It is good to see that our man at the ministry, Stephen Hammond MP, does take our industry seriously; and wants to know about the needs of all road users, including hauliers.
A couple of weeks ago, the RHA’s Director of Policy, Jack Semple, acting chief executive, Nick Payne, and myself met with the Minister a few days after he had been driven round the streets of London by RHA member Peter Eason of ELB Partners.
This gave Mr Hammond the opportunity to see, first-hand, the problems that face LGV drivers every day. One issue that is of keen interest to the Minister is the issue of cyclists, and Peter Eason was not disappointed when they were undertaken by a lady cyclist; no hi-vis jacket, no helmet but with ear phones in place while texting on her mobile phone. How crazy are some road users?
The meeting we had with Mr Hammond was held at the Department for Transport in the late afternoon, which in the end was to be a bonus for us as we did over-stay our allotted time. Of course cycling and entry to construction sites was high on the agenda, and he did remark on his visit to ELB. We also told him that hauliers were finding it more and more difficult in keeping up with what the construction industry required, as different sites required hauliers to fit different equipment. We suggested there should be some common practices put in place by official bodies, rather than the ad hoc process we seem to be up against.
There were several questions asked about DVSA (formerly VOSA). In particular, rooting out seriously non-compliant operators. He thought that the OCRS scoring was doing this but we had to correct him noting that the industry was finding that there are too many inconsistencies, and that DVSA needs to make sure all their staff, sing off the same hymn sheet. We also pushed the case to permit private examiners to conduct DVSA annual vehicle testing – with DSVA staff monitoring and audit the system. This would create more flexible test timings, so enabling our industry to be more productive by getting vehicles back on the roads quicker. The other item aimed at DVSA was the Restricted “O” License. We pointed out that many of these operators do not abide by any of the obligations that we as Standard Operators do, despite using similar sized vehicles and the same roads. We pressed the point that they should also be more accountable; bearing in mind the rest of Europe does not have this inequality in operating standards.
On the matter of Drivers CPC we have again pressed the point of being able to have three and a half hour periodic training courses, stressing the point that drivers do lose their concentration after sitting in a class room for seven hours, and that the shorter sessions would be more interesting and absorbing for them.
One very interesting point made by the Minister was that in early March we will finally find out what is happening in regards to raising the speed limit for HGV’s on single carriageway A-roads to 50mph. He would not be drawn as to which way the decision would go, but hopefully in the next few days, we will, at least, see some reward for the RHA’s hard campaigning on the issue.
Having been given the chance to speak to the Minister, we don’t expect immediate results but if we – along with people like Peter Eason – take the opportunity to get our points of view over to the people that make the decisions, we stand more chance of getting results that enhance and help our Industry. Never give up a chance to speak with people in authority. If people in our Industry continue to chip away, raising the profile of issues that affect us, eventually breakthroughs will happen.