Unite, which represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers, has welcomed the decision by the Department of Transport (Dft) not to extend the ban on lorries parking in Kent.
Unite had warned that lorry drivers were set for further parking misery as Kent council had applied for an extension to the six month ban on lorries parking in lay-bys and roads in the county.
Kent council was granted the lorry parking ban after the UK’s transition period from leaving the European Union ended in January, as there were fears of roads being gridlocked due to delays at the port of Dover.
However, the ban on lorries parking in lay-bys and roads has resulted in huge overcrowding at service stations and lorry parks, as these are the only places that lorries can park legally and where drivers can take the rest they need to comply with driving regulations. The overcrowding problem has spread beyond Kent into other neighbouring counties, including Thurrock services in Essex.
The current ban will now end after tomorrow (June 30). The only exception is a small area around Ashford, where the county council is allowed to maintain a parking ban if it so wishes.
While Unite supports the end of the ban it believes that other measures need to be taken to ensure future problems are properly resolved.
Unite believes that information should be provided to drivers across the country to clarify the parking situation in Kent as well as the provision of guides to parking safely and responsibly.
Also Unite believes that Kent county council and the government must take immediate action to build more lorry parks with proper facilities for drivers in preparation of any future problems at Dover, similar to those that occurred shortly before Christmas last year. This should be done in conjunction with Unite so that the needs of drivers are fully considered.
Unite national officer for lorry drivers, Adrian Jones, said, “Unite is pleased that the government has listened to the union’s grave concerns and taken the necessary action to help end the misery and overcrowding faced by lorry drivers.
“We know that the people of Kent may be concerned that lorries will be parked irresponsibly but with a severe shortage of secure parking areas drivers are faced with a choice of breaking the law on driving rules or finding somewhere to park,” he added.
“In order to end the overcrowding, it is essential that an information campaign is quickly mounted to ensure that all drivers that use Kent are properly informed of where they can and can’t park legally. A failure to do so will result in the overcrowding problems continuing as drivers think the parking ban remains in place,” Jones continued.
“While lifting the ban should end the immediate short term problems, the government and Kent council need to take immediate action to ensure that when future problems occur with the Dover crossing, for whatever reason, drivers have access to decent welfare facilities while they cope with delays.”
Unite has recently launched a manifesto to improve pay and conditions for HGV drivers and to try to reverse the severe shortages of qualified drivers that the industry is currently facing.
By Barckley Sumner