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Extension of lorry driver hours ‘reckless and dangerous’ say unions

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The government should address the lack of welfare facilities for HGV drivers and the long hours’ culture that they work in rather than relaxing regulations, unions have argued.


The government rushed through an extension to temporary relaxation of the rules governing working hours for HGV drivers on 11 January.

It means that daily driving limit can continue to be increased from 9 hours to 10 hours up to four times in a week and there will be reduced rest periods.

South Kensington, London in January 2021. A national lockdown meant that only essential workers could leave their homes to go to work. Photograph: iStock

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham commented: “The government is increasingly resembling a one trick pony when it comes to dealing with lorry driver shortages and is intent on pursuing a policy which has no regard for the health of drivers’ and the safety of road users.”

She added: “Rather than constantly relaxing driving regulations, the government needs to finally begin to address the issues of long hours, excessive and irregular shift patterns and the lack of welfare and parking facilities that has created the driver shortage crisis in the first place.”

RMT union echoed the concerns, with general Secretary Mick Lynch calling the extension of HGV drivers’ hours “utterly reckless and dangerous.”

“I am calling on the Government to establish a taskforce with transport unions to explore ways of tackling the long-term problems with working conditions and driver retention in the haulage sector rather than kicking the can down the road and implementing these dangerous short-term measures,” he said.  

The rules to extend driver hours were first introduced in July last year and will now apply until 10 February. The extension is in response to increased absence rates and outbreaks of Omicron in the supply chain sector.

The Department for Transport says the temporary relaxation to the drivers’ hours rules must only be used ‘where necessary’. Companies must first agree the changes with their drivers and they must show proof that provision of essential public services is under threat unless they implement longer hours.

The DfT says: “Drivers’ hours rules are an important road safety measure and any deviation from the rules must be a last resort when other means of mitigating a situation have failed.

 “Operators and self-employed drivers must assess the risks of using the temporary relaxation… so that the safety of the driver, other road users and those involved in loading and unloading is not compromised.”

Temporary relaxation of drivers' hours: bit.ly/3qm8Hbg 

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