We are definitely living in very confusing times. With the Covid-19 crisis continuing to spread, an increasing number of industries have had to alter or stop their operations completely. However, the haulage industry is essential to this country and we cannot afford to lose it. Without delivery drivers out on the roads on a daily basis, critical supplies such as food, PPE, and medicines will not make it to their destinations.
Problems Revealed By Covid-19
Even during the best of times, the haulage industry has plenty of issues. However, the strain caused by Covid-19 has added some unique problems. They include the following:
Driver Shortage: If you have paid attention to the news, then you are probably already aware that the UK has had a driver shortage for quite some time already. Now that here is an even higher demand for LGV or HGV operators and delivery drivers, this problem has gotten even worse since Covid-19.
What makes this problem even harder is that it takes time to hire new drivers, and even more important it also involves drivers taking a medical exam, which is problematic right now. New drivers need to get their license which is challenging and time-consuming. This cannot happen soon enough.
Medical Examinations: Right now medical professionals and doctors are stretched to their absolute limits with attempting to keep people alive in this country, so the last thing that they have on their minds is performing routine medical exams. However, medical exams are an essential part of obtaining an HGV licence (and maintaining it), since it ensures that is safe for drivers to be out on the road for extended periods of time.
Access to Facilities: Drivers themselves have flagged this novel problem. Since 2017 drivers have legally had the right to use handwashing facilities and toilets inside commercial premises when making a delivery. That is to ensure the safety and health of drivers, in addition to the health of the people they are making deliveries to.
However, numerous companies are refusing this now, due to health concerns about Covid-19. Although that is understandable, that means that drivers are at risk, and cannot comply with the government’s handwashing guidelines. This puts them more at risk of catching the virus and spreading it.
Fortunately, at least for the haulage industry, there is hope. It comes from regulations that have been slightly relaxed. If you are a professional driver or keep up with the news, then you already know that strict limits are in place for how long drivers can drive in a month, a week, and a day, in addition to when they must take breaks and how long these breaks must be. That is to ensure that drivers are well-rested and do not burn out, since that can cause many problems for the drivers, companies, and other users of the road.
However, given the desperate times we are currently living in, the Department for Transport has announced it will be relaxing the regulations so that haulage companies can keep up with the increase in service demand. The relaxation applies to drivers of trucks that are involved in delivering over the counter pharmaceuticals, non-food items (cleaning, household paper, and personal care), and food when taking the following types of trips:
- Transport hub delivery to a store
- Between transport hub trunking and distribution centres
- From suppliers or manufacturers to fulfilment centres or stores
- From suppliers or manufacturers to distribution centres (which includes backhaul collections)
- Distribution centres to fulfilment centres or stores
To be clear, the relaxations of the rules only apply to professional and commercial deliveries. They do not apply to drivers who deliver products to consumers at their houses. They still will be required to adhere to the prior rules on breaks and drive times.