Lorry drivers’ lives being placed in danger due to long hours and lack of facilities, Unite warns

The lives of lorry drivers are being placed in danger due to long hours and a chronic lack of adequate welfare facilities. according to new research undertaken by Unite, the UK’s largest union, which warns the true scale of deaths is not being properly investigated due to legal loopholes. 

A highly confidential survey of over 4,000 HGV drivers found that 29 per cent have fallen asleep at the wheel and that tiredness and fatigue at work was in 64.4 per cent of cases blamed on disturbed sleep or blamed on a series of long days (62.9 per cent). 

Drivers also reported that they were most likely to be feeling either still drowsy, tired, sleepy or exhausted if they had slept in their vehicles at the side of the road (65 per cent of cases), in a layby (67 per cent) or in a service station car park (62 per cent). 

Drivers report that employers are increasingly seeking to maximise their work and minimise their rest. Legally drivers can work a 15 hour day, including 10 hours of driving and have just nine hours of rest, before starting work again. This can occur for two consecutive days and Unite’s HGV drivers report they are left exhausted after such excessive shifts. 

Unite is campaigning for a dramatic increase in the number of decent truck stop facilities in the UK, as there is currently a chronic shortage, which forces drivers to park and rest in unsuitable locations. 

This week Unite national officer Adrian Jones raised the issue of the lack of welfare facilities with junior transport minister Jesse Norman MP. 

Lorry driver deaths not properly investigated

In a further development following a freedom of information request Unite has learned that in the last five years 109 drivers or passengers of HGVs’ have been killed in road traffic accidents (an average of 22 a year). However these are not recorded as workplace deaths and therefore the underlying and longer-term factors which could have contributed to the fatal accident are unlikely to be properly investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, as they do not have the responsibility to deal with these fatalities. 

While the Department of Transport sets out the overall policies regarding truck stops, the responsibility for building and maintaining them is the responsibility of local government. Local government has suffered huge financial cuts in recent years and the facilities are not hugely profitable, resulting in the problem being swept under the carpet. 

Unite has released the survey over the safety concerns of HGV drivers in the run up to International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) on Saturday 28 April. IWMD is the day every year where workers come together to ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’. 

Survey results are shocking

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “The findings of this survey are profoundly shocking; People’s lives are being put at risk due to a lack of welfare facilities and workers being forced to work excessive hours. 

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if drivers are regularly sleeping in their cabs tiredness will become a major hazard. Yet virtually nothing is being done to tackle this problem. 

“The government must take the lead and require all local authorities to provide truck stops to meet local requirements. The authorities can’t be allowed to continue to pretend it is someone else’s problem. 

“Companies are continually forcing drivers to work longer, as they are obsessed with the just in time delivery model. This can inevitably lead to tragic consequences, driver welfare should be a company’s first priority not just an afterthought. 

“It is entirely wrong that if a driver is tragically killed at work it is not recorded as a workplace death. At best it is a massaging of the fatality figures. 

“In reality it is a complete derogation of responsibility as by not allowing the HSE to investigate these tragic accidents the long-term causes are not being properly investigated and the necessary safety improvements are not being made.” 


Notes to editors: 

Last year Unite won a long campaign which require employers to allow lorry drivers to use their toilet facilities when making deliveries 

Over 3,200 drivers took part in the survey 

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: [email protected] 

  • 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.