Island hauliers have criticised plans to install average speed cameras on a notorious stretch of the A9, describing it as a “waste of time”.
Known as ‘Scotland’s deadliest road’, the A9 sees an average of 200 accidents a year and claimed 67 lives between 2006 and 2010.
As well as carrying traffic to the north it is also the main route to the islands, with hauliers negotiating the trunk road on the way to Ullapool on a daily basis.
But the Scottish Government announcement that average speed cameras will run from Dunblane to Inverness has been met with dismay and calls for increased speed limits for HGVs.
Currently HGVs are limited to 40mph on single carriage ways although A9 campaigner and HGV driver Conor McKenna said: “For a long time drivers have been breaking the law to make the road safer.”
Hector Macdonald of Hebrides Haulage explained: “People are dying on that road. If it was another road in the country it would have been sorted years ago. It’s heart breaking.”
He said almost all hauliers in the islands and north of Scotland believe increasing the HGV speed limit to 50mph would increase road safety on the route.
David Wood, the proprietor of Woody’s Express, also believes increasing the speed limit for HGVs on the A9 would help make the road safer, and prevent other drivers from getting “frustrated”.
He said the current speed limit acts as a “catalyst” for accidents and installing average speed cameras “is certainly not the answer to the problem”.
He continued: “The obvious solution to the problem is to up the speed limit for commercial vehicles.” He added: “At the end of the day the dualling of the A9 has to be brought forward. Sticking a plaster on the gaping wound is not the answer.”
There are also concerns enforcing the 40mph speed limit on lorries will lead to increased costs for hauliers.
Mr Macdonald explained: “We buy vehicles that are new and designed to run at their optimum efficiency at 54mph.” He said driving along the A9 at 40mph would “gobble up fuel”.
While Mr Wood explained: “We would have to leave Glasgow half an hour to three quarters of an hour earlier [to reach the ferry]. It’s hard to tell at the moment what the impact will be.”
Meanwhile the political pressure is also mounting. Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, explained: “There is a lot of angst among lorry drivers about the speed cameras.”
He said the speed limit was for HGVs was set 30 years ago and the way to create a safer A9 is to accelerate progress on extending areas of dual carriageway as well as “increasing the ludicrously slow speed limit for HGVs.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said the cameras were agreed by members of the A9 Safety Group, which includes The Road Haulage Association and The Freight Transport Association.
She continued: “Consideration was also given to a pilot increase of the speed limit for HGVs, however accident records show HGVs are involved in a higher proportion of accidents on single carriageway sections of the A9 than they are on other similar routes and the speed data shows that the vast majority of HGVs are travelling above the speed limit.”
She explained Police Scotland would not support an increase in HGV limits at this time, adding: “It was agreed that Transport Scotland would continue to monitor the route ...and assess whether a pilot speed limit increase for HGVs should be considered in future.”