Ministerial plans to relax the laws around driver hours in an effort to ease congestion caused by Operation Stack, as transport movement between the Channel ports seizes up, is not the answer, Unite warned yesterday (July 30).
The department of transport has announced that it will temporarily suspend the rules around how long lorry drivers can work and for how long they can rest, a move, it claims, will make it easier for businesses to address backlogs brought about by the disruption.
However, Unite says that these moves will increase the chance of road accidents and will not address the problems the industry and drivers encounter on a routine basis with the Channel ports, which is why it is appealing to the government and the industry to work with the union on longer-term, viable solutions.
Unite is also calling upon the government to instead step up its efforts to reach a solution with the French government on improving security, and is also appealing to employers to delay sending any further trucks to the affected ports until the Channel routes are clear.
It is also urging haulage companies to use the alternative routes in the meantime.
“Road haulage is already an extremely demanding and stressful job,” said Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones.
“Drivers need to have their wits about them at all times. Recent events have shone a media spotlight on the sort of pressures drivers encounter daily. They are under are immense pressure and not just on the road.
“What ministers need to understand is that when drivers are stuck in delays for hours on end they are then required to continue their journeys when they reach either French or English soil, no matter how long they have already been at the wheel,” he added.
“The only safeguard that they have against exhaustion is the working time regulations which demand that they take adequate rests before getting onto the road.
“Relaxing these rules is a dangerous move. There are very good reasons for these regulations, which are about driver and public safety. This is dreadful situation for all those at the centre of it, but reducing protections for people at work only makes matters worse.
Jones urged the government to “not compromise on road safety”.
“We would happily sit down with ministers and employers to work out a more sensible way to address the concerns before us as an industry.
“We urge the government to step up its efforts to work with the French government on improved security at the Channel ports, and we call upon employers to work on an alternative plan,” Jones said.
“Do not send drivers out on the road exhausted and stressed, but instead ease the bottleneck at the ports by delaying the departure of more trucks and using alternative crossings until the port routes are clear.”