Overnight truck parking in the UK: A looming crisis?
Read the article and have your say.
Road transport is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the UK. Drivers’ working hours are, quite rightly, carefully controlled, with severe penalties for exceeding limits and failing to take sufficient rest. Every day and night thousands of heavy goods vehicle drivers require somewhere to park in order to take their mandatory rest periods.
In addition to the space to park a truck, a basic requirement is clean restrooms and a place to wash and shower. If there is somewhere providing decent food and space to relax away from the cab, even better. Surely this level of support should be possible for key workers in an industry that every single person in the country is dependent upon to provide their goods and services?
Truck drivers are a key part of the infrastructure that services our on-demand culture, only the flexibility and efficiency of modern road transport can provide this level of choice and availability. While some may think that other forms of transportation could replace the truck, they are sadly mistaken; it would be like taking our society back to before the Industrial Revolution. Even the most anti-truck individuals have to concede that road transport is essential. More reasonable people are tolerant of road transport, recognising the benefits of the petrol tanker delivering to the filling station, or the supermarket truck at the store. However, many fail to see any connection between the 44-tonne artic that delivers the supermarket supplies to the regional depot or the low loader that carried the crane that built the fuel refinery. They often view the truck as a nuisance, delaying traffic and having no reason for being in front of them. In Britain, this attitude continues towards trucks that are parked up overnight.
This is hardly a new problem, overnight truck parking has been an issue in this country for generations, but now, given the dire shortage of space in many of the more densely populated parts of the UK, it is rapidly becoming a national scandal.
There is a serious shortage of proper truck stops, with quite a number closing in recent years. Roadside cafes with decent parking areas are now few and far between, and many motorway service areas do not have sufficient parking areas for heavy trucks. As a result, many drivers resort to parking in roadside laybys, industrial estates and almost any other quiet spot they can find. This can cause problems with a minority of drivers failing to respect other people’s property, leaving litter and sometimes far worse behind, which eventually leads to further parking restrictions.
The demand for overnight parking is at a higher level than ever before, but unfortunately, the needs of the transport industry and its drivers have been largely ignored. I believe that politicians are the main culprits, but other industries that rely upon road transport, along with private developers, have played a part in exacerbating the problem. Many large industrial parks on greenfield sites have absolute bans upon any form of truck parking; some are so extreme that if a driver stops for just a few minutes to consult a map or check an address, a wheel-clamping van from an enforcement company arrives!
Surely a more enlightened approach would be to accept that the construction of new factories and huge distribution warehouses is going to create a considerable amount of heavy truck movement. A number of the drivers travel a significant distance, often from elsewhere in Europe and, when they get close to the limit of their driving hours, need to take either a break or an overnight rest period. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to realise that there will be a need for truck parking. In any other situation, this might well be seen as a potential business opportunity, but in the UK in particular, it’s seen as a nuisance.
As far as I can see, the planners and politicians have no strategic plan for truck parking at both local and national level, planning rules and environmental regulations make it very difficult to get approval for a truck stop, parking area or even a transport depot with additional parking.
Furthermore, the business rates imposed on an enterprise with a large area of hard standing are very high in many areas, making it impossible for a truck stop facility with limited income streams to cover costs. The more the owners try to improve parking facilities, the higher the financial penalty, hence the number of existing truck stops that have closed in recent years. The owners have turned the land over to industrial, retail or housing rather than slowly going bust running a truck stop.
The landowners and developers who look to maximise returns for shareholders also have a part to play in this problem; few are prepared to commit any amount of valuable land for what they view as a low return activity such as truck parking. Their clients who occupy the vast warehouses they build have an equally detached view of the problem. They request that suppliers deliver goods at a required time and turn a blind eye to any of the operational challenges the haulier and the driver have to overcome in order to meet their requirements. Often imposing financial penalties for failing to deliver the goods on time and sometimes creating further problems by delaying the unloading or loading of vehicles because of their own internal inefficiencies.
The third culprit is the transport industry itself. The ultra-competitive culture in many sectors means that cost saving becomes essential. This means that drivers are pushed to achieve maximum productivity and often end up running out of hours due to traffic delays and other issues, increasing costs and cutting into profit margins. As a result, a number of operators refuse to pay overnight parking expenses for their drivers, no matter what the circumstances, which means that the driver has to find an alternative, and often unsuitable, stopping area. The driver adopts an attitude of not caring anymore, which often leads to antisocial practices and the whole cycle takes place once more.
Sadly, there isn’t a magic plan to solve the problem, but ignoring the issue is making things far worse. Hopefully, by raising awareness of the parking challenges faced by truck drivers every day across the UK, people might start to pay attention and take action.
In a statement issued on 1 November 2017, the RHA said “lack of official parking facilities means additional stress for HGV drivers,” in response to the news that over 200 trucks were turned away because of lack of parking at Kent’s Ashford Truckstop.
Read the full article: HERE
Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the RHA said: “This clearly underlines the lack of even the most basic of facilities for HGV drivers who need to rest at the end of their shift. No driver wants to spend the night in a layby – it’s both unsafe and unhygienic. But for those who are unable to get into an official truckstop there is no alternative. The additional stress that this causes HGV drivers is both unnecessary and avoidable. With Christmas just weeks away the levels of traffic journeying across the Channel will increase dramatically and the amount of HGVs on Kent roads in particular will intensify. But what are those drivers, unable to get into a lorry park to do? The refusal of local authorities to acknowledge this serious problem are simply putting the safety of drivers and their loads at risk. What employer would ask their staff to spend the night, in their car, in a layby? For the thousands of HGV drivers responsible for moving 90% of the UK economy, there is simply no choice.”
UK TRUCK STOP OF THE YEAR 2017
Truckstop News readers have cast their votes for ‘Truck Stop of the Year 2017’, in association with TomTom. No news on the winner yet but below is a list of the eight finalists:
· Ashford International Truck Stop (Ashford, TN24 0GB, 01233 502919)
· Route 74 Truckstop (Lesmahagow, ML11 0JN, 01555 896210)
· Lodge Farm Café (A17 Holbeach, PE12 8LT, 01406 424283)
· Junction 29 Truck Stop (Chesterfield, S42 5SA, 01246 599600)
· Langrick Railway Station Café (Langrick, 01205 280023)
· Chippenham Pit Stop (Chippenham, SN15 5LH, 01249 750645)
· PJM Lorry Park (Coventry, CV3 4PY, 02476 992866)
· Jacks Hill Cafe (Towcester, NN12 8ET, 01327 351350)
Read the article HERE
Is your favourite on the list? Let us know which truck stop in the UK would get your vote.
Have your say. Let us know your thoughts on overnight truck parking in the UK, have you experienced the challenges Bob describes? Or perhaps you have a recommendation for a truck stop with good facilities? We want to hear your thoughts.