Saturday, December 11, 2010

Freight Haulage Associations Welcome Truck Drivers Hours Moratorium

EU Regulation Suspension Extended During Severe Weather
Shipping News Feature

UK – Following on from our story last week the Scottish authorities have decided to extend the suspension of EU commercial drivers’ hours of service regulations, a situation caused by the exceptional weather conditions, for another few days. The suspension was due to end at 23.59 hours tonight but now will be extended to the 15th December when there will be a further review in the light of continuing snow falls and freezing conditions which have persisted for the past week.

Industry representatives have welcomed the move after witnessing numerous trucks caught out in impossible weather and stranded, sometimes for days at a time. The conditions have seen numerous consignments of every type of freight undelivered, most worryingly for many communities, vital supplies such as fuel, bread, milk and other provisions.

The outlook for Scotland for the next three days is with road surfaces remaining very cold, there is a risk of icy conditions developing almost anywhere, but more particularly over eastern areas where lying snow has melted.

The extension to the suspension, which effectively means drivers will not be prosecuted for exceeding their allowed working times if affected by the conditions, prompted spokesman for the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Director for Scotland Phil Flanders to issue a statement saying:

“The additional four days, from 11-15 December, is an appropriate and proportional response from the Department for Transport. Our thanks go to the Scottish Government for their support in seeking this relaxation, which will give the haulage community some help in recovering from the severe disruption over the past two weeks.

“Clearly, there are issues to be addressed in terms of keeping the roads gritted and clear; and on how trucks can best avoid getting stuck, which is an issue we are taking forward with our members in Scotland and also elsewhere in the UK. There will be lessons to be learnt all round. In the meantime, this relaxation gives Scotland’s hauliers and their drivers who have been affected by the disruptions the opportunity to do what they sensibly can to get over the immediate problems.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) reminded its members that the suspension applies only for operators suffering supply chain problems caused by the recent heavy snowfalls and icy weather. FTA members, of which there are over 1,000 in Scotland, reported particularly treacherous conditions on the M8, M73 and A80. Due to deliveries taking twice as long in many cases, lorries have been unable to return to their depots. Further problems have been encountered in the heating fuels sector; FTA members have reported delays of up to 12 hours on the roads between Dundee and Grangemouth fuel terminal. Rail freight has also been hamstrung by frozen points – that allow trains to move between tracks – and treacherous conditions at rail freight terminals, making it impossible for lorries to reach them for delivery/collection.

Considering the enormous costs to trade so far Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, said:

“The running costs of a stranded HGV are very high to vehicle operators, and the knock-on impact of aborted commercial deliveries to businesses and, of course, consumers make this cost far more significant. At one point tankers were unable to deliver fuel to filling stations so the situation was certainly grave.

“It is too early to put a figure on the cost of disruption, but with reports that hauliers have been unable to collect or return containers, including news that whisky suppliers had to close, the winter weather has wrought a heavy cost to Scotland’s economy. With more snow predicted we need to make sure the cost isn’t allowed to get even greater.”

Photo: Nothing new under the sun (or in this case snow). Buses stranded in Scotland 1958