Campaigner and FACTS columnist Karen Roberts reports on the impacts of the Kent HGV clamping trial and how a lack of secure lorry parking is needlessly penalising those on the frontlines of road haulage

Secure lorry parks are in high demand right across the UK, yet places for lorries to park for the night are being removed before new parking places are provided. It costs around £3000 to qualify to become a lorry driver; these dedicated professionals are essential to the country’s transport industry and economy, yet they have a constant battle to find suitable secure resting places. The majority of existing lorry parks charge a high premium to park for the night, but many are failing to provide the security that is so desperately needed to control freight crime, which in return would save the haulage industry millions of pounds. Drivers are challenged daily when planning their day as our roads and ports are so unpredictable. Major motorways are affected by accidents on a daily basis and the ports often supply a reduced service due to maintenance works or even bad weather.

Chaos in Kent
The recently introduced trial clamping scheme for illegally parked HGVs in Kent immediately brought chaos to the Ashford truck stop. Queues of trucks were seen trying to park for the night and with 252 turned away on the first night alone, the demand for more parking in this area is clear. Kent presents a unique problem; lorry drivers are dependent on the smooth flow of the ports and with the restricted stopping and parking zone in Calais, this new clamping scheme only adds to the pressure of trying to find somewhere to park when arriving in the Kent area.

Eurotunnel can have up to eight departures an hour at peak times, which brings in approximately 256 trucks every hour. By providing a direct link between the A16 in Calais and the M20 in Folkestone, Eurotunnel enables hauliers to save 25km in driving time and fuel costs to and from London compared to travelling via Dover. The recent week-long reduced timetable at Eurotunnel, which has been scheduled after the launch of the clamping trial, is supplying only half the normal service of trains to and from Calais. This has brought delays of around three and a half hours. As clamping is effective between the hours of 8pm-7am, and Ashford truck stop is at full capacity shortly after 8pm, this has certainly added to the pressure of finding somewhere to park in Kent.

A driver affected by the clamping scheme said: “Kent as a county is the UK’S gateway in and out of Europe and involves tens of thousands of vehicle movements every day. HGV drivers are governed by strict rules regarding their working hours and rest periods but no driver coming to Britain via Calais will park within a hundred miles of the port due to the safety risks that come with resting near the migrant camp. This means their remaining legal working time will be short; once they cross the channel, they will need to either take a 45-minute break or an 11-hour rest period. The question is; where are they supposed to go? Provide the truck parks at a reasonable cost and they will use them. No driver is asking for the Hilton; they just want a quiet secure place with basic amenities to rest. Is that too much to ask? Clamping drivers is not the answer without a solution as to where they can abide by the law.”

Lorries parked in laybys are being clamped under a new trial scheme in Ashford, Kent.

Petition success
A petition I raised on Parliament.co.uk entitled “Provide much needed Truck Stops across the UK with modern facilities” was acknowledged by the Government in April 2017. They responded: “We know, to support the [haulage] industry and those that work in it, there is a need for more good quality roadside facilities and there needs to be better access to facilities at delivery sites. To seek to address this, Department for Transport (DfT) Minister, the Rt Hon John Hayes CBE MP chaired a working group with industry representatives to address the availability and standard of facilities. To inform the wider work on roadside facilities, the DfT has also commissioned a national survey of lorry parking that will provide evidence about what facilities are needed and where they should be situated. This information is vital if new facilities are to be commercially viable and assist councils in controlling inappropriate parking. The survey work will be extensive and the study is due to be completed soon.”

Despite the Government saying they were “fully committed”, plans for a new £250 million park near Hythe have now been dropped. This will no doubtingly add to the current lack of parking already in the Kent area.

Speaking to Kent Online, James Hann, Parking Manager, Ashford Borough Council, said: “There are spaces in the truck stops the drivers could use, and we need to show we do not want them parking on the A20. We have the ability to clamp otherwise we would be a toothless tiger, so it is an important new trial.” As the DfT are yet to release the commissioned national survey of lorry parking, the claim that there are “spaces in the truck stops” is yet to be proved correct.

There is signage in one layby within the clamping zone which states no parking of vehicles over 5 tonnes between midnight-7am and 8pm-midnight. This is somewhat adding to the confusion of being permitted to park there during the day and not at night when parking spaces are severely limited and in high demand. Currently, drivers have not seen any signage indicating that clamping is in progress within the given areas. As there is no signage indicating that the clamping trial has been enacted, a £250 fine is without a doubt an expensive way to learn that the trial is in fact in progress.

It is understandable that residents of Kent do not want human waste and rubbish left in laybys and on the industrial estates, nor to have such a vast lorry park in the area. The answer could be the construction of several smaller, affordable truck stops spread throughout the region, easing the number of lorries specifically within Ashford. This would satisfy both residents’ concerns and provide a secure place for HGV drivers to rest up before continuing their essential work in keeping our economy moving.

Follow Karen on Twitter: @KarenRo57045350