The government has announced a temporary extension to lorry drivers’ hours amid a shortage of workers.
In a tweet, Department for Transport parliamentary under-secretary of state Baroness Charlotte Vere announced the decision to temporarily extend driver’s hours rules from July 12 to allow HGV drivers to “make slightly longer journeys where necessary”.
According to Vere’s tweet, driver safety “must not be compromised & operators must notify DfT if this relaxation is used.”
This comes as last month the government met with industry leaders to discuss the falling number of lorry drivers, in a bid to avert a major food shortage.
Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were told that retailers already had gaps on their shelves.
As a result, confectionery brand Haribo revealed it was struggling to supply sweets to shops as a result of the HGV driver shortages.
A spokesperson said that, like many manufacturers and retailers, it was “experiencing challenges” with making deliveries.
Businesses and union officials have been warning of a shortage of lorry drivers which threatens deliveries to supermarkets and other sectors of the economy.
Unite union national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said the announcement will do nothing to resolve the problem of driver shortages.
He said: “Asking an already exhausted workforce to work even longer is likely to make an already difficult situation worse.
“Driving regulations are highly complex and to announce a relaxation on Twitter without any proper detail has simply created more confusion and uncertainty across the sector.
“The government should not be announcing a relaxation in driving hours, which are critical to ensure the safety of all road users, without also ensuring that the relevant monitoring and enforcement of the revised rules are in place.
“Unite has been provided with no details of whether monitoring and enforcement of the revised regulations has even been considered,” he added.”
“Unite will be advising its members to not place themselves in danger and that, if they are too tired to drive safely, they have a legal right to refuse to do so. Unite will fully support those who make that decision legally and industrially.”
The news comes following Big 4 grocer Sainsbury’s also attributing the HGV driver shortages to gaps in shelves, with chief executive Simon Roberts adding that the supermarket had difficulty sourcing salad packs, along with particular beer and soft drink brands, on account of delivery driver shortages.
A government spokesman concluded: “We’re working with industry and have already taken action on HGV driver shortages, including ramping up vocational test capacity, and funding apprenticeships.
“We have also announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules. This will allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety, with further measures to be announced shortly.
“Most of the solutions, however, are likely to be driven by industry, with progress already being made in testing and hiring, and a big push towards improving pay, working conditions and diversity.”
with PA Wires