It would seem that, despite the incredible mountain of legislation, intricate rules, wounding penalties, and costly enforcement surrounding the welfare of freight drivers, it can all be swept away when government feels like it.
Fears over supplies of fresh milk led to the Government relaxing restrictions on delivery drivers yesterday amid reports of panic buying.
The Department for Transport relaxed EU limits on working hours for drivers of milk tankers and will today review similar changes for road gritters and animal feed suppliers.
Right. Here's a crash course (?) in drivers hours. The EU limits referenced (EC 561/2006) dictate that no driver can drive for longer than 4½ hours without a 45 minute break, mustn't drive for more than 9 hours a day (which can be extended to 10 hours on 2 days in a week). No more than 56 hours a week can be worked, and no more than 6 days a week driven. Daily rest must be 11 hours per night (can be reduced to 9 hours 3 times a week) and weekly rest periods must be 45 hours but can be reduced to 24 if the shortfall is compensated for by the end of the third week following the week you're in.
Got that (and it's only the basics)? I hope so, as even saggy-arsed truckers have to know it inside out and backwards, and be tested on it, as their livelihood can be lost if they get something wrong.
Now, under certain circs, UK domestic hours apply and it all changes. If driving outside the EU, a different set of rules entirely come into play. Quite a fucking mess. And if you break any of these rules, punishments are hefty and uncompromising.
It's for the safety of the driver, you see?
Yet all of a sudden, when government need something done, it's somehow acceptable to expose drivers to dangerous risk? Or is it that the rules are not necessarily a hard and fast gauge of the safe limits of driving.
It can't be both.
Remember too that the rules being discussed here are EU rules. The ones we are told are non-negotiable. They can't be contravened. Yet here is the DfT doing exactly that.
Something just doesn't fit. Yes, drivers need to be protected from excessive demands from employers, but the drivers hours rules as they stand are ridiculously convoluted, require the huge expense of enforcement, and are costly and irritating to all who encounter them.
If they can be relaxed at the whim of government, without any apparent threat to driver safety, why the need for such a rigid and prescriptive system in the first place?
There are cases where hours have been exceeded for emergencies. For example, three coach drivers from Preston once decided that, having been held up by a ferry strike, it was preferable that they get their passengers home rather than leave them stranded on the continent. They were finally exonerated but only after having been arrested, charged, and taken to court for the temerity of exercising common sense.
Government knows best, you see, and only with the arrogant approval of officialdom can these 'vital', unmovable, arbitrary limits be contravened.
So is life ordered. You can't be trusted to make decisions, only career politicians in Brussels or Westmonster are wise enough to do that. Their wisdom is final and must be adhered to ... until they change their minds.