Unite the union has condemned a further relaxation of HGV driving time rules by the Department of Transport, announced yesterday (Tuesday 22 December), as ‘dangerous and useless’

The relaxation, which comes after maximum driving times were relaxed for retailer hauliers on December 10, applies to all road haulage sectors in Britain and lasts from 23 December until 22 January 2021. 

The temporary changes are in response to long freight delays at the Dover/Calais border, with further disruptions expected when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. 

The relaxation includes ‘increasing the fortnightly driving limit from 90 hours to 99 hours’ and ‘the replacement of the requirement to take a full weekly rest period of 45 hours in a 2-week period’.

Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said: “The limits on driving hours are there for a reason – to ensure drivers are not fatigued. Unite has warned the government over and over again that relaxing the rules endangers drivers and other road users and will not reduce congestion. There are more than enough HGV drivers, so no one needs to drive extended hours to meet demand. The problem lies with entering and exiting the ports, particularly around Dover.

“Yesterday’s announcement confirms that ministers are grasping for anything that makes them seem like they have control of the situation. But these dangerous and useless changes clearly show they don’t, despite being warned by Unite for more than a year of just such problems occurring.  

“While it is good news that testing will allow cross channel freight to get moving again, it will take some time to clear the huge backlog of lorries waiting to cross. With still no Brexit deal in sight, we can expect more chaos in the new year. 

“The government’s priority must be to ensure that all stranded drivers are looked after and have access to clean toilets, washing facilities and hot food. The last few days have shown that ministers’ paltry reassurances that welfare provisions would be supplied were empty words. That needs to change and now if the inhumane and unsanitary conditions reported by drivers around Dover are not to extend into the new year.

“Crucial to preventing further gridlock is the need for the government to get a deal with the EU and provide clarity for businesses, as well as for ministers to work with port operators to ensure there is the capacity to ensure goods can move smoothly and swiftly from port to road and vice versa.”

ENDS

Notes to editors: 

Stranded lorry drivers need urgent assistance and end to French border gridlock

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

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