Insights

Are extended hours a safe solution to the lorry driver shortage?

By 13th July 2021July 22nd, 2021No Comments

Relaxed restrictions of lorry drivers’ working hours are aimed at addressing issues caused by lack of drivers, but many industry leaders are concerned that this move puts drivers in danger without meaningful advantages.

One concerning potential consequence of the change is the presence of greater numbers of fatigued lorry drivers on the road. But how significant are the changes, and will they actually make a difference tackling the issues presented by the current severe shortage of lorry drivers?

What changes are being made?

  • HGV drivers can increase their daily driving limits from 9 to 10 hours
  • HGV drivers will also be allowed up to two shifts of 11 hours per week
  • The changes alternatively allow a relaxation in the rest periods that HGV drivers are required to take.
  • Read more specifics about the changes on gov.uk.

Industry backlash

Many industry leaders are sceptical of benefits of the changes and concerned about potential negative consequences.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said the move wouldn’t make any difference. The RHA believes the current shortfall of about 60,000 lorry drivers means that the relaxation on driving hour limits is a “sticking plaster”. It estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic caused 30,000 HGV tests not to have taken place last year.

“Relaxing drivers’ hours won’t make any material difference – and fails to address the underlying issues, which require a package of measures to fix,” the RHA said.

Adrian Jones, the national officer for road transport at the union, Unite, was also sceptical of any positive effect the changes might have, stating that the announcement would do nothing to resolve the problem of driver shortages, adding “Unite will be advising its members to not place themselves in danger and that if they are too tired to drive safely, they have a legal right to refuse to do so. Unite will fully support those who make that decision, legally and industrially.”

Logistics UK said longer hours would “heap more pressure on drivers who are already stretched to the limit to deliver”.

James Firth, of Logistics UK, said the industry “vehemently opposed the extension” and said the government had “ignored the will of those who will be most affected by the changes. Existing drivers have been working flat out since the start of the pandemic, and this could be the final straw for many of them. Instead of trying to paper over the gaps, government should be working with industry to produce a plan to support moving drivers through the current bottleneck of HGV driving tests.”

Restrictions on how long HGV drivers are allowed to drive are there to protect all road users from the potentially devastating effects of drowsy driving. Easing these restrictions presents a troubling willingness to compromise road safety to grant a negligible temporary relief.

Employers have a duty to consider the impact of extended hours on their employees’ mental and physical health, and to take steps to ensure that drivers’ working conditions do not have an adverse effect on road safety. IAM RoadSmart is keen to work with more UK businesses to help them establish robust fleet policies that focus effectively on driver wellbeing and road safety.

IAM RoadSmart offers excellent driver training, risk management and grey-fleet solutions for companies of all sizes. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your organisation protect your workers, save money, and ensure compliance with legislation, get in touch.

Charlie Reynolds

Author Charlie Reynolds

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