Shameful delay

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In June last year, I criticised the government for failing to deal with the growing number of foreign vehicles in a dangerous condition or in which the driver had exceeded the hours regulations. Clearly, a rise in the number of dangerous vehicles on the road would inevitably lead to a rise in the number of serious accidents. I was also concerned that scare stories in the media could be very damaging to our industry, which already gets more than its fair share of bad publicity for one reason or another.

I wrote at the time: “…the industry can well do without wild stories in the tabloids of ‘killer lorries’…”

But, despite the efforts of many in the industry to get the government to take action, for the best part of a year it did nothing.

Then, on 31st March this year, ITV broadcast a programme under the title “Killer Lorries”.

All of a sudden, things began to happen. In a written statement to the Commons on 3rd April, transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick set out key targets for the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency for 2008-9, including a target to: “Deliver a programme of increased enforcement activities at hot spots on the strategic road network, contributing to a 15 per cent increase in the number of dangerous vehicles and drivers being taken off the road compared with 07/08.”

Less than a week later Fitzpatrick announced an extra £24m to clamp down on unsafe HGVs on international journeys.

He is promising two new enforcement sites in locations with a high volume of high risk HGV traffic; a 50 per cent increase in the number of HGV checks carried out; a near doubling of prohibitions; 97 additional enforcement staff; and moves towards 24-7 enforcement checks.

Well, it’s a result. But the government should have done this when the problem first became apparent, rather than being shamed into it by a television programme. Let’s hope that it now gets the problem under control.



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