LORRY DRIVERS who cause damage and gridlock by ignoring weight restriction signs should face fines from local authorities, according to the Local Government Association.
Such tough new powers are necessary to target “heavy haulage rogues”, the organisation argued, particularly in rural areas where weight restrictions are common on narrow, winding roads which often cross water courses.
The LGA, which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, said it had evidence of numerous offences committed by errant motorists which had led to “bedlam” in village streets.
Money raised by local authorities from fines could be used to top up shrunken highways budgets during the era of public spending austerity, the Association said, citing the nation’s £12 billion pothole backlog as an example of how the proceeds could be used.
Lorries of a certain weight or width are banned from many minor roads but the police do not always have the resources to enforce the restrictions.
The Government has handed powers under the Traffic Management Act (2004) to local authorities in Wales, and London under different legislation, to take action if lorry drivers break the law, the LGA said, but it wants councils across the country to be given the ability to enforce weight and width restrictions in their communities, backed up with powers to take enforcement action where necessary.
The call comes as research shows accidents involving lorries are an increasing concern. They are now involved in more than half of fatal motorway accidents and one-in-five fatal accidents on A-roads.
Councillor Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council and the LGA’s transport spokesman, said: “There has been a spate of accidents involving lorry drivers driving irresponsibly and bringing bedlam to small rural communities – and action must be taken immediately to curb this.
“Councils are doing everything they can to help their residents, working with communities by organising lorry watch schemes. But they are trying to take action with one hand tied behind their back and urgently need tougher powers.
“If a community is being plagued by problems at an accident blackspot, councils should be able to respond to communities’ concerns by issuing fines to act as a deterrent.
“We would stress that most lorry drivers are reputable and drive responsibly. These powers would be targeted at the minority who do not follow the law. This is also about protecting the drivers’ safety as well as the safety of residents and other road users.”
Recent road accidents involving lorries in rural areas include an incident in the village of Uffculme village, Devon, where a 40ft articulated beer truck cannoned off houses and brought down power lines in the early hours of the morning after the driver misjudged a narrow street.
Satellite navigation systems are often blamed for such incidents. In Ivybridge, Plymouth, a driver was led astray by his sat-nav and ended up sleeping in his cab for three nights before a tractor was able to pull his lorry free after it became stuck in a narrow country lane, while a lorry overturned as it travelled down a country lane near Methley, Leeds.
Some councils are working with residents, and freight and haulage companies to tackle the issue by organising ‘lorry watch’ schemes which see community volunteers record details of lorries suspected of offences and passing the details on to police.