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BAA says laws to ‘make roads safer’ are potentially lethal

Robert Durward

British Aggregates Association claims new regulations to improve road safety are having opposite effect

ACCORDING to the British Aggregates Association (BAA), it is becoming increasingly clear that new regulations introduced to ‘improve road safety’ have had the opposite effect and people may be dying as a result.

It says this view has been brought into focus by last week’s tragic incident in Bath in which a four-year-old girl and three adults were killed when a 19-year-old driver lost control of a 32-tonne tipper truck.

 

Until recently, the minimum age for driving this size of truck was 21, but insurance restrictions and safety concerns normally meant that few drivers younger than 24 were actually allowed behind the wheel.

However, the BAA says that due to a mass exodus of experienced drivers from the industry, transport managers are now having to use less-experienced, foreign and agency drivers to keep the wheels turning.

According to the Association, the problem started in 2005 when pressure groups insisted that the Working Time Directive should be applied to the haulage industry, even though other industries were able to opt out.

The BAA says it did not matter that the UK’s transport was already tightly regulated or that there was no identifiable problem, as it is virtually impossible to argue against legislation ‘to save lives’.

The Working Time Directive had an immediate effect, as many of the more capable drivers left the industry to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Owner drivers – the traditional route into the industry – also began to leave as they could not afford to maintain and replace their trucks when working just 48 hours per week.

According to the BAA, not only has this changed the nature of the industry, it has made it more dangerous as well, as owner drivers tended to be more mature, had good reason to drive carefully and rarely, if ever, used mobile phones or texted at the wheel.

It says that while the knock-on effect on road safety was camouflaged by the recession in 2008, with HGV traffic only now returning to previous levels, the regulators then compounded the problem by requiring all HGV drivers, irrespective of their experience, to undergo 35 hours of training by September 2014 or lose their right to drive.

According to the Association, well over 20,000 lorry drivers decided to leave rather than sit their CPC and this has caused a severe shortage of good HGV drivers.

BAA director Robert Durward said: ‘For many years the minimum driving age for heavy goods vehicles was set at 21. That said, very few 21-year-olds were actually allowed on to the biggest trucks, having to start on light trucks and work their way up.

‘However, thanks to the CPC scheme, not only are 18-year-olds able to obtain an HGV licence, many of them are being allowed to drive maximum-weight vehicles due to the acute shortage of drivers.

‘It is highly likely that if none of the above measures had been introduced then a relatively inexperienced driver would not have found himself in a restricted area of Bath with such tragic consequences on 10 February.’

 

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