Over recent weeks, a shortage of lorry drivers has been blamed for many things happening in the UK at the moment. Empty shelves, delays with vaccines, delays with raw material deliveries, and of course, panic buying of fuel.
This post is not about why these issues happen. But one thing is certain. Younger people are not going into the profession, and drivers are leaving at a vast rate.
Pay may be one reason. But is one of the main reasons not that the industry has failed to provide even the basic welfare facilities for its workers?
HGV drivers work long hours, often away from home for days or even weeks at a time. They have a high divorce rate, they eat on the hoof, often unhealthily, they live, eat and sleep in their small cab. They often have nowhere to go to the toilet, to wash or shower.
It is hardly a profession that sells itself as a result.
Since 1992, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations have been in place, aimed at ensuring that workers have access to a number of welfare facilities in their workplace. These include, toilets, washing facilities, somewhere to rest, eat and make a hot drink. However those that work in road transport are exempt from these regulations when on the road. Maybe this needs to change, or industry standards need changing.
For a lorry driver, the road, the lorry is the workplace. Yet over time lorry parks and rest areas have disappeared. Distribution centres have been built without facilities for the drivers. The industry has failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its workers.
It is not just the Governments role to fix this. It has to be down to the industry. Without it, the exodus of workers out of such an important profession will just continue. Lorry drivers need to be treated with more respect. They need to be treated as humans. And it needs to start now.