Coronavirus: Union warns against relaxing drivers’ hours rules

Jaroslaw Kilian / Shutterstock

Trade union Unite has warned against extending the amount of time drivers can operate their lorries, saying that while its 50,000 members are willing to be flexible, safety must not be compromised.

It follows the government’s announcement on Sunday that it is extending the hours that supermarkets can receive deliveries, to help retailers replenish stocks in high demand because of the covid-19 coronavirus.

If the government does decide to change the driving regulations this should be done in full co-operation with Unite and the industry” – Adrian Jones, Unite

Current rules mean that some deliveries are prohibited overnight so that vehicles do not disturb residents. The government said it will temporarily relax the enforcement of restrictions to provide greater flexibility.

It added that it is also looking to ensure supply chains function as normal and that transport secretary Grant Shapps stands ready to implement existing rules that allow for extensions on drivers’ hours to help respond to emergency situations.

The rules would help relieve a shortage of delivery drivers but would still require 45-minute breaks after four and a half hours of driving to make sure workers are properly rested.

The government says it would work closely with employers to make sure the safety of drivers and other road users is protected.

Working time regulations on the road

Legal guide to working hours in the road transport sector

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “In order to meet the increased demand as a result of the coronavirus, many lorry drivers are being asked to work long hours. While Unite recognises that increased flexibility is required to cope with this increased demand, it must not be allowed to compromise drivers’ safety.

“If changes in normal working practices are required than Unite believes that employers should enter into negotiations with Unite, to reassure drivers their safety is not being compromised. If the government does decide to change the driving regulations this should be done in full co-operation with Unite and the industry. Changes should be kept to a minimum and should be for a clearly defined period.”

“Drivers already report high levels of fatigue and exhaustion during their normal working time, which affects their physical and mental health as well as their family life and relationships. Lifting the regulations, without proper safeguards, will put more strain on them which could result in them being a danger to other road users and themselves.”

Following a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee yesterday, Boris Johnson said that the UK remains in the “contain” phase of the response, but that this is “extremely unlikely to work on its own, and that is why we are making extensive preparations for a move to the delay phase”.

As of today there were 373 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the UK and six deaths.

HR jobs in distribution and logistics on Personnel Today

Browse more HR jobs in distribution and logistics

6 Responses to Coronavirus: Union warns against relaxing drivers’ hours rules

  1. Avatar
    NIGEL FOX 16 Mar 2020 at 9:30 am #

    I guess the government will increase the number of 15 hours shifts a driver can work in any one week. Plus increase the number of daily driving hours to for each working day. The issue I have is that many unscrupulous employers will see this as an opportunity to abuse the regulations for their own selfish financial gains. Many companies already plan 15 hour shifts (currently to a maximum of 3 x 15 hour shifts per working week) and having an extra 2 to 3 extended 15 hour shifts per week will be a goldmine for the employers, while the drivers have their lives diminished to a life of work enslaved to the employers’ yearning to profitise from an unfortunate situation where people die, not just from cronavirus, but also from the consequences of driver fatigue.

  2. Avatar
    Paul 17 Mar 2020 at 8:48 am #

    As a lorry driver I feel it is our responsibility to keep the country moving. At this time many doctors and nurses have increased there working time to cope with the increased needs of the country. We should do the same. That being said no driver should be forced to work when tired and every driver should have the option to opt out of any increase to drivers’ working or driving time.

  3. Avatar
    Tam 18 Mar 2020 at 8:19 pm #

    Also as a truck driver with a large retail operation,keeping our shops supplied,I agree we should help out,but definately support Paul with drivers should be able to opt out,as companys will be on the band wagon with this.There probably wont be any incentive financialy,but as the drivers are still out delivering,the managment will be home having tea with their family,while someone in the office is trying to contact the drivers with the usual,where are you now,how long will you be,ECT.

  4. Avatar
    Andy 19 Mar 2020 at 1:24 pm #

    Many haulage drivers will be monitoring their boss’s attitude during these tough times, how haulage companies treat their drivers over the next six months regarding loyalty will determine whether that company is worth representing in the future, drivers put up with a lot of issues on the road for very little pay maybe it’s time for haulage companies to show more respect than usual and see that all drivers will go that extra mile, thank you costs nothing

  5. Avatar
    Mel 23 Mar 2020 at 2:19 pm #

    I think that you should leave it up to the drivers that want to work because some drivers do 6 to 8 hours driving and can do more and some do less than 40 hours a week

  6. Avatar
    Robert M Newton 27 Mar 2020 at 2:15 pm #

    Does anyone know if I can work a second saturday?
    I worked last saturday then had sunday off and worked monday 5am til 2pm I then went to latest on Tues wed and thursday, having g over 24 hours rest between Monday and Tuesday. I am not working today- friday but ha e been asked to work tomorrow saturday? Is this ok?

Leave a Reply