A14 lorry drivers hit back against ‘elephant racing’ criticism

Andrew Papworth's column on 'elephant racing' lorries provoked sharp debate. Picture: ARCHANT HIVE

Andrew Papworth's column on 'elephant racing' lorries provoked sharp debate. Picture: ARCHANT HIVE

Columnist ANDREW PAPWORTH said lorries overtaking on the A14 should be banned. But how did HGV drivers respond?

Many lorry drivers feel they should be allowed to overtake on the A14 - although the majority of peo

Many lorry drivers feel they should be allowed to overtake on the A14 - although the majority of people in an online poll supported a ban. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

An opinion column, they say, should provoke debate.

My column last week, which was about lorries overtaking on the A14, has certainly done that.

To recap, I said that lorries overtaking on Suffolk's biggest - and often busiest - road should be banned.

MORE: 'Elephant racing' lorries on A14 cause huge frustration

My argument, in short, was that as well as delaying car drivers for what feels like an eternity, the manoeuvre is often dangerous - there are many times when I have been forced to hit the brakes to avoid a crash.

I even dubbed the activity "elephant racing" - but the article wasn't to everyone's liking.

Although an online poll attached to the story - in which thousands of people voted - showed 73% in favour of my argument, I've had some very angry comments from lorry drivers themselves.

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I should stress that many, while disagreeing with me strongly, have been totally polite and respectful.

Others, however, have been less kind - and I've been called everything from a "half-head" to a "moron" for expressing what I felt was a reasonable point of view.

As an opinion columnist, you must be able to take the flak as well as give it - so I guess I'll have to take it on the chin. Besides, I've really no problem with people thinking I'm wrong.

What many heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers have asked though, not unreasonably, is that I give them a chance to put their side of the argument. So, what do lorry drivers say in response?

? Overtaking saves us time, if not you

The main thrust of many responses I've received is that while cars stuck behind lorries can easily make up the time later, slower and often speed-restricted lorries can't.

Even though it may seem like a tiny gain to a car driver, the extra 3mph speed a lorry can do after overtaking makes all the difference over a long day.

Add that up over a month or a year, and it can be difference between a day off and missing the children's bedtime - or getting stuck in a traffic jam.

? We always overtake safely

I've absolutely no doubt that all those who've emailed me and commented on my story take safety with the utmost seriousness. I hope other lorry drivers follow their lead.

? Car drivers do worse things than lorry drivers

Again, this is something I don't doubt. I've seen plenty of dangerous manoeuvres from a variety of vehicles, so it's certainly not restricted to lorries.

? If you don't like being delayed, get up earlier

Not an unreasonable point - whatever you or I think, the law is what it is and traffic doesn't always move at 70mph on A-roads. All drivers should allow plenty of time for their journeys.

? Lorry drivers play a crucial role in our daily lives

Whatever our opinions, it's important to remember that HGVs deliver our food, vital supplies and in many ways keep our country going.

Have these responses changed my mind? Personally, not much - but I can completely understand the opposing point of view and the challenges lorry drivers face.

Perhaps I can end on a note on which we can, hopefully, all agree. From all the responses I've seen - from the polite to the strongly-worded - I can see lorry drivers expressing pride in their profession and a wish to stand up for their colleagues.

Genuinely, it's refreshing to hear that lorry drivers are so passionate that they feel compelled to email me or, in the case of one very nice and polite man, call me up to defend their trade. It's fantastic to see such a deep, heartfelt love for their jobs.

Now, excuse me, but this "moron" needs to get a move on so he can avoid the lorry traffic...

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