In an exclusive interview with roadway magazine, the Roads Minister, Richard Holden MP, has spoken about his disgust at the state of UK truck stops and how drivers are treated at the facilities. It has not been that long since the Department for Transport announced a match funding scheme designed to ensure that operators of truck stops and service stations could quickly remedy the problems seen at facilities by van drivers. The match funding for each operator can be up to £315,000 and is part of a 32.5 million fund that the government has put aside. One of the key hopes is that there will be fast upgrades to shower and toilet facilities as well as other amenities.
When asked about the current parking and facilities on offer to UK truck drivers, he was quick to say that he understood there was a definite variety of good and bad across the country. However, largely he feels that it needs to improve overall, and van drivers should be able to enjoy better truck stops and roadside services as they go about their jobs. He also said that it was obvious that driver retention was suffering in part because of the problem. It's not only the quality of the facilities but also the lack of security. Driver retention and recruitment have been an issue, with very few younger or female applicants coming on board. He feels that the lack of safety and decent facilities add to this shortage. After all, no one wants to feel unsafe when going about their role, especially as a lone worker.
The idea of the funding is that the larger companies will be able to claim back something in the region of 25% of costs, but for some of the smaller operators, this will be up to 50% of the cost, making it much easier for them to carry out upgrading and refurbishment work. He feels that with the government pot and the spending from the operators, around £100 million should be pumped into the truck, stock, quality and safety.
He was also asked about the issues that have regularly cropped up when planning applications are made for new truck rest stops. Historically local authorities do not attend to support these, and truck operators are seeking reform for the National planning policy framework. His response was that local authorities should be welcoming these applications, but understand their reluctance when they have such a bad reputation, so improving the image should make the process much simpler. It's imperative that we can demonstrate to local authorities that the addition of a new truck stop would generate local employment and be positive for their community at large. Finally, he was asked what his view was when drivers are denied toilet access by the companies they are delivering to. He spoke of his disappointment and said it was ridiculous that anyone would be denied the use of a toilet and hinted that if things become too difficult for drivers. Further action would need to be taken.