More than 1,400 HGV drivers will be forced to spend the night sleeping in their cabs tonight, due to a chronic lack of safe and secure parking spaces for their vehicles, according to business group Logistics UK.
Despite government assurances over the past three years that provision of adequate locations for drivers to take their legally mandated rest breaks, including short stops and overnight stays, will be prioritised, as Elizabeth de Jong, the organisation’s policy director explains, a lack of progress means that drivers are still being forced to put themselves and their loads at risk, and new entrants to the sector are being deterred from applying.
“Whether working in a factory, retail outlet, office or at home, we all take it for granted that we have access to a toilet, handwashing facilities, a hot shower and food when we need it,” she says, “as well as somewhere safe and secure to have a rest. Yet for many HGV drivers, these basic human rights are still a fantasy. No one wants to see drivers forced to park up on the roadside, on industrial or retail parks or in public spaces but for many of those tasked with keeping UK plc stocked with everything it needs, there is simply no alternative – and this situation is hindering the diversification of our workforce. That is not acceptable.
“Currently, it is estimated that less than 1% of the HGV drivers working on the UK’s roads are women, but with no reassurance of safety and security when taking a legally required break, even for a couple of hours, no woman would want to put herself in a potentially risky situation. Industry can only do so much to attract new entrants to the industry: we need government to prioritise the provision of new parking areas across the strategic roads network so that all potential employees can regard an HGV driving job as a safe and highly valued role.”
The Transport Focus 2020-21 Logistics and Coach Survey found that 56% of respondents rated the availability of parking spaces for their vehicles as “fairly poor” or “very poor”, while a survey published by the Department for Transport in 2017 identified an urgent need for 1,400 safe overnight parking spaces in England.
“Government has been promising improvements in this area for a number of years, but we need these promises to be delivered,” says Ms de Jong. “It is galling to think that the workforce which was celebrated as key workers when they ensured we were stocked with the goods and services we needed during the pandemic is not worth more. It is almost impossible for our sector to attract new employees, particularly women, into the industry when they could be forced to take their legally mandated breaks in unsafe locations. The industry is doing all it can to fill the current shortfall of drivers, but needs government to fulfil its promises to help. Without it, logistics cannot be expected to support the full recovery of UK plc in an effective manner.”