Trucker calls for more patience
LETTERS in the press complaining about the apparent attitude of lorry drivers to other road users really get up Steven Battle's nose.The main thrust of the argument seems to be that they haven't a clue about what it is like to be behind the wheel of a car.
LETTERS in the press complaining about the apparent attitude of lorry drivers to other road users really get up Steven Battle's nose.
The main thrust of the argument seems to be that they haven't a clue about what it is like to be behind the wheel of a car. If they did, then our roads might be that much safer.
In truth, the boot is probably on the other foot - lorry drivers undertake a great deal of training and are constantly updating their qualifications.
“All lorry drivers are also car drivers and a high proportion of them ride motorcycles, too,” says Steven.
“We know it from both sides. Yet few car drivers drive lorries.”
Steven works out of Felixstowe, from the H&P Freightways depot on the dock, carrying out seven to ten delivers a week across the UK.
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He drives an articulated lorry pulling bulk liquid containers of hazardous chemicals, which makes him a bit special, as some of his loads fall into the “high consequence” category.
This means that his lorry could be a potential terrorist target and, if stopped on the road by anyone at all, even the police, he must remain firmly locked into his cab, until he has verified their ID.
“If there is anything the least bit suspicious, I stay put.”
Steven gets pulled in by the police on a regular basis, usually about once a month. They check tyres, brakes, lights, fire-fighting and first aid equipment, and they might even quiz him on the rules and regulations surrounding the transportation of hazardous chemicals.
Not that he minds. It goes with the territory.
But you can understand why he is irritated by that small but vociferous group of complaining car drivers.
“If they knew anything about lorries, they wouldn't cut in front of us from the fast lane to a slip road - the Copdock interchange and the Lowestoft turn-off are notorious - when they have misjudged the distance, or left it too late to do so in reasonable safety.
“They don't seem to realise that you can't just slam on the brakes of a 44-tonne lorry, especially if the road is wet.”
Yet Steven agrees that there are a number of problems with the A14 that need addressing - although he reckons it is no better or no worse than any other A-road in the country.
It does, however, carry a high proportion of HGVs (an estimated 3,000 a day), being the main access road to Felixstowe Docks.
“Little has been done to improve the A14 to meet the increased demands on its use.”
He suggests lengthening slip roads and introducing variable speed limits at peak times.
“If everyone was travelling at the same speed at peak times, the traffic would keep moving without the problems of some going faster than others. It works elsewhere in the country, especially on the M25.”
“When there is a crash, it tends to mess up the whole area, because there are few alternative routes.
“Norwich has a ring road; Ipswich doesn't and it is impossible to re-route traffic from the A14 through the town.”
Then there is the nightmare of “stacking” which is something the residents of Felixstowe know all about. This occurs when high winds at sea close the port, the dock gates are locked, and the lorry traffic grinds to a halt, stacking up on the A14 and blocking access to the town.
For Steven this can be particularly frustrating, as on occasions he is prevented from driving the last few miles to the H&P Freightways depot on the dock, because it is wrongly assumed that all HGVs are heading for the ferries.
Still, he believes that a little more patience and understanding among fellow A14 suffers wouldn't go amiss.