Thursday, March 29, 2012

The guessing game from the Highways Agency.

There has been a lot of lively debate and confusion down the farm about a new guessing game. It all centres on a weight restriction of 17 tonnes between Junction 3 to Junction 2 eastbound and Junction 1 to Junction 3 westbound on the M4 motorway. The Highways Agency reports on it's website...

Traffic bulletin: M4 Junctions 2-3, vehicle weight restriction starts tonight

HIGHWAYS AGENCY News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service on 23 March 2012 

Please be aware of the following traffic bulletin from the Highways Agency:

The Highways Agency is advising drivers that a weight restriction on the M4 between junctions 2 and 3 in west London is being introduced overnight tonight, and will remain in place until further notice. 

Vehicles weighing more than 17 tonnes will be directed to follow a signed diversion route between the two junctions via the A312 and the A4.

The restriction is a precautionary measure, after a scheduled inspection on the Boston Manor viaduct, just west of junction 2, identified a possible need for maintenance work.

The restriction is not expected to increase journey times on the M4. Drivers on the A4 and the A312 are advised to keep up to date with traffic conditions and allow extra time for their journeys if necessary. 

...Now the trouble is that I and my friends down the farm all drive 2 axle coaches with a maximum Gross Vehicle Weight of 18 tonne. We never know how heavy our passengers and their luggage actually are, so we are in for a guessing game as to whether you are driving below or above 17 tonne.

But there is another problem, the signing for this weight restriction. Reading the above notice or the DOT Matrix motorway signs well before Junction 3, you would think the weight restriction applies to ALL road vehicles. But when you get between Junction 4 and Junction 3 the signs show No HGV over 17 tonne beyond Junction 3. You wonder if this weight restriction applies to ALL vehicles or ONLY those plated as GOODS.

The nationwide company is no help either, as they have instructed ALL coaches to follow the lengthy time consuming diversion along the A312 and the A4.

I took the diversion yesterday and my driving time without a break was 4 hours and 41 minutes. The legal maximum is 4 hours 30 minutes. So, whatever the driver does, it is wrong. You can't win with this new guessing game.

Today I did the maths and reckoned that 13 passengers and their luggage may weigh in at around 20 cwt - 1 tonne at an average of 12 stone a passenger. Take that away from our Gross Vehicle Weight of 18 tonne and you come down to the magical 17 tonne limit. So I took the view today that my actual weight was below 17 tonne AND the weight restriction only applies to Goods vehicles. I continued along the M4 to Victoria Coach Station in London.

Had I followed the diversion instructed by the Highways Agency and the nationwide company I would have exceeded 4 hours 30 minutes driving without a break. This offence would put me in the frame for a £60 on the spot fixed penalty fine. I would not be able to claim "unforeseen delays" as I had done the same journey the day before. I am sure I made the right decision in this awful guessing game. Of course this mental calculation assumes that any of our coaches with a full compliment of passengers and luggage is actually below it's Gross Vehicle Weight and is not overloaded. That we will never know until it is too late. Who will be to blame when VOSA order the driver onto the weighbridge and find the coach is overloaded? You've guessed it - the driver, not the fat cow on the coach with 2 heavy suitcases.
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