Britain eases labor regulations amid truck driver shortages

The UK government has relaxed truck driver working hours to address the truck driver shortage.

In statements on Twitter today (July 7th), government ministers told the government that the rules would be relaxed from Monday.

Unions and logistics experts have argued that more action needs to be taken to address the driver shortage that has hit the food sector.

UK Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shps, tweeted: “We are aware of a shortage of truck drivers, so I’m announcing a temporary extension of driver hours from Monday July 12th to give drivers and operators some flexibility make longer journeys. We have increased the number of available driving tests and will consider other measures. ”

Baroness Vere, Parliamentary Undersecretary in the UK Department of Transport, also announced the move on Twitter. “We are temporarily extending the travel time regulation from Monday, July 12th, in order to enable truck drivers to make longer journeys if necessary, as we are aware of the current driver shortage. The safety of the driver must not be endangered and operators must notify DfT [the Department for Transport] if this relaxation is used. „

UK food industry trade organizations wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week raising awareness and suggesting solutions.

A letter from the Road Haulage Association has been countersigned by Ian Wright, Chairman of the Food and Drink Federation, Nick Allen, Chairman of the British Meat Processors Association, and Richard Harrow, Chairman of the British Frozen Food Federation.

It was also signed by Paul Bennell, Managing Director Supply Chain of UK food manufacturer Samworth Brothers, as well as food and beverage distributors, utilities and logistics companies.

In the letter, Richard Burnett, Chairman of the Road Haulage Association, described the effects of the current driver shortage as „crippling” and warned of „critical supply chains failing due to the significant shortage of truck drivers.”

He called on Johnson to intervene „to prevent critical supply chains from failing on an unprecedented and unimaginable level.”

Burnett added, „Supermarkets are already reporting that they are not getting the expected food supplies and that there is significant wastage as a result,” and continued to warn of „food and drink spikes caused by hot weather and major sporting events.” .

Burnett called for, among other things, the introduction of a temporary work visa for foreign truck drivers and the inclusion of this profession on the list of employment bottlenecks at the Home Office, as well as government cooperation with industry – and the establishment of a task force – to help address the more general issues related to it address the skills shortage.

In response to today’s UK government announcement, the Road Haulage Association said the rule change would „make no significant difference”.

In a statement, Burnett said: „We have offered ministers a range of short, medium and long-term solutions, including better support for training and apprenticeships, improved facilities on the street and in our 12-point plan for dealing with the crisis.” temporary visas for foreign drivers.

“It should be recognized that driver salaries in the industry rise as the shortage worsens. In many cases these increases are substantial. Suppliers and dealers should be prepared for these additional costs to be passed on. ”

Supply chain and logistics consultancy SCALA said more needs to be done to curb the driver shortage.

„The driver shortage is a problem that the government should have foreseen as there has been a driver shortage in the UK for more than a decade, most of which is filled by drivers from the EU and Eastern Europe,” said Rob Wright, SCALA Managing Director.

“Almost 10% of all UK workers work in logistics, a growing sector that is vital to the UK economy, particularly as was the case with the forced lockdowns last year. This deficiency is a first test of the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy, which prioritises highly skilled immigration as there are serious doubts that domestic recruitment could fill the Gs in the short term.

“The long-term solution is multifaceted, with short-term solutions such as removing restrictions on driver hours – which were introduced for very good health and safety reasons – a step backwards. We don’t want tired truck drivers on our roads. ”

UK union Unite said easing government rules would not solve the problem.

„Asking an already exhausted workforce to work longer is likely to make an already difficult situation worse,” said Adrian Jones, Unite’s national road transport officer.

“The driving regulations are highly complex and the announcement of a relaxation on Twitter without adequate detail simply created more confusion and uncertainty across the industry.

„The government should not announce a relaxation of driving times, which are critical to the safety of all road users, without also ensuring that proper monitoring and enforcement of the revised rules are in place.”

The Food and Drink Federation did not want to comment on today’s announcement.

In a statement from the British Meat Processors Association, the British Meat Processors Association said: “The extra hours drivers and the extended times they are allowed to deliver to supermarkets will have a much greater impact on retailers as delays and travel times are local to them Traffic conditions are more sensitive because they decrease in cities. Meat processors typically only deliver to distribution centers, to, from and from where travel times are much more predictable.

„The additional driver hours allowed will take some of the pressure off transport companies, but the real problem is the huge shortage of drivers that is part of the overall picture of staff shortages across the food chain.”

Just Food has asked the British Frozen Food Federation and the British Retail Consortium for comments.

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