posted 4 years ago

Opinion: Deadly Cost Of Service Station Parking

Could tired motorists be tempted to keep moving rather than dig deep?

Motorway service stations legally have to provide two hours of free parking.

Go over that and you’ll be paying around £10-11 as a car driver, and £21 if you drive an HGV.

The aim is to discourage long stays and deter people from dumping their vehicles for the day so that they can share a lift.

It’s a similar situation to that which you now find in some of the car parks of businesses like Aldi and Halfords … or is it?

If you don’t pay for your longer off-motorway parking, you WILL be tracked down, thanks to vehicle licence plate recognition and, typically, walloped with a £90 fine - something many motorists view as blatant profiteering.

You can often get away with not paying this, as a motorway service station cannot levy fines.

If you offer to pay your £10-21 charge, that usually suffices.

But there is a much deeper issue.

Motorway services

Do service stations exist to turn in a hefty profit, or to safeguard motorists, by offering them a place in which to stop and rest, relax, grab a coffee and have a good sleep?

The answer should be the latter, but unpalatably pricy tabs for all-day breakfasts and petrol are enough to encourage a disregard of the ‘Tiredness Kills’ signs, even before an extra charge for a decent and lengthy sleep comes into the reckoning.

Motorists are riled by the parking charges, but would realistically find the same high charges applying in city centre car parks and, very often, do not need to sleep for more than two hours.

The recommendation is 45 minutes in every 4.5-hour drive (EU Regulations).

For an HGV driver, however, the situation can be very different.

Haulage Woes


The HGV industry is under intense pressure.

Operators have been unable to pass fuel price increases on to their customers.

At website forums such as drivers point to having only £10 to live on, to last them while away for five days.

Many are thundering up the motorway network from the wee small hours of the morning and driving for many hours for little pay.

Pressures on profits and driver shortages are leading to drivers flouting tachograph rules about required rests between journeys. For instance, a group of 17 men were sentenced over two days in December 2013 for offences relating to tachograph rules.

A £21 additional charge for stopping for more than two hours, not to mention highly priced food and drinks, are not going to make a service station stop a “must do”.

Foreign hauliers are also having margins squeezed.

A new foreign HGV tax, of between £1.70 and £10 a day to use the UK road network, was introduced in April, along with a £300 roadside fine if caught.

Caught Napping


One in five crashes on motorways and other monotonous roads are sleep-related according to ROSPA, many instances of nodding off and falling asleep at the wheel being between 2am and 6am, at night and after a lack of sufficient sleep.

Driver fatigue is the main cause of HGV and coach accidents and fatigue is responsible for as many road deaths as drink driving. 

A survey by Think! Road Safety (2008) found 37% of car, van and lorry drivers carry on driving when too tired to do so.

Graphic videos have been produced warning all motorings of the dangers.

Service station car park, food and petrol charges can be viewed as a clear case of profiteering and are at odds with safety advice.

However, perhaps more worryingly, especially at a time when the logistics industry claims to be 60,000 drivers short and pressure on delivering has never been greater, their charges are potentially creating a situation in which an accident and potential motorway carnage is just one sleepy nod away.

*There’s a link here to the THINK! Advice on avoiding driving while tired.

*Do you think it’s time for all motorway service station parking charges to be scrapped? Let us know.


The government should prosecute the owners of these petrol stations for discriminating against the motorway users as the price of fuel is cheaper in towns.It is cheaper to deliver fuel to these services,apart from the odd traffic jam these motorways are clear where the drivers are in top gear most of the time therefore using less fuel than they would driving through towns/cities and rural toads.It's obvious they are ripping customers off,I don't recall buying food/drink from any of these services ever. As for staying overnight I did a few times but only asked once for money,this was in the 90s.As for sleep related accidents which I believe is the major cause,long spells on motorway/dual carriageways is the worst,boredom,time to destination,lack of interesting items en route,plus seeing those ugly wind turbine is enough to put anyone to sleep. I myself had to stop often,particularly if I had an early start,4am. If your driving a lorry particularly an arctic you just cannot park up anywhere you need a lay by but many of them have been closed by councils. You tried hard to keep concentrating and you think you are till your brain shouts 'Open your eyes'it's weird,you think your watching the road and your not.More lay bys should be a priority,all I ever needed was 5-10minutes at the utmost to be fully refreshed,drove all day without feeling the slightest bit tired.I'm not surprised there is a 60,000 shortage of drivers it's a thankless job,long hours,bosses wanted the job done before you've started the day.The laws against the driver are over the top...yet the lorry driver is who everyone depends on,he keeps the wheels of industry turning in every department,no other kind of transport can ever compete economically or efficiently.

In general I use motorway service areas for loo breaks and very occasional snack, if I'm desperate. For the life of me I can't understand why, with the advent of petrol station locator apps which usually indicate you can buy petrol cheaper within a couple of miles, people still pay the extortionate prices for fuel. It doesn't take a genius to work out that petrol 10p a litre more expensive works out between 4 and 6 quid extra out of your hard earned for an average car, multiply that many times for a lorry...

I travel on the motorway network frequently, and unless I absolutely have to, never use the services. They are a complete rip-off and yo are also at greater risk of losing your vehicle or it's contents to theives. I carry an emergency fuel supply and a small amount of food and drink, enough to see me through to my destination without the need to visit the rip-off merchants

to avoid the parking fine i cover my number plate on the way out of the service station. i use mud and leaves. or maybe some wet knapkins would have the equal effect.

Speed limits are maximums not targets. If you can't drive at a speed suitable to the conditions you should not be driving at all. If the problem is commuters then 5 hours parking for free should solve the problem

Areas should be made like France for HGV and private, you are not allowed to sleep over night but you can sleep as long as you like staying free. In addition we should have dual speed limits, one for clear weather and one for rain/fog. We should also consider HGV night only driving, again with decent layover stops available free. HGVs should be forced to tachograph via GPS so the systems cannot be fiddled. When the truck hits 10 hours it stops.

For a long time there have been publications for facilities 'just off the motorway',so you have to quite desperate to have to use them!!

In all fairness there are many problems with Motorway Services and crime is quite a major one. You can park your caravan and other vehicles up and these immediately come to the attention of thieves. You will have your Electronics and other high value items and as there are an abundance of choice it's a Thieves playground. You are best to find an out of the way public place where thieves are less likely to frequent. Again Trucks in poorly lit areas are also likely to get hit. Then you get robbed by the services themselves and recovery agents to get to these places.

This is a riff-off country and people voted for it, sos wots new.

I disagree with the sentiment of this article. The costs involved in running and renting space for a motorway service area are vast - most of us would be astonished at what the various franchises have to pay; hence the high prices for food, petrol and parking - it is not a 'captive audience' as you can easily park up off the motorway or find a friendly transport cafe or pub for a meal. I have easily found some great places for a meal within 2-3 miles of the motorways. Parking at service areas is always fairly limited and without these time limits and fines, we would never be able to find a slot. I use motorway service areas for a pee, a small snack or a short break - they would soon go bust if they relied on my type of custom alone. But we do need them for whatever we want to do there.

I agree the cost of parking on service area parking is excessive, the same as the cost of food which can be almost twice the price of the same commodity bought off-site. the same applies to airports,railways stations etc they know they have a captive market and so charge what they like !!