Published: 06:00, 16 December 2020
| Updated: 16:06, 16 December 2020
From residents being kept up all night by beeping HGVs, to Amazon drivers using lay-bys in Hoo as a toilet, tensions surrounding freight traffic in Kent are increasing as the Brexit deadline edges closer.
Some even protested about mass lorry parks being built in the wake of Britain leaving the EU, although existing parking provision for hauliers in the county has been described as 'the worst in the world'.
In the wake of potential traffic mayhem after the Brexit transition period, a logistics expert has urged the public not to blame hauliers for using lay-bys and parking on road across Kent - and that governments past and present are to blame for chaos on the county's roads.
Graham Pask, south east area manager for the Road Haulage Association, said a lack of investment on roads carrying freight traffic puts HGV drivers in a difficult position, both now and after the Brexit transition period on January 1.
It was recently announced that the 66-acre Sevington lorry park being built next to the M20 won't be finished until the end of February, two months after Britain leave the EU.
Without the adequate number of facilities available for UK and foreign lorry drivers come January 1, Graham believes many will have no choice but to park wherever they can find.
The Sittingbourne-based manager said: "There will be vehicles parked in unsuitable places - unsuitable for the public but also unsuitable for the driver.
"The drivers don't want to be there, they don't want to be in a lay-by or by the side of the road, they want to be in a proper parking facility where they've got access to toilets and showers.
"We've all heard the stories about foreign lorry drivers in a lay-by who have used it as a toilet. The poor guy has had no other choice, that's the problem.
"The infrastructure just isn't there to support these people."
KCC Leader Roger Gough said: "We recognise that antisocial HGV parking is already a problem in Kent and something that will most likely become worse once we have left the EU.
"I’m grateful to the government for giving us these temporary powers which will act as a deterrent to any HGV driver and ensure that compliance is greater, meaning key routes on Kent’s road network are kept clear.
"Though we have worked hard on traffic management plans in conjunction with our partners, we cannot guarantee there will not be a certain amount of freight turned back from the Port of Dover, Eurotunnel or from the Manston or Sevington sites if paperwork is not in order."
But Graham believes the threat of a PCN will do little to deter drivers if they are right at the end of their working hour limit.
He said: "If there is an issue with paperwork, and the trucks can't get into a designated area like Ashford which might not be ready until February, March - we've got a period of three months where drivers are going to be banned from parking anywhere other than a designated parking area.
"It's probably the most regulated work force in the country, every step is recorded on a tachograph in a vehicle. They're only allowed to work a certain amount of hours, so they're not free to roam around the Kent countryside to find somewhere to park.
"If they go over their driving hours they potentially could lose livelihood, because if they'd done it on two of three occasions, not only will they get fined for each occasion but they could lose their vocational licence."
Tachographs are mandatory recording devices for drivers of heavy good vehicles, recording the distance, speed and driving time to make sure drivers are keeping within the regulations.
Failure to follow the rest period rules could result in a fine of up to £2,500.
The haulage expert said it is likely many drivers will end up stumping up for £70 penalty charge notices for parking in non-designated areas, instead of driving longer and risking a far bigger fine for going over their hours.
He said: "None of us would like our families to be hit by a truck driver who has been driving for 15 hours to find a parking space - it's horrendous to thought that could actually happen."
Last week the government announced drivers will be able to work two consecutive six-day weeks until December 30 for goods travelling between transport hubs, warehouses and stores - bringing the maximum number of hours from 90 in 14 days to 99.
The hope is that a relaxing of the limit would ease congestion around UK ports such as Dover.
Graham said: "They're already working up to 15 hours a day, I don't think it's right to extend the driver's hours."
Fiona Hobbs, a transport consultant who works with logistics companies travelling through Kent, recently had to sign off an extenuating circumstances letter for a driver who worked an almost 18-hour day because he could not find anywhere suitable to park.
She said: "He had a high-value load, gets to Ashford but there's no parking at Ashford - he could park out on the road but again would get a PCN from Kent County Council.
"There was nowhere to park in Maidstone so he then drove up to Dartford - this is a driver who has worked an 18-hour shift, it really isn't acceptable, and Kent County Council have really just got this bee in their bonnet about lorry drivers."
'They're already working up to 15 hours a day, I don't think it's right to extend the driver's hours...'
According to the logistics consultant, conditions are expected to be so difficult that some haulage companies are planning to use alternative ports in other parts of the UK.
She said: "On January 1 it's going to be chaos. Lots of hauliers now, including some big big transport names, are now transferring the work from Dover to Felixstowe and Immingham."
"The lack of infrastructure for lorry drivers is across the country, but Kent is really bad. It's been bad for two years and it's getting worse."
She added: "I feel sorry for lorry drivers."