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Ministers playing ‘Russian roulette’ with road users’ safety after relaxing rules on foreign lorries

by our industrial reporter @TrinderMatt

TORY ministers are playing “Russian roulette” with safety after relaxing rules limiting the number of foreign lorries on Britain’s roads, Unite has warned.

A freedom of information (FOI) request made by the union reveals that the government does not know how many HGVs from abroad are entering and leaving the country under the controversial scheme introduced last year.

In an emergency move to tackle a massive shortage of drivers, the government changed cabotage rules in October, allowing companies from across the globe to make unlimited deliveries in Britain during any 14-day period.

However, in response to Unite’s request, the Department for Transport (DfT) admitted it was not monitoring how many foreign lorries have taken advantage of the change. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham blasted the “sheer incompetence” of the government, saying the relaxed rules are an “accident waiting to happen based on the super-exploitation of drivers.

“If [Unite] receives any evidence that a failure to abide by the UK’s employment laws, road safety rules or driving regulations is impacting on jobs and conditions, then we will take action.”

The union warned that with ministers failing to measure the impact of the emergency measures, the only way to check whether these vehicles are complying with regulation standards was through on-the-spot inspections, despite them being “vanishingly rare.”

In December, Unite warned through a separate FOI request that the average lorry on Britain’s roads can travel the equivalent of three-and-a-half times around the world before it is inspected, with the number of spot checks declining by 39 per cent since 2016-17.

The union’s national road haulage officer Adrian Jones said: “Not only is the government clueless about how many foreign lorries are currently on UK roads, but on-the-spot inspections to ensure these vehicles are roadworthy are as rare as hens’ teeth.

“Rather than allowing foreign lorries unlimited access to the UK, the government should be tackling the root causes of the driver crisis — low pay, long hours and the lack of decent parking and welfare facilities for drivers.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The temporary, additional cabotage rules are one of 32 measures taken which are working to alleviate the effects of the global lorry driver shortage in the UK.

“The department is monitoring the overall uptake of the additional cabotage rules and early indications are that they have been successful in assisting the resilience of supply chains, including providing key connections to ports.”

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