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Tories are blind to safety implications of HGV driver dodge, Unite charges

by our parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

TORY ministers have failed to conduct impact assessments on the safety implications of extending HGV driving hours, despite pushing through yet another relaxation of daily working limits, Unite has warned.

The union, which represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers, said today that the Department for Transport (DfT) had admitted in correspondence with Unite that “there is not an impact assessment” related to the decision to extend working hours.

Amid coronavirus-related supply disruption and a massive worker shortage due to low pay and poor working conditions in the sector, drivers can now be at the wheel for 11 hours a day — up from 10 previously — and for a total of 99 hours a fortnight — up from 90. 

The latest arrangements, which have also seen rest periods reduced, may continue until January, Unite said.

Since the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, HGV driving hours will now have been extended for 11 out of the last 19 months.

By extending driving hours, workers are at increased risk of tiredness, and the longer the period when driving hours are increased, the greater the cumulative effect of fatigue, Unite stressed. 

General secretary Sharon Graham slammed the government’s “shocking” admission, adding: “HGV drivers and road users can be rightly angry about ministers’ failure to take their safety seriously.

“Small wonder that this industry struggles to attract and retain a workforce.

“Unite is working with lorry drivers to address the very real problems they face, which to date neither the industry nor the government have shown any interest in addressing.”

The union is working with driver reps and members to establish an agreed set of demands to fix the recruitment crisis in the industry for the long term. 

Today Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that just 127 fuel-tanker drivers from the EU have applied to work in Britain under the government’s emergency scheme to tackle the petrol delivery crisis.

This means that only a fraction of the 300 visas available for tanker drivers in the fuel industry are likely to be taken up in a setback to government efforts to replenish supplies.

Labour has called for 100,000 emergency visas to be granted to help plug gaps worsened by the Tories’ poor handling of Brexit, but calls for better pay and working conditions for HGV drivers are yet to be heeded. 

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