Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by The Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IT 126)

A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT: BETTER FOR EVERYONE

(A) PREAMBLE

  The Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) is a professional institute representing over 18,000 individual members mainly in the maintenance and operational sectors of the road transport industry. It also represents 26 major industry organisations who are industrial affiliates of the Institute. Its objectives are concerned with the education and training of engineers and technicians and the promotion of good engineering practice in the interests of safety and efficiency.

  Through its associated trading company it also runs two major annual exhibitions and the concurrent conferences that at Telford being the largest of its kind in the U.K. Although it is not a trade association or a trade union the Institute is active in making an input to the standards making and regulatory processes on behalf of its members.

(B) THE WHITE PAPERGENERAL OBSERVATIONS

  We welcome the theme of integration and the intermodal approach which recognises that each transport mode should be used where it is most efficient and appropriate to do so. Cost, delay and inconvenience is most likely to occur at the transfer point from one mode to another and journeys, whether for people or goods, should be as seamless as possible. Any transport system relies on engineering assets for operation, whether it be a railway signalling system, an airliner, a container handling crane, an escalator, a minibus or a hovercraft. For the transport system to function effectively these engineering assets must be designed exactly for their application and be safe, reliable and durable when used in that application. The design and maintenance of road vehicles, from motor cycles to heavy haulage equipment, is at the heart of our interest in a coherent long term national and international transport policy which hitherto has not existed.

  Much of the White Paper consists of broad statements of policy or intent, some of these potentially conflicting, but without detail of the means and time-scale to achievement. For this reason we see the main opportunity for comment arising with the publication of the further documents referred to in Annex A and through the normal process of public consultation for any new legislation which may be drafted arising from the White Paper's intentions.

(C) THE WHITE PAPERSPECIFIC ISSUES

  Notwithstanding the above approach we would like to comment on some of the issues raised by specific paragraphs or sections of the paper as follows:

  2.57 Whilst we support the use of lighter and more fuel efficient vehicles, whether they be cars, buses or goods vehicles, and also any efforts to cut down running losses, we would suggest that:

    1.  The biggest potential fuel consumption savings arise from change in driving style almost irrespective of the type of vehicles concerned, (cf also paragraph 3.158); and

    2.  An increase in the occupancy of cars as suggested in the car sharing proposals of paragraph 5.38 will have a far more profound effect on fuel consumed per passenger-mile or kilometre which is the best test of efficiency.

  3.107 and 3.155 We are very interested in the proposals for city logistics and "sustainable distribution" and look forward to further details on these.

  3.143 We note the reference to accreditation of recovery vehicles and wonder whether this refers to the firm running the vehicle, the operator, the vehicle itself or all three. Quite apart from the safety issues of running on the hard shoulder recovery vehicles need to be professionally designed and operated and there is a strong case for special treatment in respect of permissible axle weights while engaged on recovery work.

  3.157 High load factors are desirable from both commercial and fuel efficiency viewpoints but some industries involved in transporting bulky but low density products where load volume is the prime limitation may nevertheless for good reasons use vehicles whose designed gross weights will not be reached in practice. This does not necessarily mean that such a vehicle is less fuel efficient or more polluting than one of a lower gross weight.

  3.160 to 3.167 The issues involved here in the change of axle and gross weights for goods vehicles are well known and have been thoroughly publicised by the trade associations and others. We do not propose to restate the arguments here. In particular from a transport efficiency and environmental point of view the case for 44 tonnes on six axles is unassailable and, as is pointed out in paragraph 3.164, this conclusion was reached nearly twenty years ago in a very thorough and wide ranging inquiry chaired by Sir Arthur Armitage.

  3.258 and 3.259 We note the proposal to review the regulation of transport safety and the investigation of accidents and would query to what extent, if at all, the existing arrangements in the road transport sector might be affected.

  4.5 The brief and composition of the proposed Commission for Integrated Transport is noted as is the statement that the members will be chosen for their expertise, and impartiality. May we express the hope that in view of strong dependence of the transport industry on engineering products and disciplines at least one of the members of the Commission should have an engineering background and qualification.

  4.124 At the time of writing the practical interpretation of the proposed V.E.D. concessions for "low emission" vehicles is still awaited. Until these are defined relevant decisions on the specification of new vehicles cannot be made with confidence.

  4.139 Fleet engineers and managers constantly strive to specify the most efficient vehicles for their particular operating circumstances. We therefore applaud the support of research programmes with this objective and the tacit assumption that more efficient usually means more environmentally acceptable.

  In particular we would like to be advised of the details of the programmes and would welcome any involvement within our capacity.

  We wonder also whether the government is considering financial incentives to encourage good practice, or in recognition of existing good practice?

29 September 1998


 
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