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Rest Stops and Tired Driving

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.

 

Drivers, let us know your thoughts on the matter by dropping us a tweet, and if you’re on the road soon and need a rest stop, find your nearest one here.

The Rising Cost of UK Roads vs the Rising Expectation of HGV Drivers

As public and business demand for logistics increases, the nationwide shortage of HGV drivers only becomes more detrimental. As it currently stands, the UK are short of approximately 45,000 drivers – a figure which in a society with a high demand for delivered goods is extremely concerning. Perhaps more concerning still is the lack of efforts being exerted to secure more drivers; it seems that recent industry proposals which supposedly aim to tackle the problems at hand are instead focused on government economic gain rather than real solutions. The monetary gain of which we speak is largely referring to the abundance of new regulations which seemingly aim to lower the worrying levels of emissions yet cause financial strain for those who work within the driving industry. In recent months, the news has emphasised how such financial strains also exist beyond the topic of pollution – articles have detailed how drivers will be fined for working beyond legal hours and how networks such as the M6 toll as well as local councils plan to introduce new HGV charges. Whilst we at Barnes are keen to play an active role in tackling the environmental and social issues that the UK faces, we also wish to highlight the detrimental nature that increasing fines have on an already strained, short-staffed and much-needed industry. The following offers a reflection, drawing on many of our past comments, but considers them in terms of financial impact that new proposals may have by asking, how are the rising costs of UK Roads affecting the rising expectation of HGV drivers?

In July an increase in M6 toll prices was announced. Vehicles can expect to see an increase of approximately 50p; for lorries, this takes prices up to £11.50 during the week and £9.80 at the weekend. The news has attracted criticism from supportive industry bodies like The Road Haulage Association, with the body’s chief executive claiming that the changes make the M6 an unaffordable, unviable route for HGV drivers. The Midland Expressway, however, claim that there is a ‘necessity’ for increases as it will reduce journey times and result in a motorway system that is “great value for money”. They offer further attempts of justification by  adding that ‘pay-as-you-go’ routes are very popular with HGV drivers. The RHA chief, who directly communicate with drivers, presents a contrasting but pivotal point: “Why have the Midlands Expressway decided to increase the rate for HGVs now – at a time when the price of diesel has just risen by another two pence per litre – adding over £800 per vehicle to a trucker’s annual operating costs?”

The news comes after it was announced that haulage companies can now also expect to pay less tax on ‘environmentally friendly’ vehicles, but as we have previously highlighted, it seems that the greater issue at hand is not being addressed; not all can afford to buy an entire new fleet and so are forced to pay more tax.

Additionally, with emissions levels deemed a major issue, hauling bodies are confused as to why such charges are being increased, as they will undoubtedly lead to HGV drivers to use alternative routes to the M6. Such routes are likely to be A and B roads – the very urbanised areas where the government and local councils are attempting to lower pollution levels.

Yet in these very areas, some councils are campaigning to introduce ‘congestion’ charges for HGVs. Dorchester town centre, for example, is keen to implement fines on lorries that travel through the borough without making deliveries, using cameras to track their movements. But as discussed above, it is likely that the M6 toll price hike will cause an increase in town traffic.

In addition to these expected cost increases, there have been a number of other financial hits to the HGV driving industry. Earlier this year, it was announced that on-the-spot-fines would be given to drivers exceeding their tachograph hour restrictions. Having spoken in depth on this issue before, we can only reiterate our previous comments: are drivers only tampering with tachographs to meet strict delivery deadlines? As these issues have continued to develop since our last blog post, we would now like to additionally ask, how can financial punishments be effective when the pressure and expectation on HGV drivers is not easing, particularly with a severe skills shortage to also consider?

It is with great disappointment that we pen our beliefs: eventually, all HGV drivers will be penalised, regardless of route, and yet demand for logistics and deliveries will not falter. With the news of various fines dominating our daily news, we fear that prospective drivers may be deterred from entering the industry, thus worsening the problem at all angles. Thankfully, as an industry, we have a supportive body that campaigns against newly proposed charges, but, as an individual business, we urge the government to address the problems at hand before imposing fines. Realistically, the expectation on drivers is set to increase, therefore it is vital to exert greater efforts into the recruitment and retention of new drivers, whilst also exploring alternative ways to reduce emissions and congestion. If these requests are met, it is possible that the industry can thrive once again.

Let us know your thoughts by dropping us a tweet.