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As you may be aware, I've been addressing global supply chain issues and the shortage of UK-based HGV drivers for some months, initially because of the damage Covid-19 was wreaking all over the world in terms of both illness and the need to isolate; then also because of the backlog of lorry drivers waiting to take tests in the UK... Surely if you're getting anywhere near a waiting list of 25,000, you should introduce measures to rectify the situation! I suppose it was only a matter of time before there was a run on fuel and embarrassing shenanigans from impatient/frustrated drivers fighting at the pumps.
There's been a lot of talk about the Government attempting to lure EU-based drivers to the UK to help keep things running, as well as the huge pay packets being offered by private companies to attract drivers. Much has been said about we British having brought this on ourselves with Brexit but I gather one of the main reasons overseas drivers don't like trucking over here is that it's not very pleasant. There's a dire lack of decent facilities for drivers and a lack of respect, in many cases, from the very companies they're working with - as well as from the general public, who don't consider them to be crucial workers and treat them with disdain. Gillian Kemp, of Truckers Toilets UK and the Association's members, have kept me updated on the dreadful conditions drivers in the UK face but the problems aren't new. Thanks to the steady decline in public toilets & roadside cafés, there have been fewer places for truckers to stop for 'comfort breaks'. Parking areas have been closed and limits set in some towns on how long a truck can stay. I've written in the past about drivers being refused use of the facilities to which they're making a delivery. It is, I'm led to believe by so many, so different on the continent. As ex-trucker, Jim Titherige, says:
"In France, I can park in nearly every town or village, in a marked truck parking bay. Nearby will be a small routier, where I can get a meal and a shower. The locals respect me and have no problems with me or my truck being there overnight. At motorway services, I can park for no cost, get a shower for a minimal cost, and have freshly cooked food. I even get to jump the queues, because others know my time is limited, and respect I'm there because it's my job. I even get a 20% discount off my purchases."
Like cleaners, truckers provide a crucial service. We need to recognise that and start treating them like human beings.
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30th September 2021