Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has warned that the decision by the Department for Transport (Dft) to relax the regulations on lorry drivers’ driving hours from today (Wednesday 18 March) must not affect driver welfare and road safety.

Unite, which represents over 50,000 lorry drivers in the UK, understands that the decision to relax the regulations which govern for how long HGV drivers can drive for as well as ensuring they take sufficient breaks, was a result of a request from ‘retailers’ to the department for the environment and rural affairs (DEFRA) in order to deliver ‘essential’ supplier.

Regulations relaxed

The relaxation of the regulations applies only to certain deliveries and is currently time limited. The Dft have confirmed the regulation changes are: “for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking the following journeys:

  • Distribution centre to stores (or fulfilment centre)
  • From manufacturer or supplier to distribution centre (including backhaul collections)
  • From manufacturer or supplier to store (or fulfilment centre)
  • Between distribution centres and transport hub trunking
  • Transport hub deliveries to stores.

“This exemption does not apply to drivers undertaking deliveries directly to consumers. This temporary relaxation applies from 00:01 on Wednesday 18th March 2020 and will run until 23:59 on Thursday 16th April 2020 and will apply only to the drivers undertaking the above specified journeys.”

Negotiations needed 

Last week when it was first suggested that driving regulations could be relaxed Unite made clear that drivers were willing to be flexible but any relaxation in regulations should be via negotiation to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users.

Flexibility needed

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “Unite has made it absolutely clear to all retailers that our members will work flexibly to ensure that food continues to be delivered during the crisis, in order to reassure the public and prevent panic buying.

 “It had been hoped that any lifting of the regulations would have been via negotiations in order to fully protect drivers welfare and well-being. Any further changes must be through negotiations to ensure the welfare of drivers.

 “Unite is continuing to work with the major retailers to ensure that food supplies are fully maintained.

 “This is a partial and temporary lifting of the regulations only for certain journeys and for a short time. If drivers are not undertaking such work they must be allowed to work normally.

 “The driving regulations are the only measures which ensure that lorry drivers don’t become exhausted and make mistakes, placing themselves and other road users in danger.

  “Every worker has a right to refuse to work if they believe that their safety is being endangered and if a driver believes they are not safe to drive they should refuse to do so and get further advice from Unite.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Coronavirus: Delivery drivers being denied toilet and hand washing is a public health issue

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.