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Operation Stack: Relaxing safety laws will put drivers and travelling public at risk, warns Unite

30 July 2015

Ministerial plans to relax the laws around driver hours in an effort to ease congestion caused by Operation Stack, as transport movement between the Channel ports seizes up, is not the answer, Unite, the union for truck drivers,  warned today (Thursday 30 July).
 
The Department of Transport has announced that it will temporarily suspend the rules around how long lorry drivers can work and for how long they can rest, a move, it claims, will make it easier for businesses to address backlogs brought about by the disruption.
 
However, Unite says that these moves will increase the chance of road accidents and will not address the problems the industry and drivers encounter on a routine basis with the Channel ports, which is why it is appealing to the government and the industry to work with the union on longer-term, viable solutions.
 
Unite is also calling upon the government to instead step up its efforts to reach a solution with the French government on improving security, and is also appealing to employers to delay sending any further trucks to the affected ports until the Channel routes are clear. 

It is also urging haulage companies to use the alternative routes in the meantime.
 
Adrian Jones, Unite’s national officer for road transport, said: “Road haulage is already an extremely demanding and stressful job. Drivers need to have their wits about them at all times.  Recent events have shone a media spotlight on the sort of pressures drivers encounter daily. They are under are immense pressure and not just on the road.
 
“What ministers need to understand is that when drivers are stuck in delays for hours on end they are then required to continue their journeys when they reach either French or English soil, no matter how long they have already been at the wheel. 

“The only safeguard that they have against exhaustion is the working time regulations which demand that they take adequate rests before getting onto the road.
 
“Relaxing these rules is a dangerous move.  There are very good reasons for these regulations, which are about driver and public safety. This is dreadful situation for all those at the centre of it, but reducing protections for people at work only makes matters worse. 
 
“If the government is concerned to support the industry during this tough time, which we would hope it is, we would strongly urge it to look at other means – and not to compromise on road safety. 

“We would happily sit down with ministers and employers to work out a more sensible way to address the concerns before us as an industry.
 
“We urge the government to step up its efforts to work with the French government on improved security at the Channel ports, and we call upon employers to work on an alternative plan. 

“Do not send drivers out on the road exhausted and stressed, but instead ease the bottleneck at the ports by delaying the departure of more trucks and using alternative crossings until the port routes are clear.”
 
ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.