Drivers are regularly advised not to drive tired; motorways light up with overhead signs, road safety charities campaign against fatigued driving, and the DVLA has a page dedicated to informing the relevant authorities on medical conditions that may cause tiredness. Naturally, when it comes to the professional driving industry, the laws are stricter still, with drivers not permitted to work for more than 4.5 hours without taking a minimum 45 minute break. These laws can be appreciated for the safety they offer both HGV drivers and others on the road, however, in reality, these laws are continually compromised due to the lack of dedicated spaces for lorries to park during rest periods.
Not only are professional drivers legally required to take these breaks, but all too often we hear reports of drivers not taking them or of parking in residential areas, but we must question why this may be. Whilst we acknowledge that some drivers may work through their breaks or park inconveniently simply to meet targets quicker – this is an issue in itself – it should also be brought to light that it is also entirely probable that a lack of breaks can be the result of a decreasing number of much-needed amenities.
In this digital age, the movement of goods across the EU has grown rapidly, and so long hours are inevitable with the profession. To guarantee the safe arrival of commodities across borders, laws must be abided by, including those of rest periods. A driver who is well-rested is more likely to be able complete their job and continue the functioning of the supply chain system than one who is fatigued. However, without the required rest, risk is imminent.
When considering this issue, it is important to begin with a more general perspective; all employees, regardless of their occupation or workplace environment, expect access to clean WCs and hygienic spaces to take lunch breaks. For most, these facilities do not have to be campaigned for – they are a given. Yet when it comes to professional drivers, the case is different; despite their integral role to the UK economy, such facilities are not guaranteed. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect these facilities fitted within each individual vehicle, however, all drivers are hypothetically always within easy reach of ‘rest periods’ – safe places to park overnight, eat and wash.
Despite their need, HGV rest stops have always been few and far between, but over recent years, roadside cafés and other rest stops have been closing at an alarming rate, leaving drivers minimal options when it comes to parking up. Similarly, this reduces the amount of dedicated parking areas for truck drivers and when the number of trucks on the roads are increasing (considering the growing amount of goods transported everyday), parking opportunities become more limited still.
It seems that, as a result, many drivers have been taking to parking in spaces which some deem unacceptable and inconvenient. All too often, the media transcribes local villager’s frustrations regarding HGV traffic and parking. In Yorkshire alone, residents are reporting to councils that there is ‘clear evidence’ of HGVs damaging roads and verges, drivers participating in antisocial behaviour by littering and creating noise pollution. In this particular case, the article claims that the vehicles in question are, “foreign registered vehicles that choose not to use or have no financial means of using dedicated lorry facilities”. However, the issue would still exist regardless: there are few – if any at all – rest stops in the area, and those that are available do not have enough space to cater for all who need to use them. It therefore seems unsurprising that in such situations, drivers have little choice but to stop in laybys or similar areas – and with an estimated 20% of all road accidents caused by fatigue, it is imperative that they rest somewhere.
How can this issue be resolved? Increased funding to develop parking facilities along with amenities which allow drivers to wash and take food breaks is the most obvious option. And with this need for funding comes an equally important need to educate the wider public on the lack of amenities available to drivers; as we have highlighted before, the professional driving and logistics industry are an imperative part of the British economy, but like other occupations, they need to take regular breaks.