Council chiefs have called for new powers to fine drivers of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) that ignore weight or height restrictions on local roads, suggesting the cash could be put towards tackling the nation's £12bn pothole backlog.
Powers have been handed to local authorities in Wales on request and in London to enforce moving traffic violations that are elsewhere handled by the police.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for councils across the country to be given the ability to enforce weight and width restrictions in their communities.
LGA transport spokesman Cllr Peter Box 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.’
The lobby group, working for close to 400 councils in England and Wales, highlighted case studies in which villages and rural communities across the country were particularly blighted by lorry crashes, including one episode where a 40-foot articulated beer truck cannoned off houses in the Devon village of Uffculme bringing power lines down.
Elsewhere Transport for London today announced the results of a crackdown on non-compliant HGVs to improve road safety, with 95 vehicles taken off the road in the central City area during the first month.
Matt Winfield, deputy director of sustainable transport charity, Sustrans London, said: ‘It is important and challenging to move freight in this city, but the level of non-compliance with quite basic safety standards is shocking. Even when HGVs are fully compliant with current safety regulations they are still dangerous vehicles to share the roads with.
‘Restrictions on how and where HGVs operate in the capital, as well as enforcement of safety standards and junctions designed to be safe for all users, are urgently required.’
In response to the LGA’s attack, Christopher Snelling head of urban logistics at the Freight Transport Association said: ‘FTA fully supports enforcement of weight and width restrictions and actively helps its members to adhere to these with regular updates on regulations and industry innovations. Transferring responsibility for policing these restrictions to local residents would be fraught with problems because most would not have the relevant knowledge to make judgements.
‘Weight limits are not HGV bans and residents may not understand different sizes of trucks. Also, most weight restrictions are on an ‘except for access’ basis – some HGVs may be making legitimate visits to local business or indeed residents, such as home removals or washing machine deliveries. Most operators do follow the rules, and the handful that don’t should be detected and dealt with.’