The Workers Union is calling for lorry drivers to be protected from burnout.
The news comes amidst multiple reports of drivers struggling with fatigue as they try to keep up with demand from companies and consumers alike.
A spokesperson for The Workers Union said: ‘It’s a great pity that it’s taken Brexit and the pandemic for our country to appreciate the brilliant job that lorry drivers do to keep our country moving. Now gaps are appearing on supermarket shelves, and residents are waiting for rubbish collections delayed by national driver shortages, the value of skilled, professional drivers has become manifestly obvious.’
Since July, lorry drivers have been working extended hours, thanks to a scheme hatched by the government to relax driving hour rules. The 56 hour limit was temporarily scrapped, meaning that working time increased to ten hours a day, with drivers allowed to drive for a maximum of eleven hours twice a week.
Now the government is expected to announce that the temporary rules will be extended until January 2022, in an effort to manage supply chains during the Christmas period.
Amid mounting criticism, a spokesperson for the government, said: ‘We recognise businesses are facing a range of challenges and we are taking steps to support them, including streamlining the process for new HGV drivers and increasing the number of driving tests. Progress has already being made in testing and hiring, with improving pay, working conditions and diversity.
‘We are closely monitoring labour supply and working with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points.’
The Workers Union on Stopping Driver Burnout
It would be easy to castigate the government for extending drivers’ hours, but balancing the delicate equation of supply and demand is a critical task that affects us all. In pushing through more HGV tests and allowing longer shifts, politicians have recognised the importance of the transport and logistics industry in delivering the essentials of life, including food and medical supplies.
However, they must also recognise that driving an HGV is an exhausting task that makes demands on the technical skills of the driver every second that they are in the cab. Then there’s paperwork, understanding updates to tachograph rules and walkround checks to contend with – none of which can delegated away to other members of staff.
The truth is that drivers need more support across the board. Yes, getting people into the profession will help and yes, working with suppliers and industry will ameliorate some of the effects of the shortage, but there needs to be a definite end game in sight. Drivers cannot keep going to the well – no matter how much they feel they are propelled by good will from the government and the public.
The answer lies partly in relaxing post-Brexit restrictions in driver recruitment, partly in ensuring that the working time extensions do not drag on indefinitely; and partly in improving pay and conditions for those already in the industry. Only then will HGV drivers feel like the country is beginning to take their concerns seriously.
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