A large percentage of courier jobs involve lengthy stretches on motorways, and every courier will have has his or her share of stressful experiences on chock-a-block roads. However, you may also be familiar with smart motorways, which are much quicker and safer to drive on, making your job easier and stress-free.
Smart motorways have been around since 2006, with the M42 in the West Midlands being the first to open. The scheme uses Active Traffic Management (ATM) that’s controlled by a regional traffic control centre, which enforces variable speed limits and which allows the use of the hard shoulder as an extra lane during busy periods. This increases road capacity and regulates the flow of traffic, making it much smoother and safer for us to drive on the motorways.
Smart motorways are great for everyone on the roads, but particularly for drivers who are carrying out courier jobs, as they allow for reliable and faster journey times, less emissions and a more peaceful motorway experience.
Here is what you need to know about driving on smart motorways if you have yet to experience one.
When a hard shoulder is opened up during peak periods as an extra lane, it becomes known as “Lane 1”. Keep this in mind if you’re driving during rush hour and look out for references to Lane 1. You will know if this lane is open, as it will have a speed limit displayed above it. Some sections of a hard shoulder on smart motorways are always used as Lane 1. It’s easy to spot these because the white line is broken.
If you encounter an issue with your vehicle on a smart motorway and the hard shoulder is open as Lane 1, pull over in the emergency refuge areas (ERA) and put your hazard lights on. The ERAs are marked with blue signs that have an orange SOS telephone symbol.
This is a simple but very important one. If you see a big red “X” on the overhead gantries, it means that the lane beneath it is closed to all traffic. This could be for a range of reasons, but more often than not it is because of an accident, debris on the road or because the lane has been cleared for emergency services. If you find yourself in this lane, carefully move out of it, as you could be endangering yourself and others. You could also face a fine.
Always pay close attention to the digital signs on the overhead gantries when using a smart motorway, as they display crucial information. This includes the speed limit, which is shown in a red circle. Keep in mind that different lanes could have different speed limits and that these are subject to change. If nothing is displayed, you must obey the national speed limit. Speed cameras are in use on smart motorways, so it’s important to follow the rules – otherwise, you could face a fine and points, which is particularly devastating for drivers carrying out courier jobs. You certainly don’t want to lose your license!
Smart motorways can make driving on the motorway much safer, faster and entirely stress-free. With the above information, you’ll be able to navigate them like a pro, allowing you to maximise your time and drive with confidence.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier jobs in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,800 trans-port exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.