The past 8 months have seen a whirlwind of change sweep the globe. Many industries have faced hard times and were forced to adapt just to stay afloat whilst others were not so lucky. Despite this, the haulage industry has fared better than most UK sectors during the second quarter of this year.
Throughout the pandemic, hauliers have been trucking up and down the country fulfilling deliveries to ensure that the country continues to operate as normally as possible. UK freight activity – consisting of essential services, necessary goods, such as food, medicine and post – has remained relatively high at roughly 90% – 95%
Although this outlook paints a rather positive standing for the haulage industry throughout the ongoing pandemic, it has not been plain sailing for many, and it will continue to see people fall on hard times.
Haulage companies have been affected in different ways by the crisis. Those involved in food distribution have been particularly busy, as have those delivering online orders. However, others have seen their work dry up almost completely.
Among the worst hit were music event haulage companies. With all events either cancelled or postponed for the better part of six months, many firms have been affected considerably, facing no work for the foreseeable future.
Where some firms were able to provide full pay to those unable to work for various reasons or took advantage of the furlough scheme rolled out by the government, others weren’t able to offer more than statutory sick pay. This may have encouraged people to work whilst unwell for financial reasons.
Meanwhile, there have been some significant changes made to the way the transport and logistics sector operates. Such changes include a relaxation of driver hours to allow them to work longer hours and a relaxation of driver training requirements, all in an effort to aid the supply of goods. Whilst these are welcome changes in terms of keeping the economy moving, they are, however, likely to have had implications for the health and safety of drivers, with risks such as drivers working whilst tired and having insufficient rest periods.
Impacts on Drivers
Before the COVID-19 crisis, the transport and logistics sector was already facing a struggle to maintain staffing numbers given its high proportion of older workers approaching retirement and the limited numbers of younger drivers entering the industry. Given the associated risks of COVID-19 to older individuals and those who have underlying health conditions, there has been obvious concern around the health of professional drivers during the crisis.
There have also been reports of drivers being prevented from using toilets and handwashing facilities at premises they visit due to COVID-19 concerns. It is essential that drivers are able to access these facilities, especially when they are on the road for a long period of time.
At the same time, hauliers are also facing challenging situations that could have detrimental effects on their mental health and wellbeing. A study conducted by IAM RoadSmart reveals that concerns about catching the virus, plague many drivers’ thoughts daily, on top of that, they have to deal with the extension of working hours, increased work demands, increased isolation on the road, and reduced contact with people due to social distancing measures. The pandemic has also caused a lot of anxiety over job security and income concerns.
In light of this, we at The Barnes Group thank all hauliers and other key workers who have soldiered on through the pandemic and continue to do so as we enter a second national lockdown.
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