A measure to help alleviate the HGV driver shortage crisis by extending their hours is facing fierce criticism from the haulage sector. Transport minister Baroness Vere announced the relaxation of the safety rule following repeated warnings from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) of a severe threat to the distribution of goods.
The Road Haulage Association has even supported calls for the Army to be brought in to help battle the consequences of 100,000 driver vacancies. This shortage is blamed on several factors including many not returning from abroad because of the Covid-19 crisis, Brexit and pandemic disruption to the qualification process.
The minister wrote: "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 (Department for Transport) if this relaxation is used."
However, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett, who has held talks with various ministers in recent weeks to appeal for government aid, responded: "We oppose wholesale extensions to drivers' hours as we believe they can be counter-productive by making the job less attractive. Loading more hours on to drivers that are already exhausted is not the answer - the problem needs more than just a band-aid.”
"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."
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