First publishedon www.AggBusiness.com
Up to one thousand 40tonne plus construction HGVs on Britain’s roads remain poorly regulated in spite of years of representations by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) and others to rectify this failure.
Due to a legal loophole, the MPA says volumetric concrete mixers are operating on UK roads with no effective weight limits, with no safety limits on the hours worked by drivers and without any requirement for the operators of these vehicles to hold Operator’s Licences and be regulated by the Traffic Commissioners. Volumetric concrete mixers operate on public roads delivering 6 million tonnes of concrete annually to construction sites throughout the UK. In contrast, HGVs delivering concrete (the familiar truck-mixers with rotating drums) and other construction materials are fully regulated as HGVs.
The MPA states that the legal loophole means that these vehicles typically operate to weights of over 40 tonnes (compared with 32tonne limits for equivalent HGVs) and drivers are subject to none of the stringent drivers’ hours and working time rules required for HGV drivers. There is no requirement for drivers of volumetric concrete mixers to keep any records of time worked, and there is even some doubt if these drivers even require HGV licences. If an HGV operator flouts HGV regulations or drivers hours rules, they can have their Operator Licence suspended or removed by the Traffic Commissioners, potentially putting them out of business, but volumetric concrete mixer operators are not subject to such regulation. There is also a significant risk, argues the MPA, that rules being introduced which will limit harmful emissions by HGVs, notably the forthcoming Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, will not be applied to volumetric concrete mixers as they are “legally” not HGVs.
There are between 500 and 1000 volumetric concrete mixers operating in the UK. In some cases responsible operators within the MPA operate them in accordance with HGV and drivers hours rules. However, the MPA believes the rapid growth in the number of these vehicles on British roads in recent years has been due to their use by operators who do not want to be restricted by HGV weight limits, drivers hours or working time limits or regulation by the Traffic Commissioners. The MPA notes some of these operators have been involved in a series of legal cases to preserve the loopholes enabling their lack of regulation.
The MPA has made representations to every Transport Minister since 2010 calling for volumetric concrete mixers to be subject to the same level of regulation as HGVs, because to all intents and purposes they are HGVs. The House of Commons Transport Committee highlighted its concerns in its July 2014 report on Cycling Safety (“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to closing the loophole around volumetric mixers....”). The Department for Transport has now acknowledged that further regulation is required but to date proposals are, the MPA states, inadequate. The Department is currently proposing that operators of volumetric concrete mixers should be required to hold Operator Licences in the future but there is no commitment yet on timing, nor to extending HGV drivers hours or working time limits to the drivers of volumetric concrete mixers. Government has also proposed that volumetric concrete mixers should be allowed to operate at weights 20% higher than HGV limits until 2032, but the MPA argues that there needs to be a much earlier convergence of volumetric and HGV weight limits.
Jerry McLaughlin, MPA’s director of economics and public affairs, said: “It is a significant historic regulatory failure that volumetric concrete mixers are permitted to operate on our roads to standards well below those expected of HGVs. Everyone knows that most volumetric concrete mixers are HGVs using a legal loophole to avoid reasonable regulation. At a time when much of the construction industry and responsible HGV operators are taking concerted action to improve road safety, notably for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, Government has not applied safety critical HGV rules to a growing number of unregulated volumetric concrete mixers on our roads. The Department of Transport has now recognised that change is needed and we hope that action will follow so that the regulation of volumetric concrete mixers and their drivers converges with other HGVs as soon as possible.”