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.
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.
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 www.fta.co.uk 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.
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.