The Department for Transport has published its national survey of lorry parking for 2017, which gauges the level of demand for overnight parking in England against the overall truck park capacity available.
The report identified “an immediate need” for more than 1,400 new parking spaces in critical areas of the country, and a requirement for 37 per cent more overnight spaces in the South East in particular.
During a month-long survey, the DfT visited 4,509 parking sites across England, including 311 lorry parks and motorway service areas which are counted as on-site parking – national capacity for which was found to be just over 15,000.
However, 39 per cent of all vehicles counted were recorded as having been parked off-site – largely in laybys or industrial/retail estates. The DfT cites a theoretical excess of 3,658 vehicles which could not park in an on-site space.
The number of HGVs counted making overnight stops on a typical mid-week night had risen by 36 per cent – almost 5,000 vehicles – between 2010 and 2017, when the survey took place.
In comparison, the total on-site capacity in truck stops and motorway service areas had risen just 14 per cent.
Of the nine former government office regions of England, the report found that demand for truck parking exceeds or is close to exceeding capacity in six of them: the East Midlands, the East of England, the North East, the South East, the West Midlands and the South West.
Of these, the situation in the East of England and West Midlands has been categorised as critical (85 per cent utilisation or more of on-site spaces). Utilisation in the South East was only slightly lower, at 84 per cent.
Greater London, Yorkshire and Humber and the North West fared better in general – although the report highlighted high off-site parking levels around the Port of Liverpool due to a lack of nearby facilities.
In addition, “the strategic road network surrounding the three ports in the South East and East of England is under a lot of pressure for additional lorry parking”, the report found.
“The A34 in the South East leading north from the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth has high levels of offsite parking and a high number of serious and critically utilised lorry parks.
“Almost all lorry parks within the counties of Essex and Kent are at critical levels of utilisation.”
Kent in particular was raised repeatedly by stakeholders in consultation with the DfT as an area of concern, particularly in relation to Operation Stack.
Parking issues are especially acute in the county due to the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal in Folkestone.
The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport and Kent Police suggest that the county has an overall shortfall of between 1,000 and 1,200 HGV parking spaces.
On the national situation, the report, which was prepared for the DfT by AECOM, noted that: “Whether off-site parking is to be considered as inappropriate for overnight parking is undetermined.
“However, there is a shortage of HGV drivers, and one reason for this is the negative public perception of the industry, as well as drivers feeling underpaid and undervalued.
“Providing drivers with suitable wash and food facilities, to enable them to have a pleasant overnight rest, is important for improving driver morale, perception and road safety. If this is the standard set for what can be defined as ‘appropriate’ parking then most laybys and industrial/retail parks would then be considered ‘inappropriate’…
“With lorry parking averaging at £16.60/night many drivers would prefer to supplement their salary with a tax-free “night out” payment from their employer and spend the night parked off-site for ‘free’.
“One solution to this problem could be to adapt these locations into ‘enhanced’ off-site parking facilities, having basic amenities for drivers at a modest price.”
In a statement last month, the transport minister Jesse Norman said that 1,000 additional parking spaces were currently in the pipeline pending planning decisions on proposed sites.
He also said he had written to the planning minister to ask him to draw local authorities’ attention to the survey results – and that Highways England was currently looking into the potential development of new lorry parks which could provide up to 1,500 further spaces.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it believed this was “not enough”.
“We need more than vague projections of how many lorry parking spaces they might be able to create in the future,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett.
“This needs to be addressed right now. Operators of existing sites… have their hands tied by planning regulations. We need to see an immediate commitment from government and local authorities to build more and better parking facilities, and not throwaway solutions.”
He also criticised proposals by transport minister Jesse Norman to “make it easier for local authorities to take enforcement action against hauliers who park inappropriately”.
“In Kent, the trial on a stretch of the A20 of innovative enforcement approaches has had considerable success in its first six months of operation, with a significant fall in the number of vehicles parked overnight, and increased use of commercial parking facilities in the area, especially at weekends,” said the minister.
“Subject to the findings of this 18-month trial, we will be looking to promote the wider application of such measures elsewhere.”
Richard Burnett responded: “On one hand the government admits there’s a chronic shortage of spaces for truckers to park, then on the other they’re giving a green light to councils to target lorry drivers who can’t find somewhere to park. It makes no sense whatsoever.
“Years of inaction and red tape have left many areas woefully short of lorry parking – not least in Kent following the collapse of the Stanford West plans – leaving many hauliers no choice but to park in laybys.
“Government should be pushing for more facilities for truckers to take their statutory breaks, not punishing them for the failings of local authorities to provide them. So let’s build the spaces first before we start enforcing against people for not using them.”