous people - thinks they know everything but doesn't realise that they know very little. Probably exasperated by the fact that he is probably very experienced in his specialist field.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

The shifting of journeys was something I was going to touch upon, and it could well happen, but it's more likely that businesses would adapt some other way. There will definitely be busier Monday rush hours but it would probably be a share with loss of products and increased prices as well. 

Additionally, many drivers are paid more for working Sundays (due to some conditions in Sunday trading legislation) so those extra quids will be forfeited thanks to Hayes if he is successful. I don't think it will make him very popular. 

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Good point, Mark, and the same is true of Italy where the same applies. 

This touches on one of the saddest things about our membership of the EU ... we seem to be the only ones who take it deadly seriously. We can expect highways officers enforcing our Sunday ban - if it were to happen - with ruthless efficiency, while our neighbours continue to employ a more relaxed regime much like the mindset we used to have in the 70s and 80s to stupid laws. We, as a country, have completely folded to petty authoritarianism and accept it meekly. 

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Octoday (I do like that idea :)  ) would last five minutes before our public would demand they be allowed to shop then too. Nothing wrong with that, as long as they realise that the bloody shops need supplying! What really gets my goat about this above all else is that I read the same story on another provincial site and some thought it was a great idea, yet would be appalled if they had to pay more as a result (which they would) and would go ballistic if their local services suffered if business rates were reduced (which they should be if it is going to work). 

SadButMadLad said...

If R Hayes manages to get his plan implemented that I bet there will be many unintended consequences as no one knows how businesses will react.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yes indeed. The rules on the continent are so diverse in many ways. For example, Germany and France have special schemes allowing faster speed limits in certain cases (for a state-received fee and inspection of vehicles, of course), plus many other differences. Toll roads too, special exemptions for certain times, even for differing weather conditions. There is no comparison, and we haven't mentioned the diverse penalties applied throughout - we just know that the UK would aim for the top in that respect, don't we?

I'm hoping the guy just thought he would pump out something to make headlines and announce his arrival, only to shut the 'truck' up (see what I did there?) once installed.

I would at least hope he understood the term "unintended consequences"!

John M said...

I wouldn't ban trucks from motorways on a Sunday. But I would ban them from the A338 which goes from Bournemouth via Salisbury & up to Swindon.

And I'd ban caravans too....

Anonymous said...

Funny thing about trucks and cities gone made to promote "green". SF, CA, USA used to contract to have a single fleet of garbage trucks that went out, stopping the same day in the same neighborhoods according to schedule and picking up the trash. Then came recycling, garbage in one, papers, glass and plastics in another. They still used the same schedule but with two trucks per week, one for garbage, one for recyclables. Then came a third bin, this one for table scraps and organics - and along with it came a THIRD set of trucks per week, just to collect the organic compostables. So from one set of trucks, it moved to two sets, now to three sets. They recently installed little orange bins special for discarding batteries and so far have requested someone from each neighborhood voluntarily bring it in when it gets filled - but what's not to say they won't incorporate a FOURTH set of trucks one day soon, just to go around and collect that. And, with each doubling of the numbers of trucks, that is a doubling of exhaust into the air, doubling of fuel costs, doubling of unionized government workers. It's not to the issue of large size lorries on the highways on Sundays - and for that, in SF, they close down entire streets regardless on Sundays and called it "Healthways", later "Sunday Street Closures" when the propagandizing nature of the original naming of it became to obvious - but it is possible with this movement, that is what someone is getting at, that streets end up closed on Sundays, then Saturdays/Sundays, then various days throughout the week - leaving it full clear open for government fleets of recyclables and other government vehicles to have the streets all to themselves. So maybe "Healthways" on weekends is what they'll propose next, along with that forced exercise programs in those closed streets using government workers and fake-charities of course to keep the citizens occupied those days.

david said...

Yea, lorries on Motorways are no real problem. It's where they're limited to 40 mph on single carriageways. 

Lynladd said...

Thanks Mudplugger.

I am a trucker. one of the every growing number of women truckers.

All I can say is, if they want the trucks off the motorways on Sundays, then keep all other vehicles off the motorways the rest of the week!

The biggest bug bare for us truckers are the cars that cannot manage to travel at more than 50mph (we are mostly restriced to between 50 and 56 mph) on motorways, until a truck pulls out to overtake them, when they then increase their speed to around 60mph so we have to pull back in behind them.  They then proceed to slow down again!  This can go on until we get to a long enough downhill section and we can let the weight of our load push us over our legal limit of 60mph in order to pass them!

Others will increase their speed to stay alongside us, thus preventing us from pulling back in.  It is neither safe nor professional for us to slow down whilst in the middle lane to pull in behind them again, but even if we try to, many will do the same, thereby still preventing us from pulling over.

Some driver get so pi**ed off that they just indicate and start to pull over anyway, which is what some motorists might consider intimidating - but if they want to act like morons, what are truckers supposed to do?

We would love to have the motorways to ourselves during the week, there would be far fewer accidents too as many are caused by cars cutting infront of us and braking!

Dick_Puddlecote said...

You're a bit late on parade, Lyn, I've been expecting you. ;)

Martin said...

I'm currently doing LGV training and have passed my Class C test and will be taking the artic course and test at the end of July, but I don't have to do the CPC as I have 'aquired rights' from a pre-1997 driving licence. I will have to do the 35hours training but that's over 5 years. I'm an old git at 54! As you say, it costs a fair bit, but hopefully I'll be in a better position to be gainfully employed!  

On the subject of trucks on a Sunday, I regularly travel on the M25 and A21 on a Sunday and don't see that many trucks for it to be a problem. Lots of tractors out in the countryside though, but that's to be expected. And last week it was sunny so there were lots of cyclists out, so it was a fair old mix of all types of transport who all seemed to be getting along fine. 

Lynladd said...

Sorry Dick, been doing nothing but working and sleeping!  Only got on parade today 'cos I booked a day off!

As you are aware, I believe, these cars that literally play Russion Roulette with trucks makes my blood boil!

Jeff Wood said...

 Late to this party, but you mentioned Italia.

Heavy trucks are banned over the weekend. What this means, I discovered when driving from Bologna to Florence and beyond.

Heavy lorries, nose to back bumper, in convoys a mile long; all trying to get home before midnight.

A bit hard work that motorway at the best of times, with steep hills up and down, and some of the bends are a bit tight. If a driver fancied his chances of overtaking the truck in front on a downhill slope, he tried it, and those of us coming up on the outside had to jump on the brakes.

With the Italian car drivers and bus drivers being, well, Italian in the outside lane, I  confess I have had easier drives. And all because of a deadline - the rest of the week evenings on that road are fine; well, sort of but that ain't the truckers' fault.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

True. I don't think many drivers on the road understand that the stopping distance of a fully-laden artic is bloody huge! Pulling in front by a few yards at 50-60mph really doesn't cut it if they are looking to stay safe from being concertina'd. 

Lynladd said...

What is unbelievable is that new car drivers do not have any training, whatsoever, about how to behave around trucks!  Nothing in their Hazard Awareness section of their written test, which means they have no understanding at all of how trucks need extra road to get around roundabout or turn left, in particular, but also right.  They are left in complete and utter ignorance!

Yesterday I got another speeding ticket in the post too!  Bloody, arbitrary fixed cameras!  It was 3 am, I had had to take a detour due to road closures, so was on a road I did not know with a blurred left kerb due to overhanging trees and hedges and was done for 35 mph in a 30mph!  It was a slight, but long downhill incline, dark and wet and I was watching the road, not my speedo.  Rightly or wrongly (guess I will find out) I wrote on the back of the form that I was really sorry for watching the road instead of my speedo, but in future I would do my best to correct that!  It is no wonder that speed cameras have not saved a single life!  6 bloody points in less than a year - the last one was due to increasing my speed enough (6 mph) to stop a car from overtaking me on a blind bend; I could see over the hedge and knew what was coming - he didn't.  So, by preventing a head on collision at 50+ mph (it was a NSL road) I got 3 points and a £60 fine!  How can we be professional and drive responsibly when we these arbitrary cameras penalise us for doing so?  Increasing my speed on that occasion to 46 instead of sticking to 40 was not dangerous, but it more than likely saved lives!

Sorry, know I am on another hobby horse, but seriously, it really does beggar belief, after all, when we had proper policing of our roads they were a darn sight safer!

Lynladd said...

Absolutely David.  This ridiculous speed limit is what causes so many accidents as, quite understandably when on a long stretch of single carriageway A road, other road users do get impatient and some will take risks to get passed.  I often see signs on some of these roads saying 'X Accidents in 3 years' followed by 'X Injuries in 3 years' followed by 'X deaths in 3 years'.  My immediate thought is, 'and we all know why!'

Trucks should be allowed to travel at 50mph on single carriageway A roads; truck drivers are mostly sensible and professional enough to know when 50 would not be appropriate, the same as car drivers are mostly sensible enough to know that even though a country lane may be marked as an NSL road, it is not safe to drive most of them at 60mph!

There will always be drivers, truckers or not, that will not always use their common sense, but that will happen whatever the speed limit!

iggy said...

Ban cars from motorways on Sundays, let them take nice 1950's style drives along the b-roads and leave the motorways for freight.