Doctor Diesel

Honoured reader’s views

dd2honoured-readers-views2Good morning to you Doctor.

I have just seen the letter from Norman Budge (Issue 352) regarding recent increases in HGV speed limits. Yes, he is correct in saying that the limit for normal roads has increased from 40 to 50 mph, but dual carriageway limits remained as they were. (I’m sorry Paul, but they didn’t ñ the HGV limits rose from 50 to 60mph in early 2015!) He also states concerns about trucks allegedly driving too close to him, and in an intimidating manner. Firstly, was he actually doing a true 50mph? Car speedometers are notorious for being inaccurate. HGV speedometers and their associated tachographs are checked for accuracy at every MOT and are recalibrated every five years, so I know which speedometer I would trust.

Given the cut-throat state of the road transport industry, most companies who rely on road hauliers to carry their goods want them delivered as quickly as possible, with possible heavy penalties on the haulier for late delivery. I am not for one minute condoning speeding, but you can see that there is strong pressure to get the job done on time. These days we employ someone in the transport planning office on £6 an hour (a truck driver is only on £9 to £10 an hour, or often less), who often has no idea that the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats is the best part of a thousand miles, and is a two day drive, if things go well. So how do you expect them to be able to plan for maybe ten deliveries, then maybe another eight collections, and be back in the yard in a reasonable time, all without speeding? Or making allowances for today’s busy and congested roads full of car drivers who haven’t a clue about the physics or practicalities of driving a fully laden truck in an economical (we are trying to achieve 8mpg or better, if we are not to have a ticking off from the transport manager) and safe manner.

In case you have not gathered, I’m a professional HGV driver and I like to think that I do a reasonable job, but with increasing legislation and bureaucracy, I am looking to leave the profession at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to further discussions on the subject in due course!

Paul Mason MBE

Good morning to you Sir, and many thanks for your letter.

Your points have been taken on board! But are you telling me that there is no route planning technology available to efficiently plan multi-drop routes? If there isn’t, then there jolly well should be by now with all the money that is being expended on technological driving aids, intended to help people (car drivers mostly) reduce their focus on driving and allow them to multi-task with touch-screen media, and use hands-free phones that have been shown to be almost as dangerous in terms of distraction as hand-held ones! But surely it’s worth paying a health-deteriorated ex-HGV driver £9 an hour to do a proper route planning job, even if there’s no technology available?

I can’t honestly say that I have ever seen an HGV driver driving for economy though! Surely all this overtaking with 2 to 3mph speed differentials that takes a couple of miles to complete, creating a long queue of frustrated car drivers behind, can’t even be worth the fuel that’s inevitably expended? Hopefully there will be moves towards “platooning”, or whatever they call it, where several trucks use radar technology and adaptive cruise control to travel closely spaced, but safely, behind each other at the same speed, reducing the air resistance and thereby saving fuel. This would, surely, be a lot more help towards achieving efficient and safe use of the roads than spending money on self-driving cars and trucks?

I’ll be interested to hear your response to what I’m saying. But please don’t take these comments badly Paul. I personally regularly drove a 7.5 tonner over nearly 15 years, so I do know a bit of what it’s all about. As in any job, there are good and bad, but some HGV drivers seem to have very little awareness of how much they do annoy car drivers – often business drivers with the very same time pressures as the truck drivers. Maybe some of them just don’t care!

Doc D

I’ll summarise Paul’s lengthy reply, as follows:

Route planning software? Yes, there is such a thing, but it does not take into account roadworks, accidents, traffic jams and the like. Most transport companies these days use telematics ñ which feedback and/or record live driver and vehicle information ñ but, rather than aid the driver, the office often chooses to use them to spy on the driver, and not use them as a management tool.

On the fuel economy issue, again the telematics are used here as they are linked to all kinds of sensors to monitor the driverís behaviour. At the end of the day, you will likely be de-briefed on your driving performance and fuel economy, and also there is a weekly drivers performance office chart for all to see, so you can compare your performance against your colleagues. Some companies also have a fuel economy based monthly bonus scheme as well. But a large majority of drivers don’t bother because quite often it’s the cowboy outfits who win work by offering the lowest price, and so they need to chase their driverís backsides all the time to make the delivery schedules.

I couldn’t agree with you more on speed limiters and overtaking ñ it drives me nuts to the point that, when I can safely do it, I just put the cruise control on at 50mph and just stay in lane one. It’s also good for economy and I often get over 9mpg at 44 tonnes, so I am content with that. When it comes to being late for a collection or delivery, I simply throw the argument back at the Transport Manager to make up his mind what he wants ñ on-time deliveries or economical driving, you can’t have both!

But do you not think that a lot of the frustrations from car drivers is that they really don’t understand the problems that we have, from all sorts of angles? Don’t worry about me taking your comments badly ñ I am far too thick skinned to take offence. You have a slightly different opinion from me, but that’s what discussion is all about, is it not? How about an education article for car drivers on how to understand the issues surrounding trucks, you never know it might actually help someone!


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