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Grant Shapps loosens rules on lorry drivers' hours amid shortage

Grant Shapps extends lorry drivers’ hours amid growing fears post-Brexit and Covid staff shortages could hit food supplies and leave supermarket shelves empty

  • Grant Shapps has loosened rules on lorry drivers’ hours pointing to ‘shortage’
  • Fears lack of staff could cause disruption to supermarket and other deliveries
  • ‘Temporary’ extension of hours will start from July 12, Transport Secretary said  

Grant Shapps moved to loosen rules on lorry drivers’ hours today amid growing fears post-Brexit and Covid staff shortages could threaten supermarket deliveries.

The Transport Secretary said HGV drivers would be able to make ‘slightly longer’ journeys from July 12 in response to the issues.

The change – which Mr Shapps stressed is ‘temporary’ – came after a chorus of warnings from businesses and unions that a lack of staff threatens deliveries of food and other key goods.

EU nationals are believed to be les willing to work in the UK, but a huge backlog of cancelled HGV tests has also built up during the pandemic.  

Mr Shapps revealed the news in a tweet. ‘We’re aware of a shortage of HGV drivers, so I’m announcing a temp extension of drivers’ hours rules from Mon 12 July, giving flexibility to drivers & operators to make slightly longer journeys,’ he said.

Grant Shapps moved to loosen rules on lorry drivers’ hours today amid growing fears post-Brexit staff shortages could threaten supermarket deliveries. Pictured, lorries at Dover

The Transport Secretary said HGV drivers would be able to make ‘slightly longer’ journeys from July 12 in response to issues

‘We’ve ramped up the number of driving tests available & will consider other measures.’

Unite union national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said the announcement will do nothing to resolve the problem of driver shortages, adding: ‘Asking an already exhausted workforce to work even longer is likely to make an already difficult situation worse.

‘Driving regulations are highly complex and to announce a relaxation on Twitter without any proper detail has simply created more confusion and uncertainty across the sector.

‘The Government should not be announcing a relaxation in driving hours, which are critical to ensure the safety of all road users, without also ensuring that the relevant monitoring and enforcement of the revised rules are in place.

‘Unite has been provided with no details of whether monitoring and enforcement of the revised regulations has even been considered.

‘Unite will be advising its members to not place themselves in danger and that, if they are too tired to drive safely, they have a legal right to refuse to do so. Unite will fully support those who make that decision legally and industrially.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We’re working with industry and have already taken action on HGV driver shortages, including ramping up vocational test capacity, and funding apprenticeships.

‘We have also announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules. This will allow HGV drivers to make slightly longer journeys, but must only be used where necessary and must not compromise driver safety, with further measures to be announced shortly.

‘Most of the solutions, however, are likely to be driven by industry, with progress already being made in testing and hiring, and a big push towards improving pay, working conditions and diversity.’

Shadow transport minister Kerry McCarthy said: ‘The ongoing shortage of HGV drivers is a ticking time-bomb for suppliers of goods, including vital food supplies.

‘This short-term fix will put the safety of drivers at risk when they are already exhausted and under immense pressure.

‘The Secretary of State needs to come before Parliament and explain how the Government will address this driver shortage in a way that does not compromise their safety.’

Mr Shapps has insisted the government is working with industry to increase the numbers of HGV drivers

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