HL Deb 15 December 1982 vol 437 cc594-7

2.41 p.m.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what research has been done into, and what suggestions have been made by the Ministry of Transport to solve, the problem of deaths and accident due to loads jack-knifing on articulated vehicles; and whether it is true that a device has been invented to prevent jack-knifing, but the Ministry decided that it was too expensive to be made compulsory.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the Transport and Road Research Laboratory and the Motor Industry Research Association have conducted several research projects into the problems of braking stability of heavy vehicles and the various remedies. There is no complete solution to the problem, but the principal devices aimed at reducing the onset of jack-knifing are the load sensing valve and the wheel anti-lock device. Construction and Use Regulations now require one or other of these devices to be fitted to all new heavy lorries and trailers from 1st October 1982.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, while I thank the Minister for the Answer to that Question, the fact is that articulated lorries—

Noble Lords


Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, is it not a fact that articulated lorries and crowbar fixed lorries are increasing? Is it also a fact that, during winter time, with the increase in the tonnage of lorries, jack-knifing is liable to be a greater liability? Will the noble Earl answer the latter part of the Question; namely, did the Ministry of Transport say that research would be too expensive, or that the device would be too expensive to put on to lorries compulsorily to prevent jack-knifing?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the noble Lord managed to convey an awful lot of questions in that supplementary. I ought to start by saying, first, that jack-knifing has been decreasing since the 1970s when load sensing standards started. Articulated vehicles have increased in number, but against that the actual number of accidents caused by articulated vehicles has gone down, so that is satisfactory.

The noble Lord also asked about heavy vehicles. My information is that on heavy vehicles the extra axles should actually help rather than hinder jack-knifing. Concerning expense as regards the anti-locking devices, the legislation which we have introduced has offered either the sensory devices or the anti-locking devices, and it is an option for vehicle owners to say which they want. The anti-locking device is slightly more expensive than the other one.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, would there not be fewer accidents if these vehicles did not travel at such excessive speeds, as many of them do, and then tend to go out of control? Is my noble friend satisfied that there are some police forces in this country where it appears that this law is not enforced?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I have no evidence to support what my noble friend has said, but should he have any, I shall be happy to consider it.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, is it not a fact that the two TRRL reports, to which the noble Earl, Lord Avon, has referred, indicate quite clearly that the ratio of fatal accidents involving articulated lorries and rigid lorries is higher in the case of articulated lorries by 1.4:1? Does that not indicate, therefore, the seriousness of the situation? Is it not also the case that these reports deal only with the number of fatal accidents for the year 1976? Are any further reports available, and what are the figures for all the accidents, not just fatal accidents?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the figures on which I was working are injury accidents, but, as the noble Lord will be aware, the problem here is to get the correct figures because, again, the police in different areas have different interpretations of how to list accidents of this sort, which makes figures of the kind about which the noble Lord is asking very hard to discover.

Recent legislation, on 1st October this year, when we introduced the EEC braking directives for heavy vehicles, is aimed specifically at setting standards of braking stability, which we think will reduce the likelihood of jack-knifing. I believe that in this policy we lead Europe, and I hope it will lead to a successful reduction in accident figures.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, did I hear my noble friend correctly when he said that these devices would be fitted to new vehicles? What is the situation with regard to old ones? Is it possible to fit devices to them, and has that been done?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, as regards legislation, my noble friend is quite correct; we cannot legislate backwards on this question. But I am happy to say that over the last few years a large number of vehicles have been fitted with these devices, resulting in the figures that I gave earlier on the reduction of accidents involving articulated lorries.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, when my noble friend said that more axles would help jack-knifing rather than hinder it, did he not mean exactly the opposite?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, indeed, I did mean exactly the opposite. I am grateful to my noble friend for clarifying that point.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, without trespassing on the patience of the House much longer, may I ask whether the noble Earl is aware that, according to the latest digest of statistics, some 7,000 people a year are killed and tens of thousands are mutilated or injured for life? Is it not time that we looked into the social economics of road transport vis-à-vis the unity of transport of all kinds?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, of course, as the noble Lord said, we are all very much concerned about the losses on the roads. However, my honourable friend Mrs. Lynda Chalker announced only last week that she intends to take another look at the whole subject, when a new concensus will be taken.

Earl Howe

My Lords, in the search for a solution over the years, has the noble Earl considered inquiring from the technical and engineering department of the Royal Automobile Club about the possibilities of certain systems which could have been used many years ago? I asked a similar question—and I quickly say this before I am accused of making a speech out of it—of my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek many years ago, during the passage of a Transport Bill, and it has taken four or five years for an answer.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am happy to go back to the advice given by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, on that occasion. I have no new information to offer the noble Earl.