Covid-19 and the Haulage Sector

We are undoubtedly living in unprecedented times. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt normal activities, more industries continue to see their operation disrupted or halted. However, the haulage industry is very critical to this country and can’t be lost. Whenever our delivery drivers are taken off the road, even the vital supplies such as medicines, food, and PPE would not be available where they are much needed.

The Weak Points Covid-19 Is Exposing

Even in the good times, the haulage industry didn’t lack some issues, but the Covid-19 pandemic has brought on other unique problems to this sector. Some of those include:

Driver Shortage: If you’ve been reading our blog for some time, then you may already be aware of the persistent problem of driver shortages in the UK over the years. Now that there is a surge in demand for HGV training and delivery drivers, the issue of driver shortage has just worsened.

What makes this problem even worse is the long process of hiring new drivers, as the process even includes a medical examination which may be a hassle. This makes the process of acquiring a driver’s license for new drivers exhausting and time-challenging, and unfortunately can’t be fast-tracked.

Medical Tests: Doctors and medical practitioners are working at full capacity at the moment trying to keep everyone alive and safe. As such, doing the routine medical exams for drivers is the last thing they could think of at the moment. However, medical tests are crucial to getting an HGV licence and retaining it, as they ensure the safety of the drivers while on the road for extended durations.

Access to Facilities: This is an unusual issue that has been raised by the drivers themselves. As from 2017, drivers have enjoyed the right to use washrooms and handwashing facilities found in the various commercial premises across the country. Such facilities are put in place to ensure that drivers clean their hands and refresh when making deliveries. Besides keeping them healthy and safe, it also ensures that those receiving the supplies remain healthy and safe.

Sadly, most commercial premises and companies are denying drivers this right, citing health concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic. While these might be real concerns, it also means that drivers are exposed and don’t comply with the government’s directive about hand washing – they are therefore at a greater risk of catching and spreading the virus.

Optimism In The Haulage Sector

There is some hope for the haulage sector which come in the shape of slightly eased rules. If you’re a professional driver or an avid follower of our blog, you understand that there are stringent limits to the daily, weekly, and monthly hours a driver can drive. These regulations also govern their breaks, including how long the breaks should be. These breaks ensure that the drivers avoid fatigue and are well-rested as lack of sufficient rest can pose a risk to the drivers, the haulage company and other motorists.

However, in these times of crisis, the Department of Transport has made it clear that they will be easing these regulations to allow the haulage companies to handle the increased demand for their services. The easing of these regulations applies to drivers who work for companies that deliver food, non-food (household paper, personal care and cleaning products), and pharmaceutical supplies when making the following journey:

· Distribution centre to stores (or fulfilment centres)

· From manufacturers/ suppliers to distribution centres (including backhaul collections)

· From manufacturers/suppliers to premises (or fulfilment centres)

· Between distribution centres and transport hub trunking

· Transport hub deliveries to premises

For clarity, the easing of regulations only pertains to professional and commercial deliveries – not drivers who deliver products directly to the consumers’ homes. However, they will still be required to follow the previous rules concerning driving hours and rests.