Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Public Satisfaction with Motorway Services Doesn’t Impress Road Freight Lobby

New Report Fails to Tell Full Story for Commercial Vehicle Drivers
Shipping News Feature
UK – Truck stops and lorry parking generally are always contentious issues, and the paucity of reasonable facilities in Britain, and indeed in other countries, is something which the road haulage sector, and other commercial vehicle users, would like properly addressed. One would imagine then that the latest report this week from transport watchdog Transport Focus, which finds over 95% overall customer satisfaction at UK motorway services would be met with satisfaction by freight industry lobbyists.

However, as Malcolm Bingham, head of road network policy at the Freight Transport Association (FTA) says, investment in services for commercial drivers has not kept pace and satisfaction levels in these areas are dropping. He explained the industry’s position thus:

"While it is encouraging that motorist satisfaction for motorway service areas has risen since the facilities survey in 2017, the gap between the private and commercial sectors is widening in approval terms. The investment in consumer services has generated a much-improved response from those polled, but increasing numbers of commercial drivers have concerns about the facilities offered to them, from a quality and quantity point of view.

"Commercial drivers are expected to undertake a physically and mentally demanding job on the nation's motorways, operating to tight deadlines and under considerable pressure. FTA's members have long been pushing for a more consistent standard of rest areas across the motorway network, and today's research shows that their concerns are real. Along with the Transport Focus findings, FTA members have raised concerns over the availability of HGV parking, particularly during the day, as well as insufficient parking spaces for vehicles, which makes use of toilet and refreshment facilities impossible for hardworking drivers during the day.

"After promising improved facilities for commercial drivers nationwide more than a year ago, the Department for Transport must now step up and fulfil its commitments to the logistics industry. Goods vehicle drivers are covered by regulatory requirements for taking rest during their working week and deserve to have decent parking and facilities available in which to do so. The logistics industry is already struggling to recruit new workers, and with Brexit around the corner, will find it even harder to attract new talent to the sector unless work is done now to bring service areas and their facilities up to scratch for all users, right across the country.

"At the end of a long and tiring working day, no HGV driver wants to park on the side of the road, but in many areas of the UK there are simply not enough parking spaces to accommodate the flow of traffic using the network. While some planning consents have been given to increase the available parking, there are some areas such as the Midlands, East of England and South East where spaces are at a critical or almost critical level. HGV drivers are just as entitled to a comfortable rest break or overnight sleep as any other workers, and it is beholden on local authorities to look carefully at the parking needs in their areas and make sensible recommendations for solutions.

"The logistics industry is committed to keeping Britain trading but cannot do so with a workforce that is tired, hungry and frustrated by looking for places to stop and take a break. We need local authorities and national government to work together to ensure drivers can take the rest they need, when and where it is needed, in safe and secure areas. Drivers deserve to have the same access to facilities as those using the public side of service stations: today's research findings show that there is still some way to go."

Photo: HGV parking at Road King New Hollies