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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Improving overnight security at truckstops

24 October, 2007
The Freight Transport Association has recently criticised the UK Government pre-budget report in a number of areas, one of which was the provision of secure lorry parks to enable drivers to take statutory rest breaks in a secure environment.
The FTA wants more action from the Government to ensure that there is an adequate network of lorry parks throughout the UK where security is of a sufficient standard to enable drivers to take statutory rest breaks in peace of mind with the knowledge that truck stop security systems are adequate to meet their personal protection requirements and that of their loads.

The provision of secure overnight parking facilities is becoming something of an embarrassment in the UK having been in the debating circles for some time but little having been done despite Britain having the highest CCTV camera density in Europe. That density doesn't seem to extend to the often rural parking facilities where freight transport drivers need to take a break.

Considering the plight of the drivers for a moment, they have to cover long distances under strict regulation regarding the number of hours they spend behind the wheel and the amount of rest they need to take. In order to conform to these regulations, they need facilities and they need the ability to plan for these facilities along their route. Imagine how vulnerable they feel when they arrive at an underlit parking facility with no surveillance and a guard in late middle age whose main job is to collect their money when they arrive. Thankfully, most places are not like this and appear much better but appearances can be deceptive and even the professionally run service station chains offer little in the way of effective security.

One such chain which has a string of service stations and truck stops throughout the UK, has a facility on the M4 near Reading. This is where a Coventry based driver stayed the night in May and where he had fuel stolen from his lorry while he slept. Discovering the crime underway and fearing for his safety, the driver locked his cab and called the police but the crime remains unsolved. Challenged about the security precautions at the service station, the manager commented that the patrol that walks around the facility can't be everywhere at once. Despite being aware of the problem of vagrant travellers in the area, the service station manager admitted to being resigned to the fact that there's nothing they can do about it and that the situation is unlikely to improve. Maybe this service station chain is unaware that this is a service that drivers actually pay for, it's a revenue stream that affects shareholder value so there probably is something that could be done about it, depending on whether it prefers an easy life or the retention of shareholders.

Earlier this month, the closure of a West Midlands lorry park sparked controversy when it announced that it simply couldn't support the costs without either passing them onto the drivers with higher charges or combining it with other services to offset the costs. According to Euroroute, a provider of secure parking facilities for road haulage companies, the answer may lie in the development of complimentary facilities and Government subsidies which is also what the Freight Transport Association wants.

It is clear from the service station model that there is a certain amount of commercial unwillingness to take on the additional responsibility of providing security services to drivers so maybe the Freight Transport Association is taking the only available route by lobbying the Government.

Meanwhile, for drivers who want to know about the facilities on offer, the Highways Agency publishes an annual guide to English truckstops.
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