The government has announced a temporary extension of safety limits amid growing strain on the logistics industry. The new measures have been met with fierce backlash from the haulage sector. The new rules would allow HGV drivers to increase their daily driving limits from 9 to 10 hours, giving flexibility to drivers and operators. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, also Tweeted “We’ve ramped up the number of driving tests available and will consider other measures.”
In response to the changes the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said: “Relaxing drivers’ hours won’t make any material difference – and fails to address the underlying issues, which require a package of measures to fix.
“Loading more hours on to drivers that are already exhausted is not the answer – the problem needs more than just a sticking plaster.
“Ministers should be mindful that road safety is the reason HGV drivers’ hours are limited. Relaxing them should only be used as a last resort to resolve short-term issues that cannot be addressed in other ways.”
Adrian Jones, the National Officer for road transport at Unite the union agreed, saying the announcement would do nothing to resolve the problem of driver shortages. He said “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.”
The Covid pandemic, which prompted many foreign workers to return home during lockdown, and new immigration controls after Brexit have led to the high staff shortages in logistics coupled with the estimated 30,000 HGV driving tests that did not take place last year.
Industry leaders have warned that there could be gaps on supermarket shelves this summer and a collapse of supply chains.