Review to examine lorry accidents

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A review of problems experienced with jack-knifed articulated heavy goods vehicles during the freezing weather conditions is being undertaken together with the industry, First Minister Alex Salmond announced today.

New figures show there have been 108 incidents involving HGVs – 63 of which involved jack-knifed lorries during the worst of the recent weather.

The Scottish Government has been working closely with the Road Haulage Association and Freight Transport Association, who have agreed to survey members to gather more information about jack-knifing incidents, such as load, speed and perceived cause.

With the possibility of such severe winters becoming more commonplace, an international study will also be undertaken into the use and effectiveness of winter tyres; compulsory in at least eight European countries for at least part of the winter season.

Meanwhile, services were getting back up to speed across Scotland this morning with 90 per cent of schools open – the largest proportion in the last fortnight – fuel stocks getting up to normal levels, including restocking of the M74 filling stations at Bothwell and Hamilton, and the vast majority of retail deliveries back on their normal schedules.

The general relaxation of enforcement for HGV drivers’ hours throughout Scotland has been an important part of getting Scotland moving in recent days and following discussion with fuel distributors and others the Scottish Government has today secured from the UK Department for Transport an extension for a further four days from tomorrow evening, to be reviewed thereafter, to ensure that deliveries can continue to get through.

A separate relaxation of enforcement of drivers’ hours for those distributing solid fuel primarily used for heating purposes, has also been announced across Great Britain for the next seven days.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “We continue to work round-the-clock with key agencies to ensure that disruption is minimised and critical services maintained. The on-going thaw provides a window of opportunity to get Scotland moving fully again following the severe weather that has challenged so many people across the country.

“Fuel supplies are returning to normal, footpaths are being cleared, nine in ten schools are now open and our motorways and other routes are steadily improving – significant progress has been made and those involved – such as the Army, emergency services, and unsung local heroes who are looking out for their neighbours or clearing paths – deserve tremendous credit for their heroic efforts.

“However the milder conditions and potential thaw will also bring new problems, increasing the risk of burst water pipes in areas which have experienced extreme temperatures. Advice what to do and how to prevent it is available on the Scottish Water website. Scottish Water is also working hard to assist those who have already been affected.”

The FM added: “As we work to keep Scotland moving throughout this winter, we are working with key agencies to ensure that we are prepared for future years, particularly if the unprecedented weather conditions experienced in recent days are to become more common-place.

“We have been in contact with the key haulage industry bodies and they have been working hard to support their members and keep Scotland moving in this difficult time. Motorists are adapting their driving to these unprecedented conditions and exercising extreme caution on our roads, however as weather sets to worsen we must urge all road-users to take it slow and steady, leaving good braking spaces both in front and to the rear.

“HGV drivers are the part of the lifeblood of our transport network and they are working hard to get goods to supermarkets and vital fuel supplies across the country. Jack knifing incidents, caused by sudden braking, pose not only a danger to those involved, but also cause further disruption and delays on the roads and wider cost to our economy.

“I’m pleased that the two main industry bodies have agreed to conduct a survey of members to examine the jack-knife incidents and what factors may have contributed – in an effort to better understand and therefore mitigate the causes of such accidents. At the same time, we will commission a cost benefit study of the use of winter tyres, looking at the practice in countries which have greater experience of the extreme weather that we’ve endured in the last fortnight.”

Phil Flanders, Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Road Haulage Association said:

“Praise must be given to lorry drivers valiant efforts in these difficult circumstances. I hope that people adhere to the valuable advice to drive slow and steady, bringing down these jack-knifing incidents and allowing traffic to flow smoothly during these difficult weather conditions. The survey of our members into the recent incidents will ensure we hear straight from the horse’s mouth about what they have experienced out on the road.”

Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, said:

“Without lorry drivers Scotland’s thriving export-led economy simply wouldn’t exist, and in these incredibly tough driving conditions their skill, professionalism and ‘can do’ attitude will prove invaluable to businesses, residents and consumers alike. But all road users need to be aware of the physical challenge that driving a heavy truck presents, especially in icy conditions. Our advice to all motorists would be ‘go slow for snow’. It is also important that we get feedback from our members about incidents they have been involved in so that intelligence can contribute to wider work to identify problems on the road and what can be done to avoid or minimise them in future.”