The 2016 traffic sign regulations banning new imperial-only vehicle dimension signs were laid before Parliament on 23 March 2016 and came into force on 22 April. Ronnie Cohen looks at the chequered history of this commonsense reform.
The replacement of imperial-only height and width restriction signs over a four-year period was proposed but not implemented by the last Labour government. The proposals were dropped in 2010 by the incoming coalition, which boasted of the resulting savings but omitted to mention the estimated overall increase in cost due to the disruption and expense resulting from accidents. Earlier posts on Metric Views describe this in more detail.
The proposal reappeared in slightly different form towards the end of the life of the coalition government, and again was not implemented before a general election intervened.
Finally, in November 2015 the Department for Transport (DfT) published a further consultation. Among wide-ranging proposed revisions to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD), the DfT proposed that new signs indicating height, width and length limits should show both imperial and metric units of measurement. One of the questions asked in the consultation was “Do you agree that we should only prescribe dual unit (imperial and metric) height, width and length limit signs?”
This proposal to make metric units mandatory for such signs (in addition to imperial units) was supported almost unanimously by local authorities – 96% of local authorities and 88% of all respondents were in favour.
From 22 April, newly-erected imperial-only height and width restriction signs are unauthorised, unless they have planning permission. Unlike some of our opponents, we do not suggest that readers should take the law into their own hands. However, you may wish to draw the attention of the responsible authority to the relevant section of the TSRGD 2016.
UKMA would, of course, have preferred a rapid move to metric-only signs, including those for speed and distance. While the government’s proposal will result in further wasted expense before the inevitable conversion of all UK road traffic signs to the world standard system of measurement system, UKMA believes it is an important step in the right direction.
The government recognised in the consultation that “there are a number of lorry drivers on our roads who may not be familiar with imperial units of measurement, particularly younger drivers who may not have been taught imperial measurements at school” and that “this lack of understanding has been implicated in incidents of bridges being struck by over height vehicles.”
Existing imperial-only signs can remain in place until they become life-expired or replaced during routine maintenance. When they are replaced, the dual-unit equivalent sign will have to be used. Existing signs may remain, but will need to be replaced with dual signs at the end of their life, or if renewed for any other reason.
It may be opportune to mention UKMA’s recent report on vehicle dimension signs, prepared following inquiries to highways agencies and local authorities and entitled: “Vehicle dimension signs in the UK: A review of current practice, and opportunities for improvement“.
You can find the 2015 traffic signs consultation at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/480153/traffic-signs-consultation-response.pdf
You can find the “Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016” at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/362/pdfs/uksi_20160362_en.pdf
You can find details of the 2006 UKMA report on changeover of all UK road traffic signs at: http://www.ukma.org.uk/msa-summary
We shall be returning to the issue of road traffic signs in future posts on Metric Views.