Lorry drivers must not be driven to exhaustion by no deal Brexit, warns Unite
Long distance lorry drivers are expected to bear the brunt of any disruption that a no deal Brexit could create, which according to Unite’s warning, could lead to exhausted drivers which pose a threat to other road users.
Trade union Unite is calling on the government to act to stop long-distance lorry drivers being overworked to cope with any potential disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit.
The Union, which represents over 50,000 lorry drivers, says it has yet to be contacted by the government about post-Brexit plans. Unite’s National Officer for Road Transport, Adrian Jones, has subsequently written to the new Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, to request an urgent meeting.
The major concern for Unite, is that the government could temporarily relax or suspend the regulations which govern driving time for lorry drivers. The current restrictions say that drivers cannot be at the wheel for more than nine hours a day (extended to 10 hours twice a week) and a total of 56 hours driving a week. There are also strict rules on rest periods between shifts.
Last year, Unite conducted a survey of over 4,000 and discovered that fatigue and tiredness were already huge issues for drivers. It found that an alarming 29% of drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. In most cases, that meant just momentarily closing their eyes, but some admitted that they could not remember passing junctions or their head had hit the steering wheel.
Exhausted drivers are a danger to themselves and other road users. In 2017 (the latest available figures) there were a total of 267 deaths involving HGV including 21 drivers.
As well as the potential relaxation of driving hours, Unite is also requesting that proper welfare facilities will be provided in places such as Kent and other areas which are expected to suffer from widespread disruption in the event of a no deal Brexit and enquiring whether provision will be made for drivers to take rest breaks away from their lorries, during major delays.
Unite National Officer for road transport Adrian Jones said: “We are just weeks away from a no deal Brexit and yet the government has not thought it necessary to speak to the key group of workers who will keep the UK running.
“The problems associated with a no deal Brexit will not just be confined to Kent, it will create delays throughout the entire lorry and logistics network in the UK.
“Unite will totally oppose any relaxation in driving regulations. This would result in exhausted drivers, with potentially lethal consequences for road users.
“Workers have a legal right to not work if they believe they would be placed in danger. The government must remember that when planning for a no deal.”
With employees who drive for business more likely to be killed at work than deep sea divers or coal miners, driver safety is a vital business consideration.
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