Unite has warned that the decision by the Department for Transport (Dft) to relax the regulations on lorry drivers’ driving hours from today (March 18) must not affect driver welfare and road safety.
Unite, which represents over 50,000 lorry drivers in the UK, understands that the decision to relax the regulations which govern for how long HGV drivers can drive for as well as ensuring they take sufficient breaks, was a result of a request from ‘retailers’ to the department for the environment and rural affairs (DEFRA) in order to deliver ‘essential’ supplier.
The relaxation of the regulations applies only to certain deliveries and is currently time limited. The Dft have confirmed the regulation changes are: “for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking only certain journeys such as distribution centres to stores, or from manufacturer or supplier to store, among other journeys.
Last week when it was first suggested that driving regulations could be relaxed Unite made clear that drivers were willing to be flexible but any relaxation in regulations should be via negotiation to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users.
Unite national officer Adrian Jones said, “Unite has made it absolutely clear to all retailers that our members will work flexibly to ensure that food continues to be delivered during the crisis, in order to reassure the public and prevent panic buying.
“It had been hoped that any lifting of the regulations would have been via negotiations in order to fully protect drivers welfare and well-being. Any further changes must be through negotiations to ensure the welfare of drivers,” he added.
“Unite is continuing to work with the major retailers to ensure that food supplies are fully maintained.
“This is a partial and temporary lifting of the regulations only for certain journeys and for a short time. If drivers are not undertaking such work they must be allowed to work normally,” Jones went on to say.
“The driving regulations are the only measures which ensure that lorry drivers don’t become exhausted and make mistakes, placing themselves and other road users in danger.
“Every worker has a right to refuse to work if they believe that their safety is being endangered and if a driver believes they are not safe to drive they should refuse to do so and get further advice from Unite.”