Monday, November 12, 2012

Road haulage and Freight Interests Speak Up on Truck Speeds

Safety Paramount as Industry Illustrates Advantages of Law Change
Shipping News Feature

UK – Last week, prompted by a Department for Transport (DfT) commissioned report (in full HERE) by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) the department launched a Consultation on the question of the permitted speeds of heavy trucks travelling on A roads prompting both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) to make their respective organisation’s positions on the matter clear.

To the uninformed the thought of allowing HGV’s to travel at higher speeds on single carriageway roads might seem irrational but the fact that a long vehicle is forced to travel at some 20 miles per hour slower than other traffic inevitably leads to tailbacks, driver frustration and dangerous overtaking manoeuvres by smaller, faster vehicles.

The RHA has published its own ‘Position Paper’ which sets out a cogent case for an overhaul on specific carriageways and in which the RHA gauges that support from other logistics interests would be overwhelming. RHA Director of Policy Jack Semple said:

“The consultation is clear and balanced and we will be responding formally in due course. Our key message is likely to be that the legal limit should be raised to 50 mph on suitable A-roads. This would improve efficiency and reduce congestion, as the DfT suggests. It would also improve road safety, an issue on which academics have been unable to come up with firm evidence but on which the industry has no doubt.

“What are suitable roads for a 50 mph speed limit? We suggest these can be defined in regulation as stretches of A-roads where the national speed limit for cars is in place rather than a lower limit. Where there is a lower limit – such as 50 mph - the 40 mph limit should be retained. Raising the limit for HGV’s in this way would be a progressive move that would have the strong support of the road haulage and logistics industry.”

The FTA is taking a very similar line and point out the organisation has long campaigned on this subject, supporting the reduction of the speed differential between HGVs and other vehicles on single carriageway roads. The FTA recognises the safety aspect of the change as paramount buts also adds that, as well as reducing accidents, it believes the current state of affairs causes unnecessary costs to vehicle operators, congestion and further still creates an uneven playing field for businesses.

The FTA points out that, according to the DfT, the policy objective is to maximise the benefits of travel to society, taking into account the sum of economic, environmental and safety outcomes and Malcolm Bingham, FTA Head of Road Network Management Policy reiterates his Association’s belief that safety would be improved by the change saying:

“We believe that firstly it will reduce the number of incidents where drivers overtake or attempt to overtake slower moving HGV’s who are simply complying with the national speed limit. We know from observations by FTA members drivers on these roads often become impatient and take unacceptable risk to get by goods vehicles.

“Another issue that has been raised is the acceptability of travelling at higher speed than set by the national speed limits. DfT figures indicate that many drivers may exceed that 40 mph limit on these single carriageway roads. Whilst our members would not want their drivers to disobey any speed limit and many feel that it is inappropriate behaviour to do so; it creates a stressful situation when driving a vehicle at a lower speed than others particularly when other road users try to encourage the HGV to move faster. Legitimising a new speed limit will take away the stress felt by all drivers in these circumstances which we believe will lead to improved road safety.”

The remit of the Consultation is to consider responses to the points raised in the TRL report and anyone can make their views known by submitting their views directly via an online survey as well as responding in a similar fashion to the to the RHA Position Paper.