31 January 2017

Councils Call for Powers to Punish Freight Drivers Who Use Wrong Satnavs  

Stuck Trucks Causes Anger with Officials

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Shipping News Feature UK – The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, has called for all lorry drivers using satnavs to use commercial models, following a ‘fresh catalogue of chaos on the nation's roads. Acknowledging that while the majority of lorry drivers are reputable and responsible, the LGA says that a minority cut corners by using cheaper satnavs designed for cars that don’t provide sufficient details for HGV drivers, leading them through routes with low bridges and narrow roads.

Villages and rural communities across the country have been blighted by a recent spate of lorry smashes. A historic bridge in Marlow, Bucks, had to be closed for months – with £200,000 damage - after a driver reportedly drove a truck 10 times the structure's weight limit over it. Lorries have ripped off their roofs on low bridges, and wedged themselves in historic town centres causing mayhem. Another driver whose lorry was emblazoned with ‘phenomenal' was anything but – he got stuck in a narrow street, forcing a picturesque village to grind to a halt.

Lorry satnavs differ slightly from normal car satnavs, with the inclusion of bridge heights, narrow roads, and roads unsuitable for trucks. In addition, they allow the driver to enter the lorry's dimensions – height, width, weight and load – so they are only guided along suitable roads. However, they are typically slightly more expensive than ones designed for cars.

The LGA wants councils to also be able to fine lorry drivers who flout weight restrictions. Lorries of a certain weight or width are banned from many minor roads but the police do not always have the resources to enforce the restrictions. The Government has handed powers under the Traffic Management Act (2004) to local authorities in Wales and London (under different legislation) to take action if lorry drivers break the law. Councils across the country must also be given the ability to enforce weight and width restrictions where there are hotspots of abuse in their communities by issuing fines.

The LGA wants the Government to enable councils to take enforcement action where necessary with Councils up and down the country already working with communities to tackle the issue by organising lorry watch schemes, and also working with freight and haulage companies to ensure that lorries use the most suitable routes and roads.

The LGA suggests that the money collected from the fines could be used towards tackling the national pothole backlog – which could reach £14 billion in two years. LGA Transport spokesman Cllr Martin Tett said:

"There has been a spate of recent accidents involving lorry drivers driving irresponsibly and causing chaos. The Government must start taking this issue more seriously and give councils the legislative tools to help their communities and other motorists.

"It is common sense that all lorry drivers should use satnavs designed for trucks, but this is only going to become a reality when it is a mandatory requirement. We are talking about a very small extra cost to drivers.

"Lorry drivers who get wedged in narrow roads or under bridges not only endanger themselves, other road users and pedestrians, but also cause massive disruption. This has a significant impact on local economies, particularly in rural areas. Some rural communities are fed-up with lorries ignoring weight restrictions and using their streets. The additional noise, vibration and pollution make their lives miserable.

"Councils hear these concerns and are doing everything they can to help their residents, working with communities by organising lorry watch schemes. But they are trying to take action with one hand tied behind their back and urgently need tougher powers. If a community is being plagued by problems, councils should be able to respond to their concerns by issuing fines to act as a deterrent.

"We would stress that most lorry drivers are reputable and drive responsibly. These powers would be targeted at the minority who do not follow the law. This is also about protecting the drivers' safety as well as the safety of residents and other road users."

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