Creatures of the night

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Everybody knows the best time to use the roads is when they’re at their quietest – and that generally means during the hours of darkness. So why aren’t more deliveries allowed to take place at night?

It’s only right to protect the interests of local residents, naturally, but the noise level generated by trucks on the road these days is significantly less than it was twenty years ago, when many of the current delivery restrictions were put in place. There are also many measures that can be implemented to make loading and unloading activities quieter too, from rubber buffers along the inner walls of trailers to stop roll cage ‘rattle’, to radios that automatically switch off when the cab doors are open.

Running more trucks at night would certainly benefit society in several ways. It would remove heavy vehicles from the roads at peak periods, particularly during the morning rush hour, for example. It would also help cut down on unnecessary vehicle emissions by reducing the stop-start driving patterns typical of daytime driving. Vehicle operators would save on fuel costs as a result and vehicle drivers would be less stressed. It could also be argued that keeping HGVs and the general motoring public apart would mean fewer accidents, and more night-time deliveries would also benefit retailers, of course, who often struggle to get early morning deliveries out onto their shelves before opening time.

It may never be acceptable to allow trucks to deliver right through the night, perhaps, but the idea of at least relaxing the current curfews – which typically range from 10pm to 7am – by an hour or two each side surely wouldn’t put that many noses out of joint in our increasingly 24-hour society.

The problem, it seems, is really one of politics. Local delivery restrictions are imposed by local authorities and local councillors are elected by local people, which makes even one street-full of protesting homes a potential problem: who wants to be the councillor at election time who’s just sanctioned 44-tonne deliveries at 5am each day across the entire region?

Two glimmers of hope, however, have recently emerged on this issue. The first is the publication late last year of a new guide for anyone wishing to consider a trial of more night-time deliveries. Though it hasn’t had much noticeable impact so far, Delivering the Goods: a Toolkit for Improving Night-time Deliveries, put together by a joint industry and government group, should make it easier for fleet operators and retailers to approach their local councils about extended delivery hours – and easier for those councils to listen.

The second is a simple matter of timing. Since regional elections were conducted this May in most parts of the country, councillors must currently be feeling as safe in their seats as they can ever hope to. That means there’s never been a better time for you to get hold of the toolkit and get on to your local authority about relaxing the curfews.

Don’t hang about too long, though, because with many local councils now eyeing up the possibility of introducing their own local congestion charging schemes, it won’t be too long before they’ve got a really good reason to turn down any application for extended delivery hours: they’ll make far too much money by charging you to sit in queues of peak-time traffic during the day instead.

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