There is no question that the UK haulage industry is under a lot of pressure right now. The coronavirus crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in demand for both personal and commercial deliveries, with drivers being pushed to the limits beyond even the busiest times of year (yes, even busier than Christmas). This new rush in demand has caused its own set of problems – from finding the drivers to meet the need to ensuring they are all kept safe and healthy during such uncertain times. And with health secretary Matt Hancock announcing that he’s confident food supplies won’t run out even in the event of a prolonged lockdown, the pressure on HGV firms to keep delivering has never been higher. But what does that mean?
The haulage industry is, without a doubt, the backbone of this country, but it’s not been without its problems, which the current crisis has been highlighting. For example, there has been a driver shortage for a very long time now, and with HGV drivers now playing a crucial role in keeping the country running, the issue is now more tenuous than ever. And with medical exams suspended, it’s difficult to process new drivers and get them on the road.
Which highlights another problem – medical exams. Medical exams are an important part of HGV driver safety, and are a prerequisite for getting and keeping your licence. But for the moment, the government is insisting (rightly so) that doctors not undertake any private medicals during the crisis. This not only means that new drivers will be unable to complete their qualifications, but that drivers who are on the front lines helping support businesses and the NHS might not have access to the healthcare and support they need to keep going.
Finally, and perhaps one of the biggest concerns, is that many places have been denying drivers access to facilities. Since 2017 drivers have had a legal right to access toilets and hand washing facilities at their delivery sites – meaning they can stay safe and healthy during their shifts. However coronavirus has many people worried, and there have been reports of drivers being refused access to these facilities. But since regular hand washing is one of the key ways to prevent the spread of the virus, this is the worst possible outcome, and has mean that drivers, who are crucial to ensuring that food and other vital supplies are being delivered, can’t comply with government guidance and as a result are more at risk of catching, and spreading Covid-19.
We have talked a lot before about the fact that there are very strict regulations in place around how long a driver can be on the road for, along with how regularly they have to take breaks, and how long those breaks should last. These regulations are very firm, and have been carefully designed to preserve the safety of drivers and other road users. However, a combination of significantly less road traffic and a huge upswing in demand, drivers need to be able to bend these rules a little. Luckily the Department for Transport have recognised this, and have relaxed the rules around driving times and breaks as follows:
‘These relaxations only apply to the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking the following journeys:
They have clarified that these relaxations don’t apply to all deliveries and drivers – they only apply to those making deliveries to companies, suppliers, distributors and other business fulfilment – and not for drivers undertaking deliveries directly to customers.
At The HGV Training Centre, we recognise just how much extra pressure this pandemic has put on an already understaffed industry. That’s why we are doing all we can to support existing and potential new drivers, whether that’s through finding new roles with new companies or by offering online-only training options. If you would like to find out more, just get in touch with the team today.
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