Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 410:


(" .--(1) The Secretary of State may make an order to provide that all major road freight facilities, ports and premises with an estimated throughput of more than 10,000 goods vehicles per year exceeding 7500 kilograms gross vehicle weight shall have a compulsory goods vehicle weighing scheme.
(2) Any order made under subsection (1) above shall provide--
(a) for the weighing of every goods vehicle leaving the facility;
(b) for the provision of the driver with two copies of a weight report;
(c) that the driver must sign and return one copy of the weight report to the facility operator;
(d) that the weight report shall show--
(i) the registration number of the vehicle,
(ii) the gross vehicle weight,
(iii) the number of axles,
(iv) the weight on each individual axle,
(v) whether the vehicle would be illegal in terms of axle or gross weights even if it had the most favourable axle spacings and tyre equipment, and
(vi) the details with broadly the same layout as the plating certificate, provided for under section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1988;
(e) that the facility operator shall keep a copy of all weight reports for a period of 12 months and shall make originals available to enforcement agencies.
(3) Production of a weight report together with relevant tachograph records may be used as evidence of the weight of the lorry in any court proceedings involving overloading.
(4) In this section a "major road freight facility" or "facility" means a location--
(a) of one or more premises under common management, control or ownership;
(b) having one or more common exits onto the highway; and
(c) having a throughput of more than 10,000 goods vehicles with a gross vehicle weight exceeding 7500 kilograms per annum.
(5) If a driver is convicted under section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 of an offence relating to overloading, the court must disqualify the driver for a period of at least one month if his vehicle was weighed in accordance with subsection (1) above unless--
(a) the driver can show that an additional significant load was taken on after weighing in accordance with subsection (1) above and--
(i) it was not practical to re-weigh the vehicle,
(ii) the overload was caused by the additional load,
(iii) there was no reason to suspect that the vehicle would be overloaded by the additional load, and
(iv) the tachograph records show that it would have been possible for an additional load to have been taken on in accordance with the driver's evidence in defence, or
(b) there are exceptional circumstances why the driver should not be disqualified.
(6) In this subsection, "exceptional circumstances" means circumstances relating to the overload.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment arises out of one major cause, the agreement that was formed in the Commission for Integrated Transport on the introduction of 44-tonne lorries. That was not a

26 Jul 2000 : Column 543

popular agreement among all members, but a bargain was struck. The package included the introduction of heavier--44-tonne--lorries but it also included much better enforcement of the existing laws relating to the road transport industry.

We are delighted that progress has been made on the matter of impounding and tonight we are also delighted that the second part of the Bill moved in the last Session of Parliament by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, relating to drivers who have exceeded their driving hours being stopped is now on its way.

The third element was that something effective would be done about overloaded lorries. First, overloaded lorries are dangerous. If a lorry is loaded above its plated capacity, its braking is impaired, making it unable to stop effectively. Therefore, it is much more likely to be involved in an accident. If such a lorry is involved in an accident the sheer weight of the lorry means that the accident may be more serious than it would be otherwise.

Secondly, an overloaded lorry does huge damage to the roads. The damage created by a lorry, or any vehicle, to the roads is related to the fourth power of the axle weight. A lorry that is, for example, one or two tonnes overloaded on its drive axle can do immense damage to the road, which has to be repaired at public expense.

Thirdly, overloaded lorries trade at a competitive advantage to those who comply with the law. There is clear evidence that many overloaded lorries emanate from the ports. In discussion with officials in the department, in which I took part, there was some procrastination about whether it was possible to weigh vehicles at ports of entry. We were told that if weighing was exclusively confined to ports we may be discriminating illegally against vehicles coming in from European countries.

In trying to draw up this new clause we were careful also to include inland places from which large numbers of lorries enter the highways. At many of those places, such as quarries, lorries are weighed, in any event, because there is a need for a weight ticket to effect a sale of bulk goods like grain or aggregates. However, it appears to us to be absolutely essential from the point of view of safety, fair trade and the proper maintenance of the highway that proper measures are taken to ensure that before lorries enter the highway they comply with weight regulations.

I am the first to admit that this amendment may not be drafted in the most elegant way possible. In moving the amendment we seek a commitment on the part of the Government to do something about overweight lorries. That was an implicit part of the bargain that was struck within the Commission on Integrated Transport on the introduction of 44-tonne lorries which, I believe, we have been told will be next April.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 544

I hope the Minister, in his reply to this debate, will be able to give some comfort to those of us who are looking for fairness, proper trading procedures, greater safety and proper regard for roads. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee: Amendment No. 410 stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who moved it. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was heavily involved in discussions on it, but unfortunately, due to an administrative error (perhaps on my part) his name was not put to it.

Amendment No. 410 may be defective. But behind it lies the view that certain locations handle a large number of heavily loaded vehicles; notably ports. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, described lucidly why we need to include inland facilities; a potential problem may arise in that regard as well.

During discussions outside the Chamber, Members of the Committee were discussing consignor liability. The amendment does not provide for consignor liability, though I may come back to that at a later stage with an amendment that does. The amendment recognises that ports should not have to police the road haulage industry. On the other hand, the amendment ensures that no driver could leave such a facility without knowing for certain that he was overloaded. The penalty is a short period of disqualification. I accept that that may be a little fierce. There is an "exceptional circumstances" escape; but that relates to the load and not to the personal circumstances of the driver.

What is the Minister's view on the amendment? What would his reaction be to a consignor liability amendment at a later stage? Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I will be parting company on his Amendment No. 412. We have had endless studies on the maximum weight of goods vehicles. We had the Armitage report in the 1980s. It recommended 44 tonnes and the last administration went for 38. We had the Select Committee report of your Lordships' House in 1994; it recommended 44 tonnes and the Minister went for 41 tonnes. That is unique to the UK; so much for a standardised Europe.

According to the Esso company's letter to the Select Committee, moving from 38 to 44 tonnes would save it 35,000 vehicle movements and 2.44 million vehicle miles. That is what stimulated me to table Amendment No. 416C, to introduce 44 tonnes for liquid fuel deliveries to retail outlets immediately.

Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for moving Amendment No. 410. I would have added my name to it and I support it. I shall speak to that amendment first and then move on to Amendment No. 412.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, summed up the reasons behind Amendment No. 410. One point he did not make was that if a lorry is overloaded not only will its brakes not work so well but also its steering can be

26 Jul 2000 : Column 545

impaired, which can be just as dangerous as can be seen from the many letters that I and other noble Lords have received in recent weeks.

However, I want to inquire into whether or not it is practical to introduce this mechanism. There is no point in saying that all premises with a throughput of more than 10,000 goods vehicles a year should be brought within this provision if the equipment is not available to make it work. It is good that there is at least one system which can be moved around easily and which provides an accurate, automatic weighing of individual axle weight, which is the problem, the weight of axle groups and the overall weight of a heavy lorry. It was demonstrated to the Vehicle Inspectorate earlier this year. It will give the driver a printout, as required by the amendment, giving the information in a record form, a copy of which can be kept by the facility and another copy given to the police.

It is a mechanism that I believe would make this amendment work; and, indeed, it would not cost too much money to install. I do not know whether my noble friend the Minister is aware of this portable weighbridge. It has been developed by Captels and is called an LS WIM system. It does seem to work, as do many other systems. However, the important thing to bear in mind is that such a system exists which would enable such a weighing scheme to be operated. I support the amendment.

I shall not say much on Amendment No. 412, which I tabled some time ago. It was meant to be a probing amendment and arose as a result of the report of the Commission for Integrated Transport issued in March, or late February, and the Government's subsequent decision on 44 tonnes. In view of the announcement on the 10-year transport plan, the statements by Ministers tonight about the enforcement of regulations and the other matters mentioned in the report, I shall not pursue this amendment. I should like to take this opportunity to say how grateful I am for the announcement last week as regards the transport plan for the railways.

10.30 p.m.

Viscount Simon: I had not intended to speak to this amendment, but I felt that some practical experience of mine might be relevant to the debate. Until fairly recently when the broader changes took place regarding the M25, it was well known that junction 7 on the M11 was to be avoided at all costs. In fact, the whole of the M11 was to be avoided because the Essex constabulary used to haul over lorries on to junction 7 where they would be inspected. I have been on traffic patrol when this has happened. I have crawled over and under lorries and have seen the faults that have been found. On average, one in three lorries has defects. That is certainly a matter worthy of consideration. If that aspect could be extended, all well and good!

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page