If you don’t like trucks, don’t buy stuff

A picture of a main road through a village which is not wide enough for two cars to pass or to justify putting a line down the centre. A four-storey red-brick house is to the left of the road with a pharmacy on the ground level. A car is making its way up the road (on the left side) and other cars are parked on the pavements on each side.A member of Kent County Council has called for trucks to be banned from roads in Kent, claiming they cause “more damage than 10,000 cars” driving through his village. Seán Holden, council member for the rural ward of Cranbrook, called for Kent to follow Leicestershire’s example and restrict truck access to roads in Kent, claiming that 87% of the lorry traffic through Kent is not going to Kent:

“When you see a lorry going down the roads, like I do, between Cranbrook and Benenden knocking down the hedges on both sides with its wing mirrors, that’s doing the equivalent to, if you have half a dozen of those down there over a day, around a year’s worth of cars.

“Those roads are not built for that. The potholes, that are the bane of the lives of everybody, costs us millions of pounds.

“This is a direct consequence of heavy vehicles using those roads. I want to see a strategy come into place because people’s lives are being ruined.”

A few of these statements are factual errors that can easily be refuted. Potholes are not always caused by trucks using the roads but by a mixture of poor maintenance and bad weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow. There are already weight restrictions on local roads in Kent; I’ve seen them when travelling around areas like Pembury and Paddock Wood where trucks have to use the main roads unless they’re delivering to villages along the restricted minor roads. There are also signs warning truck drivers that the road through Goudhurst (see image), where the road is narrow there are overhanging buildings, is unsuitable and it is true that there are no weight limits near Cranbrook and Benenden but there could be good reasons for that — one may be that there is no real need, as the road through Benenden is not a major cut-through and even if you take the trucks off that road, they would have to go along other narrow roads through other villages.

The overwhelming majority of the traffic passing through Kent on the way to other places goes nowhere near these places, which are on the Sussex border; the traffic going to and from the Channel Tunnel and the three seaports (Dover, Ramsgate and Sheerness) use the M2 and M20 and a few connecting roads. Traffic passing through that area would mostly be going from London or Kent to the East Sussex coast, places like Rye, Hastings, Bexhill and Lewes. All the roads in that area are narrow and windy, including the A21 (the trunk road from London, bits of which have been upgraded but not most of it) and the A229 from Maidstone. The A259, which runs from Folkestone to Hastings and along the Sussex coast, is also a slow two-lane road, complete with a switchback outside Rye. There is no way of avoiding villages if you need to deliver things to anywhere in that part of the country and if they proposed to build dual carriageways to replace the current roads, it would provoke a flood of complaints, not only from environmentalists but from local NIMBYs as well.

And really, before anyone complains about the noise of trucks coming through their village, they might consider that everything they buy comes on the back of a truck, whether it’s manufactured goods or food. Kent is an agricultural area; the milk, meat and crops need either a truck or a tractor to haul it away (and they would soon be complaining if they were being held up by tractors on main roads) and more trucks are needed to get them to the local shops. I as a city-dweller have to put up with trucks using roads near my house every day, so I don’t see why someone who lives in a leafy Kent village should have a better right to a quiet life than I do, and why do people choose to live in villages in Kent and commute by car to nearby large towns and cities, clogging all the villages up for several hours a day? Rules banning trucks from roads should be reserved for where they are too narrow or there is a risk of damage to buildings, or where they have been superseded by a by-pass. Otherwise, public roads are public and truck drivers are part of that same public as car drivers.

Image source: Ron Strutt, via Wikimedia. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence.

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