Trials are about to start of a noise mitigation scheme that would allow lorries to make urban deliveries to retailers at night and weekends when they are normally banned – and about time too.
The Quiet Deliveries Demonstration Scheme (QDDS) has been developed by the consortium including the Department for Transport, the Freight Transport Association and the Noise Abatement Society. The plan is to run six trials around the country over the next 15 months.
The government, it appears, has finally taken on board all the arguments for night and weekend deliveries. Transport minister Paul Clark said: “Quiet out-of-hours deliveries can reduce congestion, cut pollution in local areas, and save businesses time and money. This scheme aims to demonstrate that, with the adoption of best practice in quiet delivery technology and techniques, a balance can be found between protecting residents and relaxing curfews for a range of locations and store types.”
How different from a couple of decades ago. Some 25 years ago Dave Wetzel, chair of transport at the Greater London Council, put forward proposals for night and weekend lorry ban.
This was a draconian proposal – all trucks over 7.5 tonnes would be banned except on one or two major roads that were excluded. A permit scheme would enable a small number of essential vehicles to gain access. There was also a proposal that vehicles should be fitted with “hush kits”.
Not surprisingly this was vigorously opposed by retailers and transport operators alike and, although a scheme was put in place, it was rather less onerous than the one originally proposed.
As it stands, the current London Lorry Control Scheme is designed to ensure that goods vehicles above 18 tonnes cannot use the restricted roads from 9pm to 7am every night, Monday evening to Saturday morning, then from 1pm Saturday, through the whole of Sunday, to 7am again on Monday. The penalty charge is currently £550 for hauliers and £120 for drivers.
The current scheme might not be as onerous as that originally proposed, but it cuts down the delivery options for retailers, often forcing them to make deliveries to city centre stores during the morning rush hour. Add to this advent of the red routes along with more onerous parking restrictions and the congestion charge and it is no wonder that deliveries have become so problematic in central London particularly.
One major retailer is reputed to have found that there was no time when it was legal to deliver to one particular city centre store.
So it is no surprise that there has been a lot of pressure to look again at night-time and weekend deliveries – not just in London but in urban areas all around the country.
Last year the Transport Research Laboratory was commissioned by the Department for Transport to review the feasibility of the permissive low-noise certification scheme for goods vehicles and prepare recommendations for the content and operation of such a scheme.
Its “Phase 1” report published in October came up with a two-part set of proposals. The first part concerned night-time delivery noise certification procedures involving a number of tests including stationary and acceleration noise output, air brakes, low-noise tyres, and ancillaries such as reefer units, roll cages, radios and forklifts.
The second part looked at night-time noise impact reduction options and how compliance with relaxed night-time restrictions might be addressed and monitored.
At the same time, the Noise Abatement Society has been developing the “Silent Approach” – a result of co-operation between NAS, the Dutch Senter Novem PIEK scheme, the Freight Transport Association and Dublin University.
Working together with a major supermarket retailer and a London Local Authority, the scheme resulted in the establishment of the UK’s first quiet night-time delivery operation.
The NAS was granted a licence by the Dutch government to run the PIEK scheme in the UK, known as NAS-Piek. Under this scheme, each product is measured and must function emitting less than 60dB at 7.5 metres from the sound source to be considered suitable for out-of-hours delivery that will not cause noise disturbance to nearby residents.
While the industry tends to focus on the cost and inconvenience of having to make deliveries when the roads are at their busiest, the researchers have also found safety implications.A number of UK companies now offer NAS-Piek certified products including: Brigade Electronics, Carrier Transicold, Dhollandia, Gray and Adams, UKRAM Industries, and ThermoKing.
While the industry tends to focus on the cost and inconvenience of having to make deliveries when the roads are at their busiest, the researchers have also found safety implications. Increased traffic congestion at peak times means higher carbon emissions and reduced air quality.
The restrictions also increase the road safety risks for vulnerable groups such as schoolchildren and cyclists by concentrating freight traffic into the hours when such users are competing for road space.
The plan is to run six trials and QDDS manager Chris Douglas, of consultants Transport & Travel Research, says that each one will be overseen by a local working group involving a partnership between the local authority and the retailer.
Curfew relaxation would apply only to retailers respecting agreed working practices developed in partnership with the local authority, and only within a prescribed area governed by the local authority.
Douglas emphasises that it is up to the local partnership to set the rules for its particular trial – one might only allow electric vehicles while another might allow diesel vehicles that meet certain criteria for quiet operation.
The FTA’s regional policy manager Natalie Chapman says: “Retailers simply do not want to disturb local residents. By developing robust guidelines and processes, this scheme will aim to make out-of-hours deliveries a feasible sustainability measure to be seriously considered by local authorities across the country and help with the wider adoption of curfew relaxation for quiet deliveries.”
Gloria Elliott, chief executive of the Noise Abatement Society, is more cautious: “The Quiet Deliveries Demonstration Scheme will establish the viability of quiet out-of-hours or night-time deliveries and the conditions under which they are feasible. Protecting the rights of local residents is of paramount importance. Given the significant health and environmental gains to be made, it is critical to establish feasible and sustainable quiet out-of-hours delivery practices.”
There are big prizes to be won if these experimental schemes can be made to work without upsetting local residents.
Benefits could include: reduced congestion and better journey time reliability; noise reduction through vehicle technology and improved working practices; lower CO2 emissions; lower fuel consumption through reduced congestion; improved air quality through reduced emissions through reduced congestion; and improved local road safety through the removal of HGVs at peak periods.
The trials will take some 15 months to complete.
Be a good neighbour and don’t:
1. Drive down the A206 Woolwich Road to reach Sainsbury’s Charlton depot at night or weekends. “This small section of road is residential, highly complaint-sensitive and can easily be avoided, so we will issue a Penalty Charge Notice for this, even if the vehicle has a permit,” says Transport for London. (This means using restricted roads when the journey should be entirely on the excluded network.)
2. Use Brentfield Road as a shortcut from the A406 North Circular to Park Royal. (This involves coming off the excluded route network too soon.) TfL says this destination must be approached either from Abbey Road, or northbound from the A40.
3. Use the A503 to traverse between the A10 and A1. (It means joining up excluded roads, by the use of restricted roads, and is classed by TfL as additional restricted road usage, not minimal use and therefore not in compliance.)
4. Drive onto restricted roads early to beat congestion. TfL says: “This is using the restricted roads during the prescribed hours when the delivery is say, 9am. Even in London’s traffic it does not take two hours to reach any delivery/pick-up point from the ERN, so a driver does not need to be travelling on restricted roads during the prescribed hours for a delivery/pick-up scheduled so long after the controlled hours end.)
5. Use the Woolwich Ferry at weekends. The access roads to the ferry are restricted on both sides of the river, says TfL. “But drivers travelling from, say, Essex to destinations in Kent, or vice versa, instead of using the M25 (particularly if they have to pay the toll at the Dartford Crossing) take the opportunity of a free trip across the river, via the ferry. This is a clear-cut breach because the vehicle had no business in London at all.”
(TfL’s top five breaches of the London Lorry Control Scheme)