Lorry offence was

SEVERAL lorry drivers have avoided punishment for breaking a bad weather queueing system at Felixstowe after claiming they had no other option.Dozens of HGVs were forced to queue in the right hand lane of the A14 on March 1 after Felixstowe docks were closed due to bad weather - a procedure introduced by police known as Operation Stack.

SEVERAL lorry drivers have avoided punishment for breaking a bad weather queuing system at Felixstowe after claiming they had no other option.

Dozens of HGVs were forced to queue in the right hand lane of the A14 on March 1 after Felixstowe docks were closed due to bad weather - a procedure introduced by police known as Operation Stack.

Several drivers broke rank and landed themselves in court but have been let off without punishment after claiming they would have breached drivers' hours laws unless they drove away.

Appearing at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court, Andrew Mugglestone, of Colchester, Ean Matthews, of Rochester, Kent, and Geoffrey Calver, all pleaded guilty to charge of failing to keep in line as directed by police.


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They were unconditionally discharged by magistrates and did not receive penalty points on their licences.

Mugglestone told the court he only had a short amount of time left on his tachograph and decided to pull out of Operation Stack and return to his nearby depot fearing he could be stuck for hours.

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Presiding magistrate, David Coe, said: “We accept you found yourself in a hard position.

“You found yourself having to choose between breaking one law or breaking another.”

Nine other drivers either pleaded guilty by post, or pleaded not guilty and their cases were adjourned to be dealt with at a later date.

Ian Wilson, managing director of HGV operators Hanbury Davies, who operate from Felixstowe, said there should be more facilities for drivers to park up so they do not risk going over their allowed hours.

He said: “Felixstowe is the biggest container port in the country but there are no facilities like they have on the continent.”

However Inspector Trevor Sharman, of the roads policing unit, said under European law drivers can make exceptions to the drivers' hours rules in case of emergencies, such as the ports being closed.

He said: “Problems are caused when drivers either fail to comply with instructions or sit arguing with officers.

“European drivers' rules say that due to unforeseen events or emergencies - such as the closure of the port - drivers can depart from the rules about their hours to ensure safety of persons, their vehicle and its load.”

Do you think Operation Stack works? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

In Summary - Operation Stack

Operation Stack is the name of the procedure for dealing with HGV traffic coming to Felixtowe docks when they are closed due to bad weather

When the windspeed exceeds 45 miles per hour cranes which load containers onto ships cannot be operated for health and safety reasons

The operation involves closing one lane of the A14 to non-dock traffic and using it to queue container lorries as they arrive from around the country, until the dock can be re-opened

Police say the operation is vital to prevent the town of Felixstowe from being gridlocked, with traffic being unable to enter or leave

The same name is used in Kent for the procedure used to close a section of the M20 motorway when traffic cannot be allowed onto the ports at Dover

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