Drivers association, union in uproar over anticipated move of fresh extension of lorry drivers’ working hours

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Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Letting lorry drivers work longer hours to safeguard food supplies might make Britain’s roads more dangerous, ministers were warned on Monday (20).

Reacting to the reports of government anticipating to extend the longer working hours of lorry drivers until January, Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association has called the move as “bad idea”.

“It is a bad idea – tired drivers don’t make better drivers,” McKenzie tweeted.

He also said that most bosses ignored the change to keep staff safe. ‘It’s a short-term fix which doesn’t fix anything much,’ Mail Online quoted him in a report today (21).

Since July, lorry drivers have been working longer hours, due to the government temporarily relaxing the rules over working limits to help tackle the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) operators. This change to working hours was expected to be scrapped next month (Oct 3), but ministers are said to now be easing restrictions until the end of January to help avert a supply crisis of turkeys, toys and other goods over Christmas.

The limit was previously 56 hours a week, usually worked out by driving for nine hours on four days, and 10 hours for another two days. Under the temporary relaxation, working times increased to ten hours a day, with drivers allowed to work 11 hours twice a week.

(Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

 Meanwhile, trade union Unite, which represents thousands of drivers, has also condemned this expected change, calling it “dangerous” for drivers’ safety, adding that it is now seeking legal advice on the matter. 

Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite has called the government’s rumored proposals a “knee-jerk response to a crisis wholly created by the employers and the government”.

“Years of suppressing drivers’ pay and bypassing European regulations have led us to where we are now. The latest extension on hours will increase pressures on drivers and threaten public safety on UK roads,” Graham said.

The union is concerned that the extended driving hours, which the government is reliant on to tackle the shortage of lorry drivers, is having a cumulative effect on driver fatigue. With the increased hours now continuing throughout the autumn and winter months, with longer periods of darkness and poorer weather, Unite fears that accidents will increase.

The haulage industry has an estimated shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, due to a mix of reasons, including poor working conditions resulting in people leaving the sector. Brexit and Covid have also exacerbated the already-existing issues, reports said.