Highways England needs to do more for logistics sector, new research suggests

Highways England needs to do more for logistics sector, new research suggests

Almost half of the UK’s freight, logistics, delivery and coach operators are not satisfied with how Highways England’s roads management meet their business needs, new research suggests.
 
Latest user research from independent transport watchdog Transport Focus suggests lorry operators are especially unhappy about road surface quality, the management of disruption and the facilities at service areas on these routes.
 
Key findings from the research:
 
• One quarter (26% of managers taking part in the survey were dissatisfied, and only half (52%) were satisfied, with how Highways England’s roads serve their business.
 
• Many businesses don’t feel their needs are considered sufficiently well by Highways England, especially in relation to how and when roadworks take place. Managers want to know about roadworks sooner, especially where roads will be closed entirely.
 
• Managers of coach and logistics operators think poor road surfaces are costing them money by pushing up their operating costs.
 
• They also believe their obligations to adhere to regulations that govern drivers’ hours and the time-critical nature of their operations are not sufficiently front of mind for Highways England when managing incidents that disrupt traffic.
 
• Two-fifths of the organisations that participated in this survey say their business is threatened by disruption on the road network because they can rarely extend contingency time. Two-thirds need to arrive within one hour of the time specified in their contractual agreements.
 
• Freight and coach businesses want more parking spaces and better vehicle security at roadside services, and for these facilities to offer better value for money.
 
Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of Transport Focus, said: “This new research confirms that for delivery companies – who move 91 per cent of the nation’s freight – and for coach operators and their passengers, it’s critical the road network is well-managed in terms of their needs.
 
“The costs imposed by poor road surfaces on freight is the issue of most common concern to fleet operators – almost one third of coach and logistics managers surveyed volunteered comments on this problem affecting their bottom line.
 
“This is closely followed by poor incident management: Information about delays and disruption provided in real time to road users by Highways England must be improved, particularly where accidents close roads or road works extend journey times, especially at night when so much freight is on the move.
 
“Logistics managers also want Highways England to keep the time-critical nature of their operations much more front of mind when managing incidents that disrupt traffic, since their drivers must adhere to regulations that tightly govern their hours behind the wheel.”
 
The survey also confirms marked dissatisfaction within these sectors with roadside services – widely seen as both poor value for money, and short on suitable secure parking space.
 
Commenting on the survey findings, Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of UK Policy, said: “While the survey shows some positive indicators, of concerns are the core areas which must be improved. This includes delays in opening roads swiftly following an incident or in sharing adequate information on real time road updates. With the UK’s roads set to receive £30bn in funding, as announced in this week’s Budget, FTA is asking Highway England to take urgent action to address the common concerns facing logistics businesses.
 
“The logistics industry is the beating heart of the UK economy. For it to continue to operate effectively, it needs a road network fully maintained and adapted to meet the needs of logistics businesses. With key areas of improvement identified in this report, and the benefit of a funding boost, FTA hopes Highway England carefully listens to this feedback and takes urgent action to rectify the problems which are stifling the efficient movement of goods and services by the UK’s logistics industry.”
 
Transport Focus said it will repeat the survey at regular intervals and is working to ensure the results inform the way in which the performance of Highways England will be measured from 2020 to 2025 (the next road investment period).
 
The full report is available to available to download here