Following on from our story about increased powers granted to DVSA in respect of analysing tacho records on roadside stops for the previous month, largely in an attempt to eradicate overnight and weekly rest period being taken in unsuitable places, the Unite union has joined in the debate. They issued a press release on the 23rd November titled ‘Unite calls on government and councils to stop passing the buck on truck stops’.

They said ‘A lack of adequate truck stops is resulting in lorry drivers being forced to park in industrial estates, lay-bys and even in residential roads, where they have no welfare facilities, which damages their health and results in wider environmental implications.

As a result Unite, the UK’s largest union, is calling for lorry drivers to be treated with dignity and to ensure that their health is not damaged through poor and non-existent welfare facilities.

The Department for Transport (Dft) last published the findings of a survey on the lack of truck stops in 2011; this found that in a given period there were 5,676 lorries parked in non-truck stop locations. The regions with the highest level of off-site lorry parking were the south east, eastern England and East Midlands.

The DfT was understood to be undertaking a further survey of off-site lorry parking earlier this year but the results of that survey have not been published and Unite is concerned that they have been suppressed as the problem has significantly worsened.

The lack of lorry parks with decent welfare facilities is a result of a failure in the free market. While the DfT establishes the overall policies, responsibility for providing the parks is that of local authorities. Local authorities, which are suffering extreme financial pressures due to government cuts, are unwilling to invest in these facilities, as they are not hugely profitable.

Unite believes in order to meet the needs of lorry drivers, a truck stop should include: 24 hour access, adequate parking and manoeuvring, a cafeteria with reasonably priced hot meals, washing and toilet facilities including showers, a fuelling facility, overnight sleeping facility, maintenance facilities and a launderette to wash and dry clothing.

Unite national officer for road transport, Adrian Jones, said: “The government and councils can’t pass the buck when it comes to truck stops. The lack of facilities has massive health and wellbeing consequences for drivers.

“The lack of truck stops and councils closing lay-bys means that drivers are increasingly being forced to park in entirely unsuitable locations, which is bad for them and bad for the local environment.

“The DfT’s approach to fining drivers who park outside of truck stops is simply putting a plaster on a gaping wound. No driver should be expected to spend their 45 hour break in their cab. Proper facilities are vital to this important industry.

“The free market approach to providing truck stops has been a miserable failure and we urgently need central government to provide funding and to require local authorities to provide adequate driver facilities.

“Drivers can be away from home for a week or more and without decent facilities they will become tired and ill. Tiredness and other health issues mean that they are at risk of becoming a danger to themselves and other road users.

“If we do not tackle this problem drivers are going to vote with their feet and begin leaving the industry at a time when the current Brexit uncertainty means that lorry drivers’ jobs are set to become even more difficult.”

The union is making its call as part of the European Transport Federation’s Road Transport Action week (20-24 November).