Recent headlines in the Evening Standard newspaper claimed that Britain’s roads are in a worse state of repair than in countries such as Ecuador, Malaysia and Namibia. When it comes to the condition of our roads, the UK is ranked a lowly 27th in the world.
How has this been allowed to happen and who is to blame?
The Road Haulage Association (RHA)
Picking up on these revelations, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has been quick to leap to the defence of heavy goods vehicles and their impact on road conditions, warning that the haulage industry should not be made scapegoats.
Instead, the RHA puts the blame fairly and squarely on the shoulders of government – at both national and local level – for failing to invest adequately in what is an essential part of the country’s infrastructure.
Haulage companies are responsible for an economic contribution as high as 85% in their transport of food and clothing, delivery of materials for the construction industry and the provision of many thousands of jobs, claims the RHA. Calling on the government and infrastructure providers to “do their job”, the RHA insists that the road haulage industry is more than playing its part.
Insisting that it is not heavy goods vehicles which are to blame, the RHA points out that many of the best-maintained roads are frequently used by HGVs, whilst those in the worst state of repair are used only rarely. In Europe, roads are in a far better state of repair. Even though there is a growing number of very heavy, 60-tonne lorries, yet their impact on the road network there has caused very little damage, if any at all.
Yet poor road conditions in Britain persist. As often as not, potholes develop after the failure of local councils to invest sufficiently in repairs and reinstatement after the laying of pipes and cables.
These are potholes likely to cause considerable damage and undue wear and tear on HGVs. Suspensions are damaged and tyres suffer premature wear and tear.
If the local authority can be shown to have been negligent in their failure to maintain the road in a safe condition, it is open to the owners of any HGV to sue for compensation.
However, legal action may prove time-consuming and expensive, with the result that the majority of damage goes unreported, thus adding to the operating expenses faced by haulage companies such as staff costs, business premises and HGV insurance etc.
In attempting to take a balanced view, the RHA concedes that undue wear, tear and damage to road surfaces may have been caused by overloaded HGVs. In those instances, says the industry’s spokesman, the RHA is thoroughly supportive of the appropriate enforcement action being taken.
At the end of the day, therefore, the industry has issued a loud call that criticises the current state of disrepair of many of the country’s roads – which it blames on the failures of government and infrastructure providers – yet insists that haulage companies should not be made scapegoats for those failures.