The Freight Transport Association has called on the Government and highway authorities for greater reliability on the road network through better infrastructure and control of routes such as smart motorways which increase flow reliability.
FTA’s comments follow publication this week by Highways England of new data showing improvements in journey times at the Dartford Crossing under Dart Charge; however, FTA says that while crossing times are important the Association has bigger concerns regarding overall journey reliability.
The freight industry judges journey times based on experience and by using route planning software, calculating the transport cost based on distance and time. However, problems arise when incidents occur and the network fails, causing interruptions to journeys. That is something the industry cannot predict and ends up being a cost that has to be absorbed as it cannot be planned for when contracts are drawn up. FTA has calculated the cost of delays to transport operators equates to £1 for every minute an HGV sits in traffic.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy, said: “If an HGV uses the Dartford Crossing several times in a day that would mean a time saving, possibly enabling drivers to travel further before having to take a statutory rest break in accordance with drivers’ hours rules. However it is hard to see what is meaningfully gained by vehicles on cross-Channel journeys which are only likely to gain a few minutes for that journey on just one day.”
FTA has supported the improvements at Dartford in terms of the benefits they have delivered for drivers, however the Association says that they are only a short-term fix and another crossing of the Thames must be planned for and built in order to cope with future demand.