More than a quarter of lorry drivers admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel, according to research by Unite.

A confidential survey of more than 4,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) operators conducted by the union found that 29 per cent have fallen asleep while driving, with 64 per cent of them blaming their tiredness on disturbed sleep patterns or long days.

Of the drivers who were surveyed, 65 per cent said they were most likely to still be feeling tired if they had slept in their lorry at the side of the road, 67 per cent in a layby and 62 per cent in a service station car park.

The news comes as a Freedom of Information request made by Unite to the Department for Transport found that 109 drivers or passengers of HGVs have been killed in road traffic collisions in the past five years, which equates to an average of 22 deaths per year.

The law says that lorry drivers are allowed to work for 15 hours a day, including 10 hours of driving, and then have to rest for nine hours before commencing work again. This can happen for no more than two consecutive days.

Adrian Jones, national officer at Unite, commented: “The findings of this survey are profoundly shocking. People’s lives are being put at risk due to a lack of welfare facilities and workers being forced to work excessive hours.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if drivers are regularly sleeping in their cabs, tiredness will become a major hazard, and yet virtually nothing is being done to tackle this problem.

“The government must take the lead and require all local authorities to provide truck stops to meet local requirements. The authorities can’t be allowed to continue to pretend it is someone else’s problem.

“Companies are continually forcing drivers to work longer, as they are obsessed with the just in time delivery model. This can inevitably lead to tragic consequences and driver welfare should be a company’s first priority, not just an afterthought.

“It is entirely wrong that, if a driver is tragically killed at work, it is not recorded as a workplace death. At best, it is a massaging of the fatality figures.

“In reality, it is a complete derogation of responsibility as, by not allowing the HSE to investigate these tragic accidents, the long-term causes are not being properly investigated and the necessary safety improvements are not being made.”

Tristan Shale-Hester


April 27, 2018

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