In response to the shortage of truck drivers in the UK, the UK government is taking a drastic measure to relax the rules on driving time as of 12 July, which will allow companies to extend the daily driving time for the truck drivers.
However, such measures pose a huge threat to the road safety of all road users. A recent Europe wide study by the ETF has found that the road transport sector is mired by fatigue among its drivers due to poor working conditions. Out of 2.800 truck, bus and coach drivers surveyed by the study, 60% of the truck drivers reported having to drive on a regular basis while feeling fatigued. 88% of the surveyed truck drivers reported working more than 40 hours per and week on a regular basis and more than half of these actually worked more than 50 hours per week. As a consequence, nearly a third of the truck drivers reported having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year. It should not take much to imagine the consequences to road safety when heavy goods vehicles are involved. As one interviewed driver said “I am sitting in a weapon: 40 tonnes at 80 kph”. Further relaxing the rules on the allowed driving times will certainly contribute to driver fatigue and in turn erode the road safety of all road users.
Moreover, the measure in itself will only contribute to the existing problem of driver shortage. One of the main reasons for driver shortage is that the profession has become too unattractive due to poor working conditions. The measure proposed by the UK government to further extend the driving time will only make those existing working conditions worse and exacerbate the problem of driver shortage.
Lastly, unionised workplaces are safer workplaces as any relaxation of the rules should be agreed with the workers not just imposed.