Lorry drivers' hours temporarily extended to help fix shortage

7 July 2021, 15:12

Lorry drivers have had their hours extended temporarily to help fix the shortage.
Lorry drivers have had their hours extended temporarily to help fix the shortage. Picture: PA

By Emma Soteriou

Lorry drivers' hours have been temporarily extended to help fix the shortage of drivers across the country.

The government announced the plans on Twitter today.

Baroness Charlotte Vere, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Transport (DfT), said: "We're temporarily extending drivers' hours rules from Mon 12 July to allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys where necessary, as we're aware of a current shortage of drivers.

"Driver safety must not be compromised & operators must notify DfT if this relaxation is used."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps later added that the government had "ramped up the number of driving tests available & will consider other measures".

Rod McKenzie, Managing Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), argued that the government's solution was a "sticking plaster" for the larger shortage issue.

Read more: Haribo struggling to get sweets to UK due to lorry driver shortage

Unite union national officer for road transport Adrian Jones also believed the change in rules would do little to resolve the driver shortage.

"Asking an already exhausted workforce to work even longer is likely to make an already difficult situation worse," he said.

"Driving regulations are highly complex and to announce a relaxation on Twitter without any proper detail has simply created more confusion and uncertainty across the sector.

"The government should not be announcing a relaxation in driving hours, which are critical to ensure the safety of all road users, without also ensuring that the relevant monitoring and enforcement of the revised rules are in place.

"Unite has been provided with no details of whether monitoring and enforcement of the revised regulations has even been considered.

"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."

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A government spokesman said: "We're working with industry and have already taken action on HGV driver shortages, including ramping up vocational test capacity, and funding apprenticeships.

"We have also announced a temporary relaxation of drivers' hours rules.

"This will allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety, with further measures to be announced shortly.

"Most of the solutions, however, are likely to be driven by industry, with progress already being made in testing and hiring, and a big push towards improving pay, working conditions and diversity."

This comes as there have been reports of beer shortages for the Euro 2020 tournament, due to the lack of deliveries to supermarkets.

Read more: Supermarkets warn of 'beer shortages' due to Euro 2020 'surge in demand'

Read more: Fans flock to pubs hours ahead of England's Euro 2020 clash vs Denmark

Sainsbury's sold 17 packs of beer per second for the England match against Ukraine, 60 per cent up from a typical weekend, a retail correspondent told LBC.

With the number of drivers so limited, there have been restrictions across multiple areas of the economy as well as supermarkets.

The RHA has estimated that the shortage currently stands at around 100,000.