Bus and Coach CV Sector Features & Interviews News TNB News Tractor Van

Feature: How truck stops are cleaning up their act

12 December 2017 #Bus and Coach #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #News #TNB News #Tractor #Van

Truck stops are synonymous with all-day breakfasts and the smell of diesel, so it’s fair to say their reputation may not be the most glamorous. However, across the length and breadth of the country, roadside services are upping their game and offering lorry drivers more than the cliché greasy spoon.

In August 2016, DAF Trucks appealed via social media for drivers’ feedback on the country’s best roadside stops. Those that got the thumbs up included PJM Lorry Park in Coventry, Chippenham Pit Stop and Cornwall’s Smokey Joe’s. Facilities that proved a hit for many included showers, access to fuel, secure overnight parking, good food, value for money and friendly service.

Some of the favourites went further still. Chippenham, for example, is kitted out with exercise equipment and a barbers; Tebay Services on the M6 includes a farm shop with locally sourced produce; the Junction 38 Truck stop, also at Tebay, includes an Airstream caravan serving fresh food to go in the early hours; and plenty more offer extras such as Wi-Fi and Sky Sports TV.

It was a similar story when ferry ticket agent, Freightlink, compiled a list of the UK’s nine best truck stops based on the opinions of its customers in January 2017. The aforementioned Junction 38 took the top spot, with Ashford International Truckstop in second place, while Lancashire’s Skelmersdale Truckstop and Road King, in Holyhead, also made the list.

Again, drivers named elements such as security, fresh and healthy food options, hygiene facilities and affordable accommodation as plus points. Some of the more unique provisions included vehicle wash services, Ashford’s lorry repair service, overnight parking packages and accounts for regular visitors.

As you’d expect, truckers clearly favour sites that are tailored to their needs, offering clean and modern facilities – a school of thought reflected in a survey of the UK’s motorway service stations, carried out by watchdog Transport Focus. In early 2017, 8,700 individuals completed the survey at each of the country’s 112 major services as they left the sites.

When it was published in October, the survey reported that 90% of visitors were satisfied with the facilities, while 58% described themselves as “very satisfied”. The research covered a broad spread of people but HGV drivers were among them, and were asked about aspects specific to their requirements. Though results were generally favourable, professional drivers, as they were termed by the survey, reported an 84% satisfaction rate – not bad, but slightly below that of visitors across the board.

Louise Collins, senior stakeholder manager at Transport Focus, who led the research, explains why the verdict from truckers trailed the general result: “It’s probably because they visit more often. Their requirements are not totally different – to stop, to go to the toilet, to get a drink – but they have additional needs, which are linked to the fact that they drive for a living – and that’s where the difference came out. HGV drivers were, generally, similarly satisfied with most of the main aspects – things like how friendly the staff were, the speed of service when they were getting food – they rated those pretty much the same as other people.

“Where there were some slightly lower scores were with things that are more specific to them. The layout of the parking area – they scored that a little bit lower than most other visitors, and the security of their vehicle, which again, is much more important for an HGV driver, and it’s probably because they’re carrying a more valuable load than most leisure visitors, for example. HGV parking is sometimes further away [from the main buildings] and there were a couple of comments about lighting not being so good in some places.”

“Another interesting point was on the range of food and drink. It wasn’t a massively lower score – visitors overall gave it 88%, whereas HGV drivers gave it 83%, which is still pretty high – but because they’re eating regular meals there, it’s much more important if they’re going to stop five or 10 times a week, rather than someone going on holiday twice a year. The sorts of comments they made were that they’d like to see more fresh-cooked or healthy meal options, which make the difference when they’re doing those long hours on the road.”

Reading Services came out on top in the survey, with a 100% satisfaction rate for both the east and westbound sites. The majority of stations were rated in the 80s and 90s, though Heston eastbound came bottom with a 62% satisfaction rate. According to Collins, those that stood out hadn’t reinvented the wheel; they simply got the essentials right.

“It’s a case of a marginal difference between them, rather than some doing a particularly outstanding job. The reasons people said they were satisfied were all about [the services] being clean, reliable, having a good food offering – doing a really good job of the basics. So I think it was about meeting those standards consistently.”

A heavy reliance on service stations and truck stops makes them an inevitable aspect of drivers’ working lives, so it’s crucial that they’re up to the job, especially if the haulage industry is to attract more drivers into employment, as Collins explains: “It’s undeniable that services are a huge part of the lorry driver’s life, and if facilities overall aren’t good enough, then it’s difficult to encourage people into the industry.

“It’s notable that 97% of the professional drivers were male in this research, so potentially, to attract more women into the industry, there’s a requirement for good facilities. But it’s really not just about the motorways; these facilities are fairly easy to access, they’re at regular points, but then there are also the ones on A-roads. I think they are less well understood and the provision is probably a little bit patchier.”

Transport Focus is planning a similar survey of A-road service stations in 2018. The results aren’t expected until summer at the earliest, but Collins believes it will be “interesting to hear what truck drivers have to say about those facilities, where we know the coverage isn’t quite so good.”

Filter News

Update Newsletter