The decision of the Department for Transport (DfT) to relax the regulations on the maximum number of hours lorry drivers can work will not resolve the problem of a shortage of drivers in the industry, the trade union Unite, which represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers, has warned.
The government’s relaxation of the regulations, which were announced by junior transport minister Baroness Vere on twitter, will come into effect from Monday, July 12.
The relaxation has been introduced in response to fears raised by supermarkets that shelves will be left empty due to the ongoing shortage of lorry drivers.
It is estimated that there is currently a shortage of around 75,000 lorry drivers in the UK.
Unite believes that the relaxation of the driving regulations (which establish how long drivers can drive for and how often and for how long they must rest) will not resolve the problem of driver shortages and could actually make the situation worse. Unite believes that as a result of being required to work even longer hours more drivers will decide to leave the profession.
Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said, “This announcement will do nothing to resolve the problem of driver shortages.
“Asking an already exhausted workforce to work even longer is likely to make an already difficult situation worse.
“Driving regulations are highly complex and to announce a relaxation on twitter without any proper detail, has simply created more confusion and uncertainty across the sector,” he added.
“The government should not be announcing a relaxation in driving hours, which are critical to ensure the safety of all road users, without also ensuring that the relevant monitoring and enforcement of the revised rules are in place.
“Unite has been provided with no details of whether monitoring and enforcement of the revised regulations has even been considered,” Jones continued.
“Unite will be advising its members to not place themselves in danger and that if they are too tired to drive safely they have a legal right to refuse to do so. Unite will fully support those who make that decision, legally and industrially.”
While the government has announced the relaxation in driving hours, it has so far failed to take any action to encourage new entrants into the industry.
Unite has produced a manifesto of change for the sector. The key demands are to dramatically improve pay and welfare facilities for drivers in order to make the industry more attractive for new entrants.
By Barckley Sumner