Monday 11 January 2010

Risk Is For Government To Decide

Had a boring day? It don't get any better, I'm afraid, cos I just have to embark on an ickle transport related moan (regular readers will remember that that's my thing). It's got a kinda libertarian bent to it, but feel free to go twatter instead, or surf for donkey porn, or whatever your bag is, if you're not into hearing about big trucks and hairy drivers.

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.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Yup agreed.

Slightly o/t, I have learned that govt do not base decisions on what to ban on "risk" (i.e. how nasty an outcome is x probability), they base in on "hazard" (i.e. how nasty an outcome might be, regardless of probability), which explains a lot.

Mrs Rigby said...


If it's been deemed dangerous to drive too many miles in too many hours all year round, even when it's sunny and dry, how can it suddenly be safe to drive more miles in more hours when it's dark, cold, icy and snowy?

subrosa said...

Have just been listening to Newsnicht talking about Elfin Safety and this is a perfect example that the BBC didn't bring into the conversation. Wonder why.

John Pickworth said...

I read your post as I'd already exceeded my donkey porn downloading quota.

Had a similar situation to this at work: New rule, do not stack incoming stock, mustn't ever be broken, safety of customers paramount. Until firm realised there's no room for incoming stocks and announced its okay to break rule for the next few weeks.

Commonsense? Nah, just reams of wasted paperwork, effort and frustration... and money. Same with Government. Must protect the environment at all costs... but its okay to plant thousands of windmills on the sea bed!

Hate the damn lot of them.

BTS said...

I've just spent the past minute trying to change the television channel with my mouse.

I just felt an overwhelming urge to share that with everyone.

More Merlot required methinks..

Junican said...

I wonder.
Is it possible to think that the new intake of MPs, after the next General Election, might possibly be able to think, regardless of party affiliation?
It could be that the expenses scandal could have unintended consequences. Maybe the new intake will actually cease to be lobby-fodder and begin to think for themselves. If elected MPs stop bothering about becoming Ministers and think about themselves as independently elected people (despite being labour/conservative/etc), maybe they might actually read the legislation that they are being asked to vote on.
I read the Health Bill which provoked the smoking ban. It was not particularly difficult to read or understand. It outlawed smoking in 'proper' public, indoor places.
What caused chaos was the amendments on the second and third readings of the bill, introducted by Caroline Flint and Patricia Hewitt, which totally changed the application of the ban.
I have read Hansard about the actual debate, and it is clear to me that, apart from the people 'in the know', MPs did not know what they were voting for - especially, and in addition, the fact that 'a substantially enclosed place' was not defined in the legislation (it was defined only later in 'the regulations').
It may take some time for the smoking ban to be amended or repealed, but it is possible in the shorter term, as a result of our realisation due to the expenses scandal that MPs are not to be trusted, after the next election for MPs to be held to account more explicitly. Certainly, after then next election, expenses alone must not be the sole criterion on which we judge our MPs. We have been warned - our MPs are NOT OUR REPRESENTATIVES, no matter what they say. They are lobby-fodder. That must change.

JuliaM said...

"Remember too that the rules being discussed here are EU rules. The ones we are told are non-negotiable. They can't be contravened."

Thry had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they said that, though...

"I wonder.
Is it possible to think that the new intake of MPs, after the next General Election, might possibly be able to think, regardless of party affiliation?"

I doubt it. The parties will keerp an iron grip on their candidates, and there aren't enough people to vote in independents, sadly...

banned said...

I found out where all the milk went last Wedesday, from a lady who works for Sainsburys.
Seems all the country dwellers , with memories of being snowed in for weeks at a time, decended like Attila The Hun to grab milk and bread by the pallet load leaving us poor city folk to sing for our supper.

Letters From A Tory said...

Sadly, DP, you are searching for logic where none exists. Complying to the EU legislation was never about risk, it was about subservience.

Dick Puddlecote said...

MW: Indeed, in fact I've alluded to such <a href=">before</a>.

Mrs R: Exactly. Astounding logic, huh?

LFAT: That and the spending of a lot of taxes, naturally.

John P: Agree entirely with that sentiment ... and bad luck with the quota limitation. ;-)