A plan by the government to temporarily extend the working hours of HGV drivers in a bid to end the lorry driver shortage has led to criticism from some quarters.
The government says that from next week, the restriction on working hours will be relaxed.
However, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) says it will oppose the move on safety grounds.
They also said that amid a national delivery crisis, the move is a ‘sticking plaster’.
Distribution of goods would be severely disrupted
Baroness Vere, the transport minister, announced the relaxing of rules after the haulage industry warned that the distribution of goods would be severely disrupted this summer because of a lack of drivers.
She pointed out that driver safety must not be compromised and that the Department for Transport must be notified by operators if they are relaxing the working hours rule.
In recent weeks, there have been calls for the army to step in to alleviate the shortage of drivers to ensure goods get to the shops.
Richard Burnett, the RHA’s chief executive has held talks in recent weeks with the government and he said: “We oppose the extension to drivers’ hours and believe this can be counter-productive and make the job less attractive.
“Loading more hours onto drivers that are exhausted already isn’t the answer – the problem needs more than a sticking plaster.”
Road safety may be compromised
He added that the government needs to be aware that road safety may be compromised with HGV driving hours being unrestricted.
The RHA has put forward a 12-point plan that it says the government must follow to alleviate the driver shortage.
Among the issues is to offer temporary visas to EU drivers because employers are struggling to recruit after post-Brexit immigration rules were brought in.
In addition, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, says extra help for the road haulage industry has not been ruled out – on top of a promise to increase the number of HGV driving tests being carried out.
Move to extend drivers’ hours
The move to extend drivers’ hours has also been criticised by the union Unite who say they want to see more details of the plan.
Adrian Jones, Unite’s officer for road transport, said: “We will be advising members not to place themselves in danger and if they are too tired to drive safely, they have the legal right to refuse to do so.”
He added that the union will support any driver who makes the decision not to drive when they consider it to be unsafe.
Logistics UK has also reacted with dismay to the government’s announcement.
They say that the move will add more pressure onto drivers who are already being stretched to the limit.
Relaxing road safety laws
Their head of road freight regulation policy, James Firth, said that in relaxing road safety laws, the government has ignored the industry.
He added: “It will be HGV drivers carrying the burden and the UK’s professional drivers have, throughout the pandemic, kept our homes, shops and businesses supplied with what we need to keep the economy going.”