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Spalding haulage firms say they won't be extending drivers working hours and are calling for more support from the UK Government

A ‘sticking plaster on wet cement’ is how a transport manager had described the Government’s plan to solve haulage’s serious staff shortages.

Rob Banks says Chris Eley in Spalding will not be extending their drivers working hours following an announcement by Transport Secretary Grant Schapps to tackle the serious shortages faced by the haulage industry.

Currently drivers are only allowed to drive for nine hours a day and must have a 45 minute break between each four and a half hour stretch but for a month from today (Monday) they can drive for longer.

Chris Eley in Spalding (49122387)
Chris Eley in Spalding (49122387)

South Holland is facing a shortfall of at least 100 drivers thanks to Brexit and a change in tax rules.

Mr Banks said: “This will be loading more straw onto the already struggling donkey’s back. We won’t be participating in extending the hours of our drivers.

“Lorry drivers are already doing more hours a week then the average factory or shop worker and we are asking them to do that in control of a 44 tonne killing machine.

“This is not even a sticking plaster. It is a sticking plaster on wet cement. This is the only solution they can come up with that won’t cost them any money.

“There are so many things they can do to ease the problem but it is not a quick fix. We are two to three years away from a fix of any descrption in my opinion.”

John Kerrigan, Chief Executive of Fowler Welch, is calling for more Government support for the industry.

He said: "We will not be adopting any changes internally to driver hour regulations, despite the government decision this week allowing us to.

"We will do everything in our power, to encourage a younger and more diverse population into this industry along with doing what we can to motivate and retain our current colleagues. To do this successfully, we need to focus on reward, wellbeing and the working environment and we need the government to support with funding, testing and promotion of the industry and the opportunities it can bring.

"A temporary easing of immigration restrictions for qualified LGV / HGV drivers would offer some respite to the current and worsening situation, which would allow the industry to focus on training this much needed new talent and allowing testing centres to catch up on the back log brought on by the suspension of testing through Covid."

Managing director of Phoenix Drivers Graham Brown said: “It is not going to achieve a great deal or clear the back log.

“The rule change is only for a month but what they should be looking at is putting lorry drivers on the skilled workers visa scheme.”

Firms using the rule extension also have to inform the Department for Transport when they use this extension so there will be administration issues.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “We’re aware of a shortage of HGV drivers, so I’m announcing a temp extension of drivers’ hours rules from Monday, giving flexibility to drivers & operators to make slightly longer journeys. We’ve ramped up the number of driving tests available & will consider other measures.”

We asked the Department for Transport for further details of the other measures being considered but were told it was not yet possible to elaborate on Mr Shapps’ tweet.

A spokesman said: “Obviously this is a very sensitive and tricky issue so there are still further discussions to be had before confirming anything.”

Phoenix Drivers are holding open days at their Enterprise Way, Pinchbeck, on Tuesday, July 20, and Wednesday, July 21, from 9am to 4pm.

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