Safety fears over extended lorry driver hours

Government's 'shocking' failure to assess safety impact of longer hours as Unite mobilises lorry drivers for change

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The government has failed to conduct an impact assessment on the road safety implications of extending HGV driving hours, despite pushing through yet another extension to the daily limit for drivers.

According to Unite, which represents tens of thousands of UK lorry drivers, the Department for Transport (DfT) has admitted in correspondence to the union that “there is not an impact assessment” of the ongoing extension to the maximum number of hours a lorry driver can drive.

The admission comes as Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, works with drivers’ reps and stewards from around the country on a long term plan to force up standards across the industry.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The government’s admission that it has not assessed the road safety ramifications of persistent longer hours for lorry drivers is shocking. HGV drivers and road users can be rightly angry about ministers’ failure to take their safety seriously. Small wonder that this industry struggles to attract and retain a workforce.

“Unite is working with lorry drivers to address the very real problems they face, which to date neither the industry nor the government have shown any interest in addressing.”

Unite again raised concerns about driver safety after it was confirmed that drivers will continue to be allowed to drive for additional hours until the end of this month (October) with the expectation this will continue until the end of January. Since March 2020 HGV driving hours will have been extended for 11 out of 19 months.

Drivers can now 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.

Unite has warned that by extending driving hours, workers are at increased risk of fatigue and the longer the period when driving hours are increased the greater the cumulative effect of fatigue.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said, “For most of the last year and a half, lorry drivers have been expected to work extended hours. Drivers will not return to a sector when the hours on the road can be extended at a whim by government and with no proper regard to road safety.

“Drivers are already exhausted and as we enter late autumn and winter, when driving conditions are poorer, the danger of accidents will inevitably increase.”

Unite is working with its lorry driver reps and members to establish an agreed set of demands to fix the recruitment crisis in the industry for the long-term to be put to the haulage industry employers.

By Barckley Sumner

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