These are confusing times we find ourselves living in, no doubt. Operations in an increasing number of industries are grinding to a halt or changing drastically due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it is clear that without commercial drivers, food, PPE, medication and other essential supplies would not find their way to their final delivery points; simply put, this country cannot allow the transportation industry to come to a standstill.
Covid-19 Has Brought the Following Issues to the Limelight
The stresses occasioned by Covid-19 have led to the emergence of a number of new problems, even though the transportation industry has always had its own issues. Here are some of the new problems being witnessed:
A Shortage of Drivers: For a long time now, the UK has been grappling with a shortage of drivers. This is something that we have been saying on our blog for a while now. This problem has only gotten worse as HGV operators and deliver drivers are now in higher demand than any other time in history.
In addition to consuming a lot of time, hiring a new driver also involves medical examinations: a major issue. Recruiting new drivers and getting them licensed is slow and difficult.
Mandatory Medical Evaluations: Routine medical evaluations are not a priority right now for medical personnel as they are currently working around the clock with trying to save the nation from Covid-19. However, to ensure that drivers are fit to drive for long periods, medical evaluations are necessary, and must be undertaken if you want to get your Heavy Goods Vehicle license and keep it.
Restricted Access to Amenities: Drivers have pointed out this new issue. When making deliveries, drivers have enjoyed the right, under the law, to access and use hand-washing and toilet facilities within commercial buildings since 2017. This is meant to safeguard the health and safety of those receiving deliveries as well as the drivers themselves.
But, citing the health risks associated with Covid-19, many companies are no longer allowing this. Drivers are now at risk of contracting and spreading the disease and unable to follow guidelines put forth by the authorities with regard to hand-washing, even though companies cannot be faulted. Other minor issues include difficulties with traffic and several drivers wondering “how long do I have to renew my HGV licence?”
Something to Be Grateful For
There is still something to be grateful for, at least as far as the transportation industry is concerned. Relaxed guidelines are a godsend, in this case. There are strict restrictions placed on when drivers should go for breaks, and how long the breaks should last as well as how long drivers should be on the road driving on a daily, weekly and monthly basis; something that you know very well if you are a driver or have been follow our blog. Fatigue can be disastrous for the driver, their employer and other road users; these guidelines are meant to ensure that drivers have enough rest.
So as to ensure that the transportation industry is able to meet growing demand, in these trying times, the Department of Transportation has announced that these guidelines will be relaxed. Drivers transporting OTC (over the counter) pharmaceuticals, cleaning, household and personal care items among other non-food items and food, will be operating under relaxed rules when transporting:
- Deliveries to fulfilment centres or store from distribution centres
- Deliveries to backhaul collections and other distribution centres from suppliers or manufacturers
- Deliveries to fulfilment centres or stores from suppliers or manufacturers
- Deliveries between hub trunking and distribution centres
- Transportation of hub deliveries to stores
As a point of clarifications, the relaxation of rules does not apply to drivers delivering goods directly to consumers at their residences, but only relates to commercial drivers. The original guidelines on driving time and breaks will continue to apply to other drivers.