Driver Require CEO, Kieran Smith [pictured], recently appeared in Parliament as a representative of the logistics industry, to provide insight into the challenges currently being faced by the road freight supply chain before the House of Commons Transport Committee.
The role of the Transport Committee is to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Transport and its associated public bodies.
The 2021 inquiry, following on from the previous road freight supply chain inquiry in 2016, examined numerous challenges facing the sector such as the aftereffects of the pandemic, HGV driver shortages, and changes to border procedures due to Brexit and Covid.
During the session, the Committee questioned several industry representatives, which included Smith and other individuals from the Cold Chain Federation, Logistics UK, Unite union and the Road Haulage Association.
The Committee discussed how the logistics industry has worked over recent months in an effort to alleviate the challenges it is facing and questioned what further action could be taken.
Before MPs, Smith highlighted significant challenges around the lack of adequate roadside facilities for drivers, which were contributing to poor working conditions. He was quizzed by Conservative MP, Chris Loder, about how the terms, conditions and facilities for drivers could be improved. In response, Smith highlighted the need for approved standards, similar to those that the European Union has recently implemented.
Smith told the Committee: “Every time I ask people who are supposed to know about this stuff, they are unaware of any standard. I am unaware of any standard apart from the HSE standard. Whereas if you look at the Connecting Europe facility, where they recently announced €176 million/£160 million it is not a lot we put in when you compare it to the £32.5 million [promised by the UK government for lorry parks], they tied that to standards.”
When questioned by Loder as to whether he wished for the government to mandate clear minimum standards, Smith responded: “Yes, absolutely. And as I said, also very clear planning requirements. So again, on the continent, if you are going to build a very lucrative retail park, or commercial park – you must put in sufficient secure parking with security and facilities.
“It comes back to roads pricing as well. We tax but we don’t actually use that tax to then invest in the provision of secure and decent facilities with amenities. Whereas if you look at France, where you’ve got a toll system, when they build a toll road, there are requirements that they have an aire de repos [rest area] every so many kilometres, and on each of those aire de repos you must have a toilet, and it must be functioning and it must be clean. Yet we don’t do that.”
Adrian Jones, National Officer for Road and Transport for the Unite trade union, sat alongside Smith during the session. He too supported the idea of minimum standards being set and said that lorry drivers themselves should be involved in deciding what the standards ought to be.
Jones said: “What we want to see is a panel of experts, so ex-drivers, and we’ve got them within Unite - we’ve got plenty of drivers who have unfortunately left the industry for one reason or another, who know when facilities need to be accessed, and know what those standards are. Because then we can hold those providers to the agreed standards.
“What we need to do is have proper facilities supplied as is the case in other countries. So, if we look at the Port of Rotterdam, the facilities for lorry drivers in the Port of Rotterdam are provided by the Port Authority, they are secure. They are somewhere where drivers can get out of the cab, they can have a shower, get something to eat. There are proper clean toilets, they are maintained and maintained by the port. That’s public and private sector working together. That’s what we need to see.”
Other topics covered during the Transport Committee session included the effectiveness of the relaxation of driver’s hours, medical renewals, reforms to drivers’ CPC and working time regulations.
A full video of the House of Commons Transport Committee session can be accessed here.
Photo provided by Driver Require