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‘Long hours' culture in the haulage industry sparks Unite call for greater scrutiny

Greater enforcement against the ‘long hours’ culture endured by Britain’s 300,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers should become a government priority, Unite, the union, has urged.  

Unite has called on Transport Secretary, Justine Greening to boost the resources for the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), which regulates the  roadworthiness of the industry’s lorries. 

Unite’s call has come in the wake of the recent tragic accidents on the M5 and M56 which cost the lives of eight people and injured many more.  Three of those that died were lorry drivers. 

The accidents have called into question government proposals to raise the speed limit from 70 mph to 80 mph, but there are also serious concerns about the haulage industry overall. 

Unite, which represents about 60,000 drivers and transport workers in the haulage industry, said it was concerned that some companies may be operating on ‘the edges of legality’.  The maximum hours allowed legally is 56 hours-a-week. 

Unite national officer for road transport, Matt Draper said: ‘We have serious concerns that, potentially, a culture of long hours and unreasonable routing could be contributing to accidents. We are seeing the amount of hours drivers are expected to work continually rise, at a time, when their terms and conditions are being eroded.’ 

‘Some haulage firm bosses, in a very competitive environment, are pushing at the boundaries of legality. The industry must recognise the cumulative effect of drivers working tough schedules and 15 hour-days.’ 

We think that VOSA, which does much good work, should have extra funding so they can increase checks on HGVs – and Unite will be writing to Justine Greening to this effect. We also call for the Health and Safety Executive to investigate haulage companies scheduling practices.’ 

‘Drivers are expected to sleep in their cabs after a long shift, often by the roadside due to the lack of facilities that are taken for granted, such as washing facilities and a decent place to get some well-needed rest.’ 

Note to news editors: 

For further in formation, please contact Unite communications officer, Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 

The law, as it stands
daily driving: max 9 hours. Can be extended to 10 hours twice a week. 
maximum working time limit of 15 hours in any one day. 
weekly driving: max 56 hours. 
two weeks: 90 hours 
after 4 1/2 hours driving, you must take a break of at least 45 minutes.  First break must be at least 15 minutes.  Second break must be at least 30 minutes 
minimum daily rest: normally 11 consecutive hours 
reduced daily rest: 9 hours up to three times in a week. 

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) provides a range of licensing, testing and enforcement services with the aim of improving the roadworthiness standards of vehicles ensuring the compliance of operators and drivers, and supporting the independent Traffic Commissioners.



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