Sunday, November 8, 2009

Police and Lorry Drivers Liaison Program Expanding

Operation Stammtisch Proving a Great Success
Shipping News Feature

UK – A program that aims to encourage commercial vehicle drivers to air their concerns to the police is to be expanded to include more county forces due to the success of the project. Now a regular feature at services up and down the country the officers who conduct ‘Operation Stammtisch’ are available for drivers to talk over their problems and issues with their jobs.

Speaking to Handy Shipping Guide on ‘Operation Stammtisch’ PC Steven Rounds, one of the programs national coordinators explained that: “Currently there are 18 forces taking part and I have five waiting to join.”

Operation Stammtisch began in Germany in 2000 as a result of a dropping off of contacts between police and freight drivers. The success of the German program was such that it came to the attention of the Metropolitan Police in 2008 who began the first test Stammtische at Thurrock and Clackett Lane in June of that year. Since then it has spread across the country with meetings held at set areas on the first Wednesday of every month.

PC Rounds explained that the police were concerned that with a change in responsibilities the police were finding themselves removed from truck drivers: “The concept was particularly timely as the Highways Agency had introduced it's Traffic Officers who now attended low risk incidents such as tyre blowouts and breakdowns and we as the police, found that we were starting to lose touch with commercial vehicle drivers.

“For instance, coning a truck on the hard shoulder for an offside blow out would mean that we were chatting to that driver for 45 minutes to an hour whilst we waited for a fitter and during that time drivers told us their concerns about their industry.”

On his own experiences with Stammtisch PC Rounds said that: “Not surprisingly, the congestion charge, price of fuel and overnight parking security were common topics for discussion, as were the affect of foreign operators using low paid drivers from the newly admitted EU countries and the pressure being placed upon them to exceed their hours.

“Interestingly, one foreign haulage driver who had been pressured to exceed his hours by his employer, approached the officers in order that he could receive a prohibition and therefore take a rest, whilst being able to provide an excuse to his employer as to why he had not continued to drive. The police are sympathetic to such requests and the volunteering of such information will not necessarily lead to a prosecution as well as the prohibition.”

He added that with Stammtisch now online with its own website: “As a driver or operator, you have direct access to the men and women who police the strategic road network of the UK and who can have a significant impact on the issues that affect you and your company. If you feel that you would like to submit your information or comments anonymously, you can use the 'Submit Information' page. Your information will be acted upon.”

There are also plans to implement Stammtische Europe-wide with the creation of a central website so drivers can find the location of a Stammtisch in each of the participating member states on the first Wednesday of every month should they need to.

(pic: Thanks to Steve Rounds for supplying)