The government is failing to monitor how many foreign lorries are entering and leaving the UK under a controversial scheme introduced last year, a major union is warning.
Unite says that the government changed the cabotage rules at the end of October in a ‘panic move’ that was aimed at tackling the HGV driver crisis.
This allowed companies from anywhere in the world to send lorries with foreign drivers to the UK to work unlimited hours, making unlimited deliveries, in any 14-day period.
During their time in the UK, the drivers can sleep in their cabs but after their two weeks is up, they are supposed to leave the country.
No monitoring by the Department for Transport
But Unite used a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to establish that there is no monitoring by the Department for Transport (DfT) of how many foreign companies and lorries have taken advantage of the policy.
The DfT also does not know which countries they have come from and how many lorries have remained in the UK beyond the 14-day period.
The government department has told Unite that it does not monitor the results of its relaxed rules.
‘Playing Russian roulette with British road users’
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “This is sheer incompetence by the government, which is playing Russian roulette with British road users.
“It introduced this knee-jerk reaction to the lorry driver crisis last year, now they tell us they don’t know how many foreign lorry drivers have come, how many hours they work when they are here, and if they go home after the 14-day working period.
“It’s literally an accident waiting to happen, based on the illegal super-exploitation of these drivers.”
Ms Graham added: “Unite is dedicated to protecting the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. If it receives any evidence that a failure to abide by the UK’s employment laws, road safety rules or driving regulations is impacting on the jobs and conditions of our lorry driver members, then we will take action to stop that.”
Unable to record how many lorries are entering and leaving the UK
Since the government is unable to record how many lorries are entering and leaving the UK under its cabotage changes, the only way these vehicles can be monitored and checked that they are complying with UK rules on vehicle standards and driving regulations, is through on-the-spot inspections.
However, Unite, which represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers, revealed last month through a previous FOI request that such checks are ‘vanishingly rare’, and that the average UK lorry can travel the equivalent of three and half times around the world before it was likely to be inspected.
Unite’s national officer for road haulage, Adrian Jones, said: “Not only is the government clueless about how many foreign lorries are currently on UK roads, but the only on-the-spot inspections to ensure these vehicles are roadworthy and driving regulations are being observed are as rare as hens’ teeth.
“Rather than allowing foreign lorries unlimited access to the UK to tackle driver shortages, the government should be tackling the root causes of the driver crisis; low pay, long hours and the lack of decent parking and welfare facilities for drivers.”