If you thought that traffic jams were getting worse, you would be right.
In the last year, from September 2016 to this August, drivers on Britain’s motorways and A roads faced a staggering 3,700 jams a day.
Data from traffic analyst Inrix says a fuel spill, broken down vehicles and an emergency viaduct repair were behind the most severe delays. The M5 in Somerset saw the longest disruption and biggest tailbacks – up to 15 hours of jams after two lorries collided and spilled their fuel - while three of the top five were on the M6.
Of course jams not only cause inconvenience they have an impact on the economy, with businesses losing millions of pounds in fuel and time.
I have been a driver for ten years, and only recently left my life on the road to become a consultant with 24-7 Staffing. I’ve driven all over Europe, observed how traffic jams and one of their major causes – roadworks – are dealt with and feel we could learn a thing or two.
For example, while it is essential for road workers to be kept safe, 40mph could, I feel, be raised to 50mph.
Roadworks which go on for miles could be reduced to short, two or three miles stretches; rolling roadworks could be tried.
Smart motorways, such as we have at the M4/M5 interchange, where variable speed limits and the use of the hard shoulder at congestion times are a great way to alleviate jams but the public needs educating in how to use them; speeding up and slowing down between gantries and junctions is often a cause of bumps and the inevitable jams.
Whatever action is taken, jams will always be a fact of life. Here are my top tips for avoiding jams, and planning ahead in case you are caught in one:
- Get a good satnav but also use Google maps and listen to the traffic news. This may help you avoid a jam up ahead
- Know your route and also alternative options before you set off, that way if there is a jam up ahead you can go to Plan B
- Take your breaks before you hit a notorious ‘jam’ zone, or London. That way, you are less likely to be stuck en route or in a jam when you are due your break
- Stock up on drinks and snacks so, if you get stuck, you have refreshments
There will be times when drivers are stranded in a traffic jam, sometimes for hours. This is potentially be a problem for lorry drivers, as they are restricted by the number of hours they can drive, and could be transporting perishable loads.
If you ‘run out’ of hours while on the road you would need to contact the transport office to make them aware that traffic is heavy, and that you might be late for a delivery. Then keep the traffic office up to date with the developing situation.
Clients who are expecting a delivery also need to be kept informed. This would normally be done by the transport/traffic office, who would then advise the driver as to whether the client is going to accept delivery or if you are best to park up for the night and try again in the morning. However if you are on a night shift and the transport/traffic office is closed, then use your initiative and call the client.
If you have perishable stock, which is on a refrigerated trailer, make sure you carry enough diesel so the engine can continue to run and operate the fridge trailer.
Finally, be able to think on your feet, especially if you are driving in Europe. You may experience problems with your fridge engine or even with you lorry. So knowing call out phone numbers, for whatever country you are in is good practice.