'Knee-jerk response' to lorry driver crisis

Longer lorry driver hours dangerous and fail to address labour shortage, warns Unite

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Unite the union, which represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers, has greeted the news that the government will further extend the relaxation of lorry driver hours with anger and dismay.

The government on Thursday (September 30) confirmed that the relaxation on the maximum hours that drivers can drive will be extended.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This is yet another knee-jerk response to a crisis which has been building for nearly 20 years – and the blame for that lies entirely at the door of the employers, and their willing partners, the government”

“Years of suppressing drivers’ pay and attacking their working conditions has led us to where we are now,” she added.

“Far from tackling the current crisis, this latest extension on drivers’ hours will increase the pressures of the job and, as a result, further endanger public safety on the roads. This expediency will end in failure.”

The current regulations which were due to end this Sunday will now continue until Sunday, October 31. During this time the government will further consider whether the extension will be further extended until January 23, 2022.

Under the government’s relaxation, drivers can drive for up to 11 hours a day (compared to the normal maximum of 10 hours) and a total of 99 hours a fortnight (previously 90) with rest periods also reduced.

It is estimated that 600 drivers leave the industry every week and the further relaxation on driving hours is going to make a bad situation even worse.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “The government’s response to the lorry driver crisis has been to extend driving hours, reduce training requirements, water down tests and weaken the licence required to drive a tanker. This is a highly dangerous cocktail and will only lessen safety on the UK’s roads.

“The government is still not addressing the reasons why the industry is haemorrhaging lorry drivers,” he added. “By making the remaining drivers work longer, they may even force more drivers to walk away.”

According to Unite, the government’s responses to the shortage of drivers are making roads more dangerous. In addition to extending driving hours, it has made it easier to pass the HGV driving test, reduced training requirements for drivers and weakened the rules around the ADR (agreement for transporting dangerous goods on the roads) licence required for tanker drivers.

At the same time the government has failed to take action to solve the long-term problems of the sector. There has been no attempt to improve pay and conditions across the board by introducing national agreed minimum standards into the industry. Nor has there been any attempt to improve the number or quality of parking areas, welfare facilities and truck stops used by lorry drivers.

By Barckley Sumner

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