A leading trade union has slammed the ‘sheer incompetence’ of the Government for failing to monitor how many foreign lorries are entering and leaving the UK under a scheme introduced last year.
In October 2021, the Government changed the cabotage rules in a bid to tackle the HGV driver crisis.
According to Unite – a union which represents tens of thousands of lorry drivers – this has allowed companies from anywhere in the world to send lorries to the UK to ‘work unlimited hours, making unlimited deliveries, in any 14 day period’.
For that time the drivers can sleep in their cabs but after the two weeks is up they are supposed to leave the UK.
With concerns about the change in policy, described as a ‘panic move’, Unite made a FOI request to the DfT asking how many companies and lorries had taken advantage of it, which countries they came from and how many lorries had remained in the UK beyond the 14 day period.
The DfT replied: “The specific information you requested is not held. There is no mechanism or register available from which cabotage data could be derived as it will be commercial data held by operators based outside the UK.”
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “This is sheer incompetence by the Government, which is playing Russian roulette with British road users.
“It introduced this knee-jerk reaction to the lorry driver crisis last year, now they tell us they don’t know how many foreign lorry drivers have come, how many hours they work when they are here, and if they go home after the 14 day working period.
“It’s literally an accident waiting to happen, based on the illegal super-exploitation of these drivers.”
With the Government unable to record how many lorries are entering and leaving the UK under its cabotage changes, Unite says the only way that these vehicles can be monitored and checked if they are complying with UK rules on vehicle standards and driving regulations is through on-the-spot inspections.
However, the union recently revealed through a previous FOI request that such checks are vanishingly rare and that the average UK lorry ‘can travel the equivalent of three and half times round the world before it was likely to be inspected’.
Adrian Jones, Unite national officer for road haulage, said: “Not only is the Government clueless about how many foreign lorries are currently on UK roads, but the only on-the-spot inspections to ensure these vehicles are roadworthy and driving regulations are being observed are as rare as hens’ teeth.
“Rather than allowing foreign lorries unlimited access to the UK to tackle driver shortages, 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.”