A no deal Brexit could result in lorry driving time limits being relaxed, leading to exhausted drivers posing a danger to other road users.
Unite is calling on the government to explicitly rule out any relaxation or suspension of EU regulations which govern driving time for lorry drivers, many of whom already face unsustainable workloads.
Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said, “The problems associated with a no deal Brexit will not just be confined to Kent, it will create delays throughout the entire lorry and logistics network in the UK.
“Unite will totally oppose any relaxation in driving regulations. This would result in exhausted drivers, with potentially lethal consequences for road users.
“In a sensible world the government would rule out a disastrous no deal Brexit.”
Currently HGV drivers are restricted to driving for nine hours a day (extended to 10 hours twice a week) and a total of 56 hours driving a week, however their actual working week can be far longer when taking into account other duties.
Fatigue and tiredness
A highly confidential survey of over 4,000 HGV drivers undertaken by Unite last year found that fatigue and tiredness were already massive issues for drivers.
The survey found that 29 per cent of drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel.
For many drivers this did not simply mean that they had momentarily closed their eyes but they could not remember passing junctions or their head had hit the steering wheel.
Jones said, “(Cabinet members) Grant Shapps and or Michael Gove need to urgently meet with Unite explain what plans are in store for drivers and rule out any relaxation in the driving regulations.
“The bottom line is that workers have a legal right to not work if they believe they would be placed in danger. The government must remember that when planning for a no deal.”
As well as the potential relaxation of driving hours, Unite is also concerned that proper welfare facilities will be provided in places which are expected to suffer from widespread disruption in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Although the government has met employers’ representatives it has become apparent through the Operation Yellowhammer leaks that they were not given the full information and what they have been told cannot be passed to Unite, as they were forced to sign Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
In other road transport news, Unite signed a recognition agreement with Connect Plus Services to represent 260 workers responsible for operating and maintaining the M25 – one of the busiest and most significant motorways in the UK.
Meanwhile in Scotland, the union officially informed bus operator First Glasgow that it intends to ballot drivers for industrial action, including strikes, to protect public safety.