Tuesday, May 31

Motorways are useless

My job involves me working away for weeks on end and I do a lot of motorway miles both commuting to the job and as part of the job itself. Having driven a fair number of miles on them, I’ve come to the conclusion that Motorways are a waste of time.

The problem is HGV’s (or for non English readers, 42 ton Trucks with trailers). There are (with one or two minor exceptions) two and three lane motorways. You might as well replace them with a single track road.

The speed limit of the motorway is 70 MPH, which was introduced a LONG while ago when the absolute top speed of the majority of cars was about 70 MPH and they were fitted with cable operated drum brakes, skinny tyres, high centres of gravity, no seatbelts or crumple zones and other safety related devices. So it makes perfect sense to keep the limit at 70 MPH when you have infinitely safer cars which can out perform and out brake by several orders of magnitude the cars of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Most, if not all, HGV’s in Britain have a limiter fitted which does not permit them to exceed 56 MPH. This is due to the ruinously high cost (due to tax) of fuel – a truck travelling at 56 MPH will consume a good deal less fuel than at 70 MPH.
However the speed limited HGV’s play with each other and for some reason, the drivers think that, if they don’t have the speed or power to overtake a truck on the flat, as soon as a hill or incline is reached, they will somehow miraculously gain the additional speed and power to overtake another truck.

I have timed the trucks overtaking and based on estimates, (estimate that a truck is 50 ft long approximately and that it takes one about 1 ½ minutes – on a good day – to overtake the one in front) they overtake at a relative speed of about 0.7MPH. This difference could be explained by the minor differences inherent in the manufacture of anything and if one limiter allows (say) 55.7 MPH and the other allows 56.4 MPH, then that’s all the difference that they need to justify this inconsiderate overtake.

As they travel in convoys (or at least bunch up in convoys) and two or three can attempt the overtaking manoeuvre one after the other, then for a long time they effectively block off two lanes of the motorway. If this is a three lane motorway, it reduces the road effectively to a single "A" carriageway in terms of carrying capacity and due to cars and vans attempting to overtake these lumbering rolling roadblocks, the outside lane is reduced to 50 MPH or less.

If the road is a two lane motorway, then the result is worse, reducing the carrying capacity to about a good B road.

If any truck driver is reading this and wishes to explain why they feel entitled to delay everyone else, I’d be grateful for an explanation. I was taught to drive with the rule “Don’t drive in such a way that you cause another road user to brake or swerve due to your actions” and “Drive with consideration for other road users”. I’d take this to mean that if you are driving something weighing 42 tons, you don’t use your vehicle to bully and force other users out of your way by swerving violently into the path of an overtaking car, forcing it to brake heavily, and hog the road … but that’s just me.

The Guvermint (they govern, make an absolute mint out of the population in tax) might as well just leave the A and B roads as is and the journey times wouldn’t be much different.

HGV’s seem to account for a large proportion of accidents and delays (I’d estimate 50% based on listening to the traffic announcements and based on a job related statistics are HGV related – either shed loads or crashes from this class of vehicle). Watching them “slipstream” (or, if it was a car, tailgating) by driving a few feet from the truck in front answers the reason why they are often involved in multiple pile ups. They slipstream to save expensive fuel – the truck in front punches a hole in the air, the following truck can take advantage of it and thereby use less fuel to travel at the same speed. Formula one car drivers do the same.

There is hope on the horizon. The M42 has been selected for a trial which involves using the hard shoulder as a running lane during peak demand times, effectively turning it into a four lane motorway. As part of this trial, trucks are forbidden to overtake and if it proves successful, it will be applied to all motorways. Germany has various overtaking laws, the practical effect is that you cannot overtake a vehicle in front unless the difference in speed is so great that the overtake can be executed within a set time – so it is OK to overtake something like a tractor which travels at about 10 to 12 mph but not much else. It should prevent the “I’ll take several minutes to overtake and block the road” attitude of truck drivers.

I was travelling back on Friday (always a bad day and especially so just before a bank holiday weekend) and was travelling at the dizzy speed of about 20 MPH in the outside (i.e. the fastest lane) of the motorway due to the congestion and a double solid wall of HGV’s in the inside two lanes when I passed a child’s small pedal car against the crash barrier in the central reserve. It looked a little forlorn, the bright red plastic of the body and the little yellow steering wheel and windscreen and the white wheels gradually becoming coated in grime and fading in the sun.

I wondered how it had got there. Had someone taken it up the motorway as a joke, had to pedal furiously to keep up with the traffic flow and become exhausted ? Had they lost control (hard plastic wheels not having the same degree of grip as the more usual tyres) and skidded into the crash barrier? Had it been stolen and abandoned by some heartless TWOCer?

I was surprised that the police hadn’t closed the motorway for at least 6 hours to recover it and designate the area as a crime scene for forensic purposes.


Blogger Blog World said...

Faith is spiritualized imagination.
Henry Ward Beecher- Posters.

8:22 p.m.  

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