The Operator Licensing and HGV testing standards which regulate UK road transport have resulted in creating the safest lorry fleet in the world. But the improving record is now under threat from the invasion by low standard foreign operated vehicles. The Freight Transport Association says that the Government and the transport industry must ensure that we export UK safety standards into Europe and not import theirs into the UK.
Richard Turner, Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association, made these comments when addressing the FTA Annual Dinner at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, London on Tuesday night (7 November).
Turner said, 'The greatest pride of our industry is our safety and customer service record. In road transport the UK set the gold standard in 1968 with the introduction of Operator Licensing and HGV testing which have made the UK lorry fleet the safest in the world. But this is now under threat from the invasion by low standard foreign operated vehicles. In the UK the annual test is a minimum standard which must be achieved throughout the vehicle's working life and we have regular auditing systems overseen by our excellent Traffic Commissioners to ensure that they stay that way.
'However, foreign operators rarely conform to these standards. Their annual test is the same standard, but for them this is a birthday treat for the lorry, bringing it up to a maximum standard once a year, and they do not have operator licensing nor our Traffic Commissioners to guide and encourage them! We are seeing the graphic evidence on our roads from increasing accidents involving these vehicles and appalling statistics from the roadside checks carried out by VOSA, the Government safety agency.
'But VOSA is hampered in its work by knowing nothing about these visiting lorries, or their drivers. The European free trade in the movement of goods, from which we benefit, has not been matched by a free trade in the data on the vehicles that move them. Earlier this year FTA addressed this problem with a campaign to require foreign drivers and operators to “Tell us who you are”.
The principal guest speaker at the Dinner was Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for Transport
Richard Turner said, 'Secretary of State, all of us in this room are at one with you and your department on this issue. I have spent the best part of my career developing services to support the operation of safe vehicles. I am proud of what FTA and every operator and manufacturer in this room does to nurture safety. On behalf of us all, please ensure that we export our standards into Europe and not import theirs into the UK.
'We need the work started by VOSA to be extended and continued so that there really is no place to hide on our roads for bad vehicles or bad drivers and I deliberately include both foreigners and nationals in this.'
Turner also called on the UK transport industry to take care who they chose to carry their goods. 'I must remind the many shippers, consignors and consignees in the room tonight of your responsibilities too. Nobody expects you to ignore a better price or lower rate for your job, but somebody is employing these unsafe operators. Please be sure it is not you.'