Weight restrictions / heavy commercial vehicles (HCV)
We acknowledge that just like many other areas around the country, residents in some parts of Staffordshire are concerned about HCV movements through the places where they live. Villages and settlements along major transport routes have genuine concerns which are longstanding.
We will be as proactive as is realistically possible on these issues and will maintain a common-sense approach. We recognise residents would like to see prompt action to address local concerns, but solutions can only be achieved in time, with careful consideration of all the wider considerations and through the continued collaborative efforts of all parties via the Staffordshire Freight and Community Forum.
Primary route network (PRN)
In terms of the specifics of concerns raised by communities about HCV traffic in Staffordshire, there is not yet a viable and cost-effective solution immediately available to mitigate reported problems and these can be even harder to deal with where the Primary Route Network (PRN) is concerned.
The PRN designates roads between places, known as primary destinations, across the UK with the aim of providing easily identifiable routes to access the whole of the country. The Department for Transport (DfT) guidance states that the PRN must provide unrestricted access to 40 tonne vehicles. The implementation of weight restrictions on A roads that form part of the PRN would therefore require reclassification to remove the primary route status.
The removal of a section of the road from the PRN would require replacement and modification of signage along the local authority network, Highways England (HE) network and adjoining local authority network/s. The cost of this, which far exceeds any available budgets, would fall upon the responsibility of Staffordshire County Council as the initiator of the reclassification.
With current funding forecasts unlikely to ever satisfy the investment that would be required for weight limit on major transport routes, we can only aim to manage localised issues in the meantime by working together.
In addition to the Staffordshire Freight Forum we have also have channels for dialogue at a local level with Parish Councils and County Councillors.
Where existing community-led solutions have proven to help other areas in the county with similar concerns, we will continue to offer advice and guidance on these.
Concerns about specific incidents involving HCV movements at local pinch-points should be shared with Parish Councils or County Councillors in order that these can be discussed with the local Strategic Community Infrastructure Manager.
Commonly reported issues regarding heavy commercial vehicles
The intensity of roadway noise is governed by many variables such as the speed, category and age of the vehicles, the carriageway surface type, tyre types, geometry of the location, and the geometry of nearby structures. At lower speeds and or when accelerating or braking, engine noise can dominate.
There are limits to the amount of noise that vehicles can make on public roads. This applies to all types of vehicles. In general, larger vehicles with bigger engines are able to make more noise. There are noise limits on tyres and since November 2012 all new tyres are graded and labelled to show how noisy they are. However, there is no legal limit to road noise, although noise levels might be taken into account when new roads or houses and offices near roads are planned.
Given the numerous factors involved, there is little we can do to help in terms of engineering solutions, to reduce the perception of noise from the road. Prohibiting certain types of traffic at certain times is unlikely to have any significant benefit.
We do not routinely respond to reports about road noise and we would generally suggest researching sound proofing solutions for your property. These do not have to be expensive. For example, planting shrubbery can act as a barrier between the road and the property and may help to reduce perceived level of noise. You might also want to discuss the matter with the local borough/district council’s environmental health department who may be able to offer further advice.
Highways are not perfect structures and vibrations as a result of passing vehicles can transfer to properties immediately adjacent to a public highway. Extensive studies undertaken by recognised national bodies have shown that vibrations generated by vehicular traffic are very rarely significant enough to cause structural damage to an otherwise sound building. Whilst HCV movements can create ground borne vibration, vibration perception levels are very much lower than the levels at which damage, even superficial cracking to buildings, would normally occur.
We acknowledge that incidents involving HCVs can amplify concerns regarding the suitability of some roads for this type of traffic. Where members of the public witness or document driver behaviour that is considered to be putting members of the public or property at risk; these should be reported to the police in the first instance.
Whilst all road traffic collisions involving personal injury around the county are recorded following receipt of police reports, the council is not able to record instances of near-misses involving pedestrians or other vehicles. Concerns about localised issues in relation to Road Safety such as accidents or layout of the local highway infrastructure can be reported as discussed above.
HCVs using unsuitable roads
Where optional routes for drivers in and out of areas are few and where HCVs have a legitimate right to access a location for deliveries for example, there is very little the Council can do to prevent HCVs from accessing roads. Whilst a Traffic Regulation Order such as vehicular weight restriction can help reduce numbers of HCVs, any weight restriction that we implement would always have to be ‘except for access’.
In rural areas with local agricultural industries it is very likely that the traffic has a legitimate reason to use these roads such as for making deliveries and these vehicles would therefore be exempt from any weight restriction. In urban areas HCVs will be making deliveries to nearby facilities such as shopping areas or local industry. It is usually unlikely to be the case that HCV drivers are using roads as a cut-through to join any other major road and the very nature of many narrow rural roads as well as built up urban environments generally makes these roads unattractive for such activity.
It is fundamentally the responsibility of each driver to be aware of the most appropriate route they should use for their journey and to be aware of any roads that are unsuitable for HCVs.
The cost of introducing a weight restriction are significant, bearing in mind that all accesses into the restricted area via the neighbouring routes would need to be signed accordingly and there of course costs involved in terms of the application for the order and relevant statutory and public consultation processes. Because of the significant costs involved in such a scheme and the our finite budget, these are generally not implemented without all available options being fully investigated. Generally sites have to be prioritised for further investigation by the local County Councillor as part of their Divisional Highway Programme.
Enforcement of Weight Restrictions
We are unable to enforce weight restrictions and whilst this is something the police can do, their ability to do so is dependent on their available resources. You can contact the police via 101 to report concerns.
The formulation of the Staffordshire Freight and Community Forum, which followed a Prosperous Select Committee Report, has provided us with a dedicated platform to discuss a range of issues associated with freight traffic on a county wide and strategic level. These regular discussions will continue indefinitely.