Wednesday, December 23, 2015

UK Traffic Problems for Road Haulage Operators Will Extend Well Past Christmas

Some Good News for London Drivers However
Shipping News Feature
UK – The news that the Forth Road Bridge is to remain closed well past the originally forecast date has prompted a rapid reaction from both the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA). The bridge was shut earlier this month for urgent repairs with a proposed opening date of January 4. The Department for Transport (DfT) sensibly extended truck drivers hours as described in our story at the time.

This week it was announced that the bridge will now remain closed to HGVs until mid-February, a move described by the FTA as a ‘devastating blow’. Despite now being opened to buses and coaches as well as cars, HGVs and vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes will have to use an alternative route until permanent strengthening work is completed. The FTA’s Director of Policy, Karen Dee, said:

“The First Minister offered reassurance that the bridge would re-open to all vehicles on 4 January so this is a devastating blow for our members. The additional costs incurred by the 50-mile diversion are significant, especially when contracts have already been signed and there is no opportunity to recoup the money.”

Both the FTA and the RHA are to meet with government officials in a bid to have the temporary relaxation to drivers’ hours regulations, originally planned to run until Wednesday 6 January, extended until the bridge repairs are completed. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett commented:

“This [delay] will have a massive impact on hauliers who are either based in, or making regular journeys to, Scotland. The major distribution centres on the northern, Fife-side of the river are totally reliant on an efficient, swift transport system and we have had many reports from members who are already struggling to keep to their pre-Christmas delivery schedules. The news that they will continue to face delays and a massive increase in cost for another 8 weeks will, for many, prove to be unsustainable.

“When the closure was first announced, we calculated that additional costs for a single HGV resulting from a round trip detour of 60 miles would add an extra £30 in fuel costs alone. With an estimated 10,500 HGVs using the bridge each day, the additional operating costs to the industry will be well in excess of £600,000 per day.

“Based on these figures, this catastrophe has already cost the haulage industry £9.6 million since its closure on 4 December. If hauliers have to wait until the end of February to resume a normal service, we can confidently predict that the cost will be in excess of £40 million. Many members have already had no alternative but to ask their customers for a rate increase – to ask for an extension until the end of February will, for many, be the final straw.

“We note that Transport Minister Derek Mackay has praised the team involved in the repair worked hard to get the bridge reopened and we would also urge him to support and recognise the hard work that has been, and will continue to be undertaken, by the haulage operators who are striving so hard to keep the Scottish economy moving.”

The repairs themselves will of course be dependent on clement weather, never a sure thing in the region, and a temporary steel splint has been installed on one truss whilst more permanent works are being completed. The situation for the ordinary haulier is best explained by this comment from just one FTA member, who said:

“If you consider that in recent days we have run between 20 and 40 vehicles a day, in rough terms it is costing us between two and four thousand pounds per day.”

Better news for London motorists with the news that the Congestion Charge will be suspended for a week, from Friday 25 December until Friday 1 January inclusive. The daily charge will apply again from Monday 4 January. Not so good is the usual slew of road repairs taking place in the Capital and drivers of all vehicles are advised to consult the TfL website for a complete update.

Photo: Sometimes a picture is self-explanatory – courtesy of TfL.