World Toilet Day: gov't fails on lorry driver toilet improvement promises

Rishi Sunak’s multi-million pound truck stop improvement scheme is unspent

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Unite which represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers, has discovered that the government’s much heralded multi-million pound scheme to improve toilet facilities for lorry drivers, is entirely unspent after a year.

In the October 2021 budget the then chancellor, now prime minister, Rishi Sunak allocated £32.5 million to the Department of Transport (DfT) to match fund improvements for roadside facilities at service stations and truck stops for lorry drivers.

Following a freedom of information request made by Unite, the Department for Transport (DfT) which is responsible for administering the funding has admitted that a year after Sunak made the funding commitment: “No companies have as yet received funding from the £32.5 million match funding scheme.”

The FOI further admitted that despite the government promising to spend £32.5 million, this was actually over a three year period and that only £5 million was allocated for the current financial year.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The government has been caught out in failing to deliver for lorry drivers. It promised to make improvements to facilities but after 12 months not only have no improvements been made, the budget is entirely untouched.

“Access to clean toilets, when required, is a basic human right. Not only are lorry drivers being routinely denied this right but problems are getting worse not better.”

The news that the government has so far failed to fulfil its promise will come as a bitter blow to lorry drivers. Poor facilities were identified as a key reason why there has been a crisis in lorry driver numbers and why the industry has both a recruitment and retention problem.

An extensive survey of lorry drivers published yesterday (Friday 18 November) by Unite revealed that 38 per cent of drivers believe that access to toilets has got worse since the Covid pandemic. Drivers reported the greatest problems with service stations and truck stops were a lack of cleanliness and limited opening hours.

Unite national officer for road haulage Adrian Jones added, “Lorry drivers will be incensed to learn that despite all the government’s spin on improving facilities it has not spent a penny for over a year. This is a fresh stain on the government’s record.

“Lorry drivers can’t hold out any longer, the promised funding needs to be allocated and spent now and not at some far off point in the future. Equally, highly profitable companies shouldn’t be waiting for government cash, they should be investing in their facilities and their drivers.”

Unite has released the findings of the FOI to coincide with World Toilet Day, which highlights the 3.6 billion people who are forced to live with poor quality toilets.

By Barckley Sumner