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PARKING BAYS

HeavyTorque Issue 2 - Parking Bays

ABNORMAL LOAD PARKING BAYS

BIG VEHICLES NEED BIG PARKING BAYS, BUT UNFORTUNATELY THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS FORTHCOMING. KATHARINE NARICI, FROM THE HTA, EXPLAINS WHY THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT, AND WHAT IS BEING DONE ABOUT THE LACK OF THEM

The Heavy Transport Association (HTA) has recently written to John Hayes MP, Minister of Transport and the Highways Agency, about the unavailability of abnormal load parking bays, which are vital for laying up abnormal loads for driver rest periods and during abnormal load movement embargos. The issues have been highlighted by several HTA members, and one only has to visit transport forum blogs to note the extent of the problem.

Without transport and road haulage, UK Plc would undoubtedly grind to a halt, and without the heavy haulage industry, major construction works and heavy engineering-related exports would not be possible.As road users, the members of the HTA ensure that important construction projects are undertaken; wind farms, petrochemical plants, highways and bridges and major building constructions and engineering plant are moved to where they are needed. The professionalism of HTA members ensures that abnormal load movements are well planned and executed on time, whilst keeping public safety in mind. Such vehicles need somewhere to park or layup, and it is essential that facilities are available to service such needs.

Drivers hour’s legislation dictates rest periods, and so abnormal load specific parking bays are crucial. Abnormal indivisible loads (AILs) cannot use standard lay-bys because of their dimensions – especially if they are wide or long. However, we as an association are receiving a number of reports that AIL-specific lay-bys are being used by normal HGVs (or even vans) despite there being notices to indicate that parking is only available for those vehicles more than 7m in length, and more than 2.9m wide.

HTA Members have reported that when they ask the HGV drivers to move so that they can park up, these drivers refuse to do so, and often respond with threatening and abusive behaviour. In one particular case, at South Mimms, the AIL parking bays were full of normal HGVs (notwithstanding signs that parking was restricted for abnormal load vehicles). The AIL driver contacted the police but was informed the police had no powers to move the offending HGVs on or issue fixed penalty notices.

The AIL driver was forced to park on the edge of a through route, and place cones around his vehicle. This type of encounter obviously has safety implications. The HTA has also received reports that some AIL specific lay-bys are kept locked.

Where provision for AIL parking is either denied or unavailable, an AIL driver has no option but to improvise, as described above, or carry on driving in the hope of finding another suitable lay-by. But by taking this risk, the driver may end up exceeding their hours, and potentially pose a road safety issue. It also needs to be appreciated that unlike drivers of other HGVs, an AIL driver is unable to drive around looking for a suitable place to park as he cannot be diverted off his authorised route.

Motor Service areas are usually suitable for AIL parking but, again, there is anecdotal evidence that they are over subscribed by ‘normal’ HGV vehicles and designated parking for AILs is occupied by such vehicles. Motorway service staff appear unwilling or unable to carry out enforcement and the Highways Agency has no powers in these areas. In some areas (e.g. M4, Junction 22) the police do not permit overnight parking, which can cause problems for drivers of AILs in trying to comply with drivers’ hours legislation.

The following table gives examples of where problems with AIL parking have been brought to the attention of the HTA:

SOUTH MIMMS

AIL parking bays are full of other vehicles

CLACKET LANE

AIL parking bays are full of other vehicles

CHARNOCK ROAD SERVICES

AIL parking bays usually full of other vehicles

TODDINGTON SERVICES

Marked AIL bay is always full of other vehicles

THURROCK ROUNDABOUT SERVICES

Abnormal load parking bay is gated and locked

M42 JUNCTION 10

Bays often full of roadwork vehicles and aggregates

M5 JUNCTION 8

Bays often full of roadwork vehicles and aggregates

M4 JUNCTION 22

AIL layby but Avon & Somerset police do not allow overnight parking

M5 JUNCTION 2

This is an old AIL layby – perhaps underused but there are always EU vehicles parked in it overnight

M40 WARWICK SERVICES

There are AIL laybys both north and south bound but there are always EU vehicles parked in there over night

M6 JUNCTION 16

One of the first designated AIL laybys but always used by other vehicles

NORTH OF THE M1 TIBSHELF MOTORWAY SERVICE AREA BETWEEN JUNCTIONS 28 AND 29

Highways Agency Area 7 has closed two of its AIL specific parking bays for construction works and they were due to open in the summer, but will now open towards the end of the year.

The M25 appears to be a particularly difficult for AIL drivers because of the Metropolitan Police ban on abnormal loads entering London until 7pm at night. This results in a severe shortage of abnormal load specific parking bays in the area.

The HTA was invited to meet with Connect Plus and the Highways Agency to discuss the issues on 20th January. The meeting was attended by representatives from a number of high authorities, police forces (the Metropolitan Police, Essex and Surrey/Sussex police) and a small number of hauliers and escorters.

The meeting was constructive and although a lot of discussion focused on the M25 (perhaps not unsurprisingly as it was convened by Connect Plus), there was also discussion of a wider nature and all the hauliers present ensured that everyone was aware this was a nationwide problem. There appeared to be little appreciation by some highway authorities as to why AILs needed to have dedicated Abnormal Indivisible Load (AIL) parking bays and perhaps more importantly why they needed to be in certain areas.

Some seemed surprised that there was a particular problem around the M25 not appreciating that this was largely due to the aforementioned restrictions. Of course similar problems exist across the country as police forces restrict movements in rush-hour or darkness, but little or no provision is made to allow drivers to comply with these rulings. It had to be explained that unlike ‘normal’ vehicles, AIL drivers couldn’t just drive around until they found somewhere to park due to being unable to deviate from the authorised route.

The provision of AIL parking bays is a problem in many areas because it is not always clear who owns the land and/or who is responsible for enforcement. The police were quick to point out that it is no longer their responsibility to enforce the parking restrictions and unless they were actually escorting a load they are not enpowered to move vehicles on. On a similar note, the Highways Agency Traffic Officers (HATOs) do not have powers to move vehicles from AIL bays either. Generally it comes down to the land owner – often the local authority – to carry out enforcement using parking enforcement officers (try finding one of them at midnight!). Even the motorway service areas, which are generally contractually bound to provide AIL parking, are apparently not obliged to police their use! There were even examples quoted of DVSA misusing, and even moving AILs on, from designated parking bays to facilitate roadside checks.

It was suggested that the traffic commissioners be asked to take up the cause with DVSA and to investigate whether HATO’s could be enpowered to police AIL parking bays. There was also discussion on the general lack of facilities at many of the bays and it was acknowledged that it was unreasonable not to provide basic toilet and washing facilities with access to somewhere to eat within close proximity. Connect Plus said that it would update its list of AIL parking bays within its area, with details of ownership, facilities, i.e. toilets, CCTV, etc. The Highways Agency (HA) likewise said the AIL Grid would be updated to show parking areas and possibly include these on ESDAL. There was a general feeling that ‘we’ had achieved something in terms of getting those present at the meeting to recognise that there was a problem and that if not addressed quite soon there was potential for a very serious accident. Hopefully, having got some support from within the highway authorities the HTA can keep the pressure on to actually achieve some tangible benefit. The HTA notes that the Government is in the process of reforming the Highways Agency and has committed much funding towards improving the road network to “ensure long-term certainty in unlocking economic growth,” and that the changes are to make sure that road user’s voices are heard”.

It is hoped that with the passing of the Infrastructure Act 2015 on 12th February 2015, the Minster for Transport will take note of the problems faced by the haulage industry.

HEAVYTORQUE IS WELL AWARE OF THE PROBLEM OF PARKING BAYS FOR ABNORMAL LOADS – WE INTEND TO WORK TOGETHER WITH THE INDUSTRIES OPERATORS AND ESCORTERS TO INVESTIGATE THIS MATTER FURTHER.

LET US KNOW YOUR STORIES

We want to hear from you, and your experiences of AIL parking bays and how they are treated. Let us know your stories, and, if applicable, send us pictures of problems you’ve witnessed at service centres around the country. Email: andy@heavytorque.co.uk with your stories and pictures.

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