The announcement came from the DfT (Department for Transport), which says that the relaxation will run until 15 February 2016 to help logistics operators cope with the 50-mile detour caused by closure of the bridge to vehicles over 7.5 tonnes.
Industry organisations are understandably jubilant, although tempered by severe difficulties caused by the delay – which saw the bridge re-open to cars, buses and coaches on 4 January, but not HGVs and vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes.
Transport Scotland said such trucks would have to use an alternative route until permanent strengthening work was completed in mid-February.
“The First Minister offered reassurance that the bridge would re-open to all vehicles on 4 January so the delay has been a devastating blow for FTA members,” comments FTA (Freight Transport Association) director of policy Karen Dee (pictured).
“The additional costs incurred by the 50-mile diversion are significant, especially when contracts have already been signed and there is no opportunity to recoup the money,” she continues.
“The extension of the drivers’ hours relaxation will help operators to manage their fleets while the diversion is in place, but the priority must be to get the bridge open to HGVs as soon as possible.”
“This is a common-sense decision and one that the industry, particularly our Scottish members, will welcome,” adds RHA (Road Haulage Association) director for Scotland Martin Reid.
“We were stunned at the news that the Bridge is to remain closed to HGVs until mid-February, despite opening to other road users on 22 December,” he says.
“The additional cost of the continued closure to hauliers, already working to very tight margins, has been extremely high,” he continues.
“One of our long-standing members tells that the detour to cross from one side of the river to the other adds an extra hour each way in journey time alone and approximately £90 in additional fuel costs.”