Ministers are ignoring the needs of lorry drivers in their planning for a potential no deal Brexit, Unite said today (January 17).
While the government has begun planning to stack lorries at locations such as Marston Airfield and on the M3 in Hampshire, Unite lorry drivers are concerned that their needs are being ignored.
As well as basic welfare facilities such as toilets, if delays are extended then food and sleeping provisions will be needed, in order to ensure drivers are fit and alert when required to eventually drive.
Unite members have already been reporting that they are increasingly being placed at breaking point due to long hours and fatigue and the union is concerned that this is linked to a 50 per cent increase in driver deaths.
Additionally, most of the government’s focus on planning for a no deal Brexit has been on ports with roll on roll off ferries, when most goods are brought into the UK via container ports.
Crashing out of the EU would also result in significant delays in the transportation of these goods, which will cause further traffic congestion, which does not appear to have been planned for.
Lorry driver and Unite member Mick Johnson transports container loads from Hull and Immingham.
He explained that toilet facilities at both ports were already difficult to access and that there is no canteen on either of the sites.
“You can be queuing for two or three hours in the container line already. If you had to take your daily rest period and you were in a queue you’d have to go to a truck stop outside of the dock. Meaninghave to pull out of the queue and come back and start again,” Johnson said.
“Rather than planning for the worst and hoping for the best, the government is hoping for the best and praying the worst doesn’t happen. If we’re looking at longer delays then there’s going to be real problems and nobody is making provisions for that.”
Unite member Richard Allday highlighted similar problems at the Felixstowe container port.
He added: “You have to stay in your cab in the container line so there’s no access to toilets. If the worst comes to the worst and your male, then you can go up against a fence. But what about for female lorry drivers?”
Unite understands that the government has held discussions about its plans with haulage employers,who have been gagged by signing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) barring them from discussing the government’s plans with the workforce or Unite.
Long-term delays in the collection of goods from ports is likely to result in drivers voting with their feet and leaving the industry, further exacerbating the deepening recruitment crisis the industry is already facing, the union warned.
Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “The government appears only to be interested in the management of the lorries and not the health and welfare of drivers.
“The government has ignored the needs of drivers and has gagged the employers – this will result in the chaos of a no deal Brexit being even greater.”