'It is important that the public and civic decision makers are educated'
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he world is full of people who are critical of proposals and decisions made by others. But few of those who complain are prepared to make their views known when given an opportunity. In December last year Southampton City Council issued proposals to introduce weekend and night time lorry bans. These proposals produced a furore in the business community which I have not previously experienced in 30 years in the transport industry. Objections were raised by numerous transport operators, the port authorities, retailers, manufacturers and many others whose businesses might be adversely affected by the proposals. On the other side of the coin, the residents supported the council as they clearly objected to the movement of vehicles through the city and were happy to bock any ban that limited their movements. One thing quickly became apparent. Many members of the public, along with council members and officials, suffered from a considerable lack of understanding of the requirements of modern-day distribution and the effect on the living standards of the general public that such a curtailment would have.
In many ways the upheaval caused by the proposals has produced beneficial effects in that the council now recognise the requirement to hold discussions with affected parties before the introduction of such proposals. Numerous meetings and discussions have taken place and some of these platforms will continue, to ensure that a similar situation does not arise in the future.
The outcome was a largely favourable one for transport operators. Southampton Council withdrew its weekend and overnight lorry ban proposals but with the proviso that we all work together to minimise the effects of vehicle movement in the city. Local issues can have a significant effect on distribution companies as local movement restrictions can seriously disrupt route planning and vehicle useage. The increasing requirement for timed deliveries further complicates the already demanding schedules paced upon operators and their drivers. It is important that the public and civic decision makers are educated to the genuine needs of transport operators and the complex requirements of food and retail outlets.
Equally, there are lessons to be learnt from this for all hauliers. To prevent the interests of transport operators being overlooked by local authorities it is vital that trade associations such as the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association are strongly represented at a local level. This is best achieved by the active involvement of local members who are fully conversant with the situation in the area, It is important that our views are strongly and accurately expressed if we are to have any influence in the decision making process. Remember: no view, no influence., • if you want to sound off about a road transport issue write to features editor Patric Cunnane.