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Anger as DfT approves Ashford Borough Council HGV parking fine increase

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) have criticised an increase in the fines imposed by Ashford Borough Council as part of its overnight truck parking enforcement trial.

Ashford Borough Council has received approval from the Department for Transport (DfT) to increase the fines imposed as part of its overnight truck parking enforcement trial. FTA understands the charge to truck operators will go up sharply from £40 per infringement to £150 and has been told the additional money will be used to cover the full cost of issuing penalty notices and processing payments.

While FTA appreciates the desire to ensure the scheme is fully funded, the association’s policy manager for the South East, Heidi Skinner says this sudden increase is poorly planned and disproportionate. “We are shocked by Ashford Borough Council’s decision to increase fines in this way with so little warning or consultation,” she said. “The clamping scheme has only been in place for a couple of months, so making such a dramatic increase so quickly and with very little warning is excessive. 

“Truck drivers keep Britain trading by providing a public service, helping to keep all of us supplied with food and other goods. They shouldn’t be penalised in this way.”

The Ashford parking enforcement pilot was introduced in October 2017 to address concerns about safety and the disruption cause by large numbers of lorries parking in the town. However, Skinner says many drivers have no option but to park on public roads. “FTA understands the concerns of Ashford residents, but nobody wants to spend the night parked in a layby or on the roadside, it’s unsanitary and in many cases unsafe for drivers who have valuable goods in their vehicles,” she said. 

“Truck drivers are skilled professionals who are required by law to take regular breaks. The government and local authorities need to take action to ensure there are enough clean, secure facilities for them to park overnight before introducing such harsh penalties.”

The RHA said it was at a loss to understand why it was not consulted about plans to increase the fees from £40 to £150 in the controversial six-mile ‘parking trials’ area between the Charing and Drovers roundabouts in Ashford.

“We are a statutory consultee, yet no one consulted us,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett. “This is a monumental change, so to target lorry drivers and to not seek the views of the trade body with responsibility for the HGV sector is unacceptable.

“It’s a legal requirement for an HGV driver to take statutory rest breaks, but because of a lack of facilities in Kent this experiment has completely removed the ability of drivers to take even the shortest rest breaks between 8pm and 7am around Ashford. 

“Drivers' hours legislation was introduced as a safety measure to protect all road users, and HGV drivers have a right to expect that they can rest before safely continuing their journeys. The latest plans simply fly in the face of common sense."

The RHA says it recognises that inappropriate parking for long periods can be a problem. But, despite the industry highlighting the lack of parking over the past 10 years, neither Kent nor the DfT have provided extra parking.

“We’ve had the recent debacle of the stack holding area being abandoned and not a single place has been provided to support the new restrictions – authorities have taken a NIMBY approach and want someone else deal with the issue,” said Burnett.

“In the short term, we need to see restrictions changed so that trucks can park for up to two hours along this stretch of the A20 at any time to facilitate rest breaks.

“In the longer term, we call on the DfT and local authorities in Kent – and indeed elsewhere – to show leadership on this issue and do all they can to urgently address the shortage of lorry parks. 

"This problem isn’t going away, and clamping and harassing hard-pressed hauliers is not the way to resolve it.”

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