The Freight Transport Association's latest Quarterly Transport Activity Survey has revealed new evidence on how the recent closures of truckstops in the UK (such as the Alconbury truckstop on the A14 near Cambridge and Truckworld in Essex) have affected UK industry's road freight operations. Three-quarters of transport operators surveyed have experienced operational difficulties of some kind:
1 in 7 operators have experienced difficulty with adhering to legally required drivers' hours rules on breaks when drivers have nowhere to stop and take the required breaks. This has compounded the reductions in flexibility on the length of breaks introduced by the new drivers' hours regulations on 11 April 2007.
1 in 10 have had to change routes to accommodate the need for drivers to take breaks in a suitable secure area.
1 in 5 reported that the truckstop closures have exposed their operation to significant additional security risk, especially where the goods carried are high value and/or vulnerable to theft or terrorist attack (eg fuel tankers).
1 in 6 operators had serious concerns over the personal safety of drivers as well as potential danger to the vehicle and the load where lay-bys have to be used as truck parking areas.
Secure parking for drivers and trucks was by far the most important aspect of a truckstop, followed by 24 hour catering and toilet facilities.
The closure of truckstops exacerbates a shortage of driver facilities created by closure of lay-bys on key road arteries such as the A14, for road safety reasons.
FTA says that it is vital that there are sufficient truck parking facilities on strategically important trade routes, for example those linking the east coast container ports of Felixstowe and Harwich to the Midlands and also in the South East of England. FTA members noted in the survey that problems are particularly severe where there are hot spots of foreign vehicle activity on routes out of Channel ports.
FTA's Head of Road Network Management Policy, Malcolm Bingham said, 'A national strategy is needed that is championed by Government and which places an obligation on highways authorities to ensure that they not only keep the traffic moving but that they also provide facilities for vehicles to stop. Truck drivers operate under strict drivers' hours rules, requiring regular breaks and rests for road safety reasons. The Government must not legislate for frequent stops by drivers and then fail to ensure that appropriate facilities are available for vehicles to park up.
'Planning rules must also restrict land use designations for existing truck stops to 'lorry parking areas'. This will help safeguard existing facilities from speculative commercial development.
'It is vital that where a truckstop is closed, local councils make contingency plans to accommodate the displaced trucks, otherwise drivers are forced to use industrial estates and local roads which lack appropriate facilities and impact on local residents.'
The full October 2007 QTAS report can be found at http://www.fta.co.uk/information/qtas/