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Haulage sector faces deadline to raise roadside standards

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The government must force road freight operators to improve welfare conditions for drivers or more of them will leave the sector, a committee has warned.


A shortage of HGV drivers has been an issue for more than a decade, said the Transport Committee, but the Covid-19 pandemic has turned a chronic issue into an acute one.

With low pay and poor facilities, the sector has found it difficult to compete with record job vacancies across many sectors in the UK economy.

Anti-social and long hours have also contributed to the shortfall, with many drivers simply not prepared to put up with not seeing their families and a poor work-life balance.

The Transport Committee is now urging the government in its latest report to impose a two-year deadline on the logistics sector to improve facilities, or face penalties. This would take the form of a levy or tax on companies which make the most profits.

As well as a levy, there would be a minimum standard for facilities, such as healthy food options, sufficient provision for women drivers, good security and availability of clean toilets and showers. 

With low pay and poor facilities, road haulage has found it difficult to compete with record job vacancies across many sectors in the UK economy. Photograph: iStock

Giving support to the recommendations, Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of British Safety Council, said: “MPs are right to call for better facilities for HGV drivers. The lack of these not only deters people from joining the industry, but the frankly squalid conditions are forcing people to leave the sector in their droves.

“Last year, for example, nearly a third of the people who had just joined voted with their feet and left. This has a knock-on effect on the whole supply chain, exacerbates the cost-of-living crisis, and the Government must work harder with the sector to raise its game and retain its workforce better.”

He said the MPs’ proposal of a new levy on the industry, should it fail to deliver better facilities, should be considered a ‘last resort’ given the current rise in operating costs. “Setting minimum quality standards for driver facilities, including for women drivers, does make sense. The Government should take note of this important report and act on its recommendations.”

According to latest analysis by the ONS, the number of working HGV drivers fell by 30,300 in the first quarter of 2022. It comes as a total of 44,000 and 49,000 drivers left the industry in Q3 and Q4 2021 respectively.

Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP said: “The long-term solution lies in moving more freight to rail and water. This will help decarbonise the sector and make it more attractive to drivers who want to operate over shorter distances; drivers who want to see their families at the end of a hard day rather than facing anti-social and dangerous nights sleeping in their cabs.

“In the near-term, we need better conditions to make moving essential goods a sound career choice.”

He added: “The dire alternative is that drivers will go elsewhere and the essential goods we take for granted will be in short supply.”

Article exploring the issue here: https://britsafe.org/publications/safety-management-magazine/safety-management-magazine/2022/time-to-drive-up-standards/
 
Read the Transport Select Committee’s report here: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/153/transport-committee/news/171207/tackle-road-freight-supply-chain-in-two-years-or-impose-industry-levy-warn-mps/

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