Sunday, April 01, 2012

Weighwatchers has finished!

On Friday Weightwatchers has finished because the weight restriction on vehicles using the M4 motorway between junction 3 and junction 2 eastbound and junction 1 and junction 3 westbound was been reduced to 7.5 tonnes. No longer do I have to guess whether my coach is running a shade under 17 tonnes, I simply have to follow the diversion along the A312 and A4.

This does add a lot to the journey time and there is the continual problem of exceeding driving hours. Because of the severe congestion this diversion causes, traffic was extremely slow coming out of London on Friday afternoon. The traffic was so bad that I could not continue even as far as Chepstow within my 4' 30" driving limit. I had to have a 45 minute rest break at Leigh Delamare services, near Chippenham, 1 mile past junction 17. When I finally finished my shift, I added up my driving time for that day and it came to an amazing 10' 12" - the legal limit is 10 hours, twice a week. My coach was due into Cardiff at 20.05 but arrived at 22.35 -  some 2 hours 30 minutes later than advertised.

Yesterday I drove for 4 hours 37 minutes to get to London - the legal limit is 4 hours 30 minutes without a rest break.

So on 2 consecutive days I have exceeded drivers hours regulations because of this weight restriction and diversions. These delays are not UNFORESEEN - I could have forecast these delays before I started work that day.

This is a big problem for the industry and a small minority of coach drivers are ignoring the signs because MMS - "my mate says" - that because the signs show a goods vehicle, the weight restriction does not apply to buses and coaches. Ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law and these drivers risk being prosecuted for being overweight. There are no signs on the motorway showing that goods vehicles, buses, coaches and vehicles pulling trailers CAN NOT use the outside lane where there a 3 or more lanes. Any driver caught using the outside lane will and have been prosecuted.

So, now the onus is on bus and coach operators NOT to schedule duties where, due to the longer journey times undertaken because of this diversion, driving time does NOT exceed 4' 30" without a break and the daily driving limit of 10' 00" twice a week. Drivers have done their bit by reporting exceeded driving hours to their employers, now the employers MUST act rather than saying the driver is wrong, like they usually do.
Comments:
It is interesting you say that the weight restriction sign is written over a goods vehicle. When I passed my PCV test in 1998, I remember the Theory Test Book I used to revise saying that when this is the case, the weight restriction applies only to the vehicle type displayed. If it was to apply wholesale, the sign would simply have a large 7.5 ton in a red-outlined circle.

A number of town centres in Middle England have these 7.5 ton weight limit signs on lorry emblems yet permission for coaches and buses to pass is given.

Have you received clarification from the nation-wide company? They'd probably just back down and give in. But you never know.
 
My initial thoughts were that the weight restriction was only for goods vehicles. I agree with your understanding and interpretation on iconic road signs - the weight restrictions in town centres and residential areas are for goods vehicles with exception for all PCV's.

But the DOT Matrix signs have plenty of space to include HGV or Goods in the text - they do not.

The nationwide company has issued a "Network Bulletin" stating that the diversion MUST be used. From past experience it is unwise to challenge the Taliban.

Driving along the diversion route I have spotted Green Line buses and coaches on the 702 service that normally use the M4 and coaches whose owner is a member of the Church of the Nazarene.

So 3 major operators have all decided not to challenge this weight limit. Trouble is that it takes at least 20 minutes longer driving time in each direction. Now add that up in your driving without break, daily driving and 14 day driving limits - these could so easily be exceeded.
 
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