There is no doubt that we are living in confusing times. As the Covid-19 crisis continues to spread, more and more industries are finding their operations altered or stopped altogether. But the haulage industry is too important to this country to lose, and without delivery drivers on the road every day the vital supplies of medicines, PPE and food would not be making it to their destination. But that doesn’t mean Covid-19 hasn’t had an impact. In fact, Covid has shined a light on some issues that have been around for a while, as well as created some unique problems for drivers and haulage companies to face. And with health secretary Matt Hancock announcing that he’s confident food supplies won’t run out even in the event of a prolonged lockdown, the pressure on HGV firms to keep delivering has never been higher.
The Problems Covid Is Revealing
The haulage industry isn’t without its issues at the best of times, but the strain of Covid-19 has added a few unique problems to the mix. A few of them include:
The Driver Shortage: If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, then you probably already know that there have been driver shortages in the UK for a long time already. And now that there is more demand than ever for delivery drivers and HGV operators, that issues has only got worse. What makes it more difficult is that hiring new drivers takes time, and more importantly also includes a medical examination, which is problematic (and we’ll talk about below. This means getting new drivers their license is time-consuming and challenging, and can’t happen quick enough.
Medical Exams: Doctors and medical professionals are stretched to their limit at the moment trying to keep the country alive, so it makes sense that doing routine medical exams is the last thing on their minds. But medical examinations are an important part of gaining your HGV licence (and keeping it), as they ensure drivers are safe to be on the roads for long periods. Without access to regular medicals, driver might be put at a disadvantage and be unable to battle Covid-19 and keep supplies moving.
Access to Facilities: This is a novel problem, and one that’s been flagged up by drivers themselves. Since 2017 drivers have had the legal right to use toilets and hand washing facilities within a commercial premises when they are making deliveries. This is to ensure the drivers health and safety, as well as the health of those they are delivering to. However many companies are now refusing this, citing health concerns around Covid-19. While this is understandable, it also means drivers are being put at risk, and are unable to comply with government guidelines around handwashing – so are more at risk of catching and spreading the virus.
Light At The End
Thankfully, for haulage at least, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, it comes in the form of slightly relaxed regulations. If you’ve read our blog for a while, or are a professional driver yourself, then you will know that there are strict limits on how long a driver can drive for in a day, a week and a month, as well as when they need to take their breaks and how long those breaks need to be. This is to ensure the driver is well rested and to avoid burnout, which can cause a lot of problems for them, the company and other road users. However, in these desperate times, the Department for Transport have confirmed that they will be relaxing these regulations in order to allow haulage firms to keep up with the increased service demand. This relaxation applies to drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking the following journeys:
- Distribution centre to stores (or fulfilment centres)
- From manufacturers or suppliers to distribution centres (including backhaul collections)
- From manufacturers or suppliers to stores (or fulfilment centres)
- Between distribution centres and transport hub trunking
- Transport hub deliveries to stores
To clarify, this relaxation only applies to commercial and professional deliveries – not drivers delivering products directly to consumers at their homes. They will still be required to abide by the previous rules around drive time and breaks.
At The Surrey and Hampshire Training Centre, we understand how uncertain the world is right now, and how crucial a role we play in it. That’s why we’re still providing driver training through our online portal, as well as supporting drivers of any age, qualification or situation to find employment with firms who need extra support on a permanent or temporary basis. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.
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