Richard Hammond

Richard on: lorry drivers

Richard on: truckers

I respect truckers. It's a difficult job, they drive millions of miles, their lorries are slow and they have to be very patient as they deliver the essentials we all need for daily life. I know this. Truly, I do, and, when I get stuck behind one on the A40, I always bear in mind that they are delivering the very things my family needs. Or, more likely, we don't actually need, but my wife has ordered from the internet and expects to receive the next day so she can get on with repackaging them for return because they're the wrong size/colour/style. Then she will leave them by the door, where they will remain forever because who visits a post office these days?

Truckers do important work, they provide a necessary service, and I respect them for that. Also, as a biker, I like to think that I enjoy a special relationship with them. The largest things on the road are, it seems, always ready to treat with care and consideration the smallest things on the road.

And, when on my bike, I have noticed, on approaching lines of traffic, that it is always the lorry driver who spots me and is always the first to move over or do what he can to accommodate me, like a hippo shifting a buttock to allow a mouse to pass. And that's all very nice. But something is going very, very wrong on the roads and, I'm sorry to say, that it is entirely the fault of an apparent vigilante group of those same biker-friendly, essential-service providers.

Twice this week, I had no alternative but to use the motorways. And twice I came up behind a queue of traffic forming at the point where two lanes were filtered down to one, on account of the roadworks not happening behind the cones. At least it would have been forming at the point where the two lanes went down to one, but it was actually forming half a mile or so back from there, on account of there being a lorry straddling both lanes.

The driver of said lorry had placed his bulk in the way of cars in the right-hand lane so that they couldn't use the last half mile of functioning carriageway and were forced to filter in early - if the drivers behind the truck, joining in with a playground-bullying frenzy, would let them.

I believe the lorry drivers are doing this because they share the same indignation borne by the morons who, on seeing a sign telling them that two lanes will be reduced to one in 10 miles, pull immediately into the lane that will remain. They then get cross with anyone continuing to use the other lane up to the point where the two merge and we are supposed to filter in turn to form one line.

It is, needless to say, an idiotic pursuit that only serves to lengthen the traffic jam, often extending it across a roundabout or a junction, causing more gridlock and mayhem than the roadworkers - in their tents - could ever manage without assistance.

A couple of things bother me about this habit: firstly, who in hell appointed these truckers as guardians of the right-hand lane? Being in possession of a T-shirt and an extra-large bottle of supermarket-brand cola does not make you right. In fact, in this case, it makes them entirely wrong. The lorry drivers sat in the middle of the lanes indulging their Judge Dredd fantasies to uphold what they mistakenly saw as the law at the very start of the M50 last week, lengthened the tailback so that it ran the risk of circling the roundabout at the junction behind them. From where the queue would eventually back up onto the M5 and risk complete and eternal gridlock for the west of England and all of Wales.

And secondly, if truckers want to uphold the rules, why focus their energies on this? Why don't they go and inspect people's recycling bins? Or spend their days off in parks, stopping people littering? Or go help the traffic wombles tidy up all the shredded lorry tyres and shattered glass littering the few stretches of motorway that don't have roadworks on them with a lorry driver deciding it's his duty to block a lane and protect the good people of wherever from getting to work or home or to school on time?

There is only one way forward. If nothing changes within two weeks of today, I suggest that we all call a strike. Lorry-driver strikes have devastating effects, bringing untold inconvenience and misery in the cause of healing the drivers' grievances. Fair enough, striking is their right.

But it is ours too. Just think of the effect our strike would have on lorry drivers. I shall refuse to eat, wear, sit on, look at or otherwise consume anything delivered anywhere by lorry until they stop this habit. It will be tricky. I shall probably starve and my wife shall mourn terribly the lack of a daily parcel of horse equipment and children's clothes, but it shall work, and we shall break them.

Richard Hammond, Column

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