The impact of severe winter weather on the supply chain could be reduced in the light of lessons learned during the last winter spell, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA). In giving evidence to the Government’s Winter Resilience Review, the leading trade body highlighted the need for an overhaul of drivers’ hours concession arrangements and a need for better salt supply management.
Simon Chapman, FTA’s Chief Economist, said:
"Life for road transport carriers making essential deliveries and collections during a spell of severe winter weather is made much easier by a temporary, modest increase in daily driving time and greater flexibility in the timing and duration of daily and weekly rest breaks.
"The Department for Transport needs to be quicker off the mark when introducing these changes in future, using existing emergency concessions for drivers of gritters as a trigger for wider drivers’ hours rules relaxation targeted at critical supply chains such as heating fuels, animal feed and milk, and salt itself. This will allow carriers to respond swiftly without being hamstrung by bureaucracy, and keep the duration of the relaxation to a minimum."
A shortage of salt available for local authority maintained roads made driving conditions hazardous and effectively crippled transport services for weeks last winter. FTA has recommended that stockpiles of salt should be made available regionally in order to shorten emergency salt supply chains and reduce the amount of queuing at salt production sites. In addition, the management of road hauliers collecting salt from production sites should be overhauled. A vehicle booking system, similar to that used in container ports, alongside provision of sufficient vehicle parking in the vicinity of the Cheshire salt mine is necessary.
FTA also believes that highway authority Winter Service Plans need to be reviewed to ensure that local roads linking the motorway and trunk road network to logistics hubs are kept clear.
"Local authorities have an important role in keeping open roads used on the initial and final leg of many journeys. During intense periods of severe weather, where salt supplies are at a premium, one solution is that the Highways Agency takes on gritting responsibility for the local roads which link ports, rail terminals and major distribution sites to traffic arteries to ensure these remain open."