Friday, May 18, 2018

Much UK Road Haulage News as DfT Rules on Lorry Parking and Permits and Trailer Bill Debated

Brexit Causes a Flurry of Truck Freight Related Action in Westminster This Week
Shipping News Feature
UK – It appears that, following much debate, the government has decided the answer to potential congestion at the Channel Ports post Brexit is to turn the nearest motorway into a lorry park. Plans revealed today by Roads Minister, Jesse Norman mean that the infamous 'Operation Stack', a scheme which has already brought opprobrium down on the heads of ministers and is widely despised by the road haulage community, is being evolved to enable one entire carriageway of the M20 in Kent to be used to queue lorries whilst other traffic will travel in both directions between junctions 8 and 9 on the opposite carriageway.

This will be made possible using a contraflow on the northbound carriageway, which will be available for use by early 2019, when there is ever disruption to cross-Channel traffic as has been seen previously, and liable to be considerably more frequent should the right post Brexit deal on Customs procedures not be agreed. The Department for Transport (DfT) says it is also setting out plans to improve overnight lorry parking, so that fewer lorries will be left on local roads or parked in lay-bys overnight.

One hopes that it is more successful than in its previous plan to establish a giant lorry park near Stanford West in Kent, which fell apart in November last year when it failed to prepare an environmental assessment meaning the plans were kicked out. Parking on a motorway for many hours on end prevents access to both water and sanitary facilities, so much for actively encouraging more gender equality into this area of the logistics sector. This latest announcement is nothing new, it is precisely the plan proposed when the parking plan fell through last year. Today Roads Minister Jesse Norman said:

”We’ve seen the severe disruption that people in Kent had to face in 2015 when there were hold ups across the Channel. This interim plan will help to minimise that disruption and mean people will be able to go about their everyday lives, seeing friends and family or going to work, as well as businesses being able to get to their customers.”

The government says that schemes like the Dover Traffic Access Protocol (TAP), which sees lorries held outside of the port town instead of clogging up Dover’s centre roads, and more holding spaces at the port have helped to prevent many instances of Operation Stack being called since the events of 2015. It has also today published its National Survey of Lorry Parking which was a study taken in 2017 highlighting the areas around the country which need more overnight lorry parking provision.

This document revealed what everybody involved in road freight already knew and now the DfT says work to address the paucity of spaces available to trucks is already under way, with plans from private developers for an extra 1,000 additional spaces across the country, which is intended to provide benefits across the UK, particularly in the south-east. The government has also asked Highways England to review and identify sites across its land holdings which could provide an extra 1,500 spaces, which would help reduce the number of lorries parking overnight in laybys.

As is currently the case with private housing, the government is pressuring local authorities via their planning offices to draw their attention to the strategic need for more lorry parking nationally. Jesse Norman and Planning Minister Dominic Raab have both written stressing the requirement and asking councils to survey results showing shortages in specific areas, presumably with a view to ensure they commit to negating the problem.

Councils may also get further powers to take action against hauliers which park inappropriately. The first 6 months of an 18-month trial on the A20 in Kent have seen the numbers of vehicles being clamped cut in half, and an increase in the number of lorry drivers staying in commercial parking sites, where they are available.

The announcements got a lukewarm response from most of Britain’s road freight community. The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which has campaigned for years for sufficient rest facilities for lorry drivers across the UK, and a better plan to cope with cross-Channel disruption, was a little more upbeat, with Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of UK Policy, saying:

“The proposed temporary solution for Operation Stack on the M20 is a good compromise for operators concerned about managing queues safely at the Channel ports in the event of cross-Channel disruption, until a permanent lorry parking area can be built. It is vital both for the logistics industry, and for Kent as a whole, that traffic can continue to flow freely throughout the county, and the proposed solution could provide that for now.

“FTA’s members will be keen to see that the plan has been carefully thought through, to ensure the safety of the drivers using Stack and of others on these roads at those times, and we look forward to working with government to ensure that appropriate facilities are provided for those needing to wait on the motorway. Our lorry drivers fulfil a vital role in serving the country’s manufacturing and business needs, and it is imperative that anywhere used for Operation Stack provides them with at least toilets and water supplies.

“It is a positive step that the government is acknowledging the scale of the problem facing lorry drivers seeking appropriate places to take their legally mandated rests. It is a travesty that the UK currently doesn’t provide enough spaces for its hardworking drivers to stop in, and the paucity of facilities which drivers can use creates an unnecessary and unavoidable blight on local communities where some drivers are forced to stop because they are out of any other option. These policies won’t solve the problem overnight but we see today’s announcements as a good step in the right direction and now want to work with Government to ensure we develop the facilities that our lorry drivers need.”

The other news concerning Brexit and the road freight industry was the second reading of the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill in the House of Lords which the government introduced as part of its plans to ensure the UK can deliver a smooth and orderly transition. A transcript of the debate can be read here.

The Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill has two purposes:

  • It creates the architecture for a number of scenarios, including a ‘no deal’ Brexit. It would allow the Secretary of State to deal with the consequences of a range of exit scenarios on the UK haulage industry by creating an international road haulage permit scheme; and
  • It deals with the consequences of the UK ratifying the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, specifically as it relates to trailers, by providing the Secretary of State with powers to make a trailer registration scheme.

The government has launched a consultation to gather industry insight into its proposals for a permit scheme and a trailer registration system which is open until 20 June. Confusion reigns over what exactly post-Brexit Britain will look like, the UK’s freight and logistics sectors has repeatedly called on the government for clarification on its planned trade agreements and is urging for its implementation to be as seamless as possible.

The commercial haulage industry is at the heart of the £110 billion of trade that takes place between the UK and EU every year, directly contributing £13.1 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy. Negotiations with the EU will determine road transport provisions post-exit, and the provisions of the Bill are intended to enable the Government to put in place regulations that reflect the terms of any international agreement, which could include the new EU partnership agreement.

The government says that these regulations will be used to administer and enforce all bilateral permit agreements, the multinational European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit scheme and any permit scheme needed for EU Member States.

Meantime the industry watches and waits.