The rapid global spread of COVID-19 is having a major impact on all aspects of society, including the transport and logistics industry. In this update, we consider the key challenges facing businesses who are keeping the country fed and our infrastructure in place.
Professional Drivers - A lifeline in the fight against virus
"We need...critical workers.....to keep doing their jobs....from police officers who are keeping us safe to the supermarket delivery drivers, social care workers who look after the elderly and who are so vital.1"
According to recently published government guidance, critical workers include those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those "essential to the provision of other key goods" which is arguably a catch-all category for those involved in the transport and logistics sector.
Professional delivery drivers' critical role in keeping the country fed was recognised when the government published a list and placed them alongside doctors, nurses and teachers.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has also recently confirmed that the work of the logistics sector is essential and should continue to the greatest extent possible through the COVID-19 crisis.
"We must ensure those on the frontline of helping the nation combat COVID-19 are able to do so," said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
As a result, all travel related to the operation of logistics or necessary travel by logistics workers to places of work such as distribution centres is considered "essential travel" in the context of current restrictions. The DfT has helpfully provided a pro forma letter for all employers confirming their drivers' critical status to ensure that supply chains continue to be as efficient as possible. (We can provide further guidance if required).
Commenting, Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said:
"The last few days have seen much uncertainty as regards the definition of 'essential workers' and this confirmation.... Formalises the work of those that are keeping the economy moving. This applies to all supplies chains – not only those for food and medical supplies."
Following the lockdown, professional drivers have continued about their daily work, whilst the vast majority of the country is at home, as can be seen by the empty motorways up and down the country.
However, despite the commendable work of professional drivers who continue to service the country, there is a concern amongst unions that insufficient protections have been put in place to ensure the safety of drivers due to the inherent risk of being in contact with others when dropping off and picking up deliveries.
Businesses have, on the whole, been quick to adapt to the extensive risks that the coronavirus brings and have introduced safeguards for their drivers, including PPE and clear guidance for no-contact deliveries to all customers, with the requirement for a customer's signature in most instances being lifted.
New detailed provisions are also in place at depots to ensure that social distancing is adhered to.
Professional drivers are key in keeping the fabric of the country together, ensuring that the supermarkets are stocked with enough food, medicines and essential items for our nations families. The nation values and appreciates more than ever before the essential role that they perform during this challenging and unprecedented time.
Relaxation of drivers' hours rules, but health and safety obligations remain
The DfT has acknowledged the vital contribution that the commercial fleet industry is playing in keeping the economy moving during COVID-19.
Throughout the end of March, the DfT relaxed the EU and GB drivers' hours rules for drivers delivering food, non-food (personal care, household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals when undertaking certain journeys2 .
What are the relaxed rules?
For those journeys listed, the EU rules are temporarily relaxed as follows3:
- Daily driving limit – 11 hours (originally 9 hours);
- Daily rest requirement – 9 hours (originally 11 hours);
- Daily breaks – 45 minutes after 5.5 hours of driving (originally 4.5 hours);
- Weekly driving limit – 60 hours (originally 56 hours);
- Fortnightly driving limit – 96 hours (originally 90 hours);
- Requirement to start a weekly rest period – after seven-24 hour periods (originally 6-24 hour periods). N.B. two regular weekly rest periods or a regular and a reduced weekly rest period will still be required within a fortnight.
It is important to note that drivers cannot use relaxation rule one and six at the same time; this is to ensure drivers are able to get adequate rest.
To see the full article click here
1 Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, Speech to nation on 18 March 2020
2 Full list available here- https://www.rha.uk.net/news/coronavirus-updates-en/enforcement-of-drivers%E2%80%99-hours-temporarily-relaxed
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.