Will Extending Hours Fix The Driver Shortage?

16 Jul 21

The shortage of lorry drivers has been an industry concern for years - however, recent factors, such as Brexit and the pandemic, have further aggravated the problem

As the cost of moving goods rise, inflation is steadily increasing – in response to this, the government are taking rapid action.

Following repeated warnings from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) of a severe threat to the distribution of goods; Transport Minister Baroness Vere announced the relaxation of drivers’ hours. In this week’s blog, we’re examining the impact this change in policy will have on the haulage industry and whether or not it will ease the impending chaos caused by the driver shortage.

Extension of hours

HGV drivers were expected to drive for 9 hours per day under the original restrictions, with a 45-minute break after 4.5 hours of driving. However, it was legal for a driver to work 10 hours twice a week, with the maximum weekly driving limit being 56 hours.

With the newly permitted increase, the daily driving limit has gone up to ten hours, with one period of eleven hours up to twice in one week. This relaxation was implemented on 12 July and will last until 8 August 2021.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the move would give flexibility to drivers to make slightly longer trips. The guidance advises: “It must be used only where necessary, otherwise, the normal drivers’ hours rules should be followed. The DfT encourages operators facing high work demands or work absences to take urgent measures to secure drivers who have limited or no current work.”

Saving “Freedom Day”

The country’s “Freedom Day” is a date eagerly anticipated by the Great British public – but one logistics professionals have long feared. Due to the current fragility of businesses, many predicted a full reopening would pressure the supply chain into a state of catastrophic failure. However, it appears that the potential crisis has been averted with the introduction of the relaxation in drivers’ hours.

The newly introduced flexibility means out-of-the-way shops, pubs and restaurants will receive stock they needed for 19 July’s big re-opening. This will allow wholesalers to complete as many as 15% more deliveries each day. Provided the relaxation remains in place into the autumn, it will hopefully prevent school closures in September and stock shortages in shops leading up to Christmas.

Driver health & safety

Despite the positive reaction from some – many have been critical of the policy. Due to Brexit and the pandemic, the past year has stretched HGV drivers to the limit – hence, pushing them even further could result in a mass exodus from the profession.

Besides the psychological ramifications and the potential of job burnout, there are also many concerns relating to health and safety. If drivers are too tired to operate safely, they have the legal right to refuse to do so. Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps indicated that companies must notify the Department for Transport if they choose to use the temporary extension, insisting that driver safety should not be compromised.

No long term solution

While the relaxation on driving hour limits resolves problems in the short term, it doesn’t address the issue head-on. With a current shortfall of around 60,000 lorry drivers, the RHA describes the change in regulation as a mere “sticking plaster”.

To completely resolve the driver shortage problem, underlying issues need to be fully addressed. This includes travel restrictions implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the fact many EU drivers have been forced to return home due to new Brexit laws. Haulage companies have been calling for the government to issue temporary visas, allowing foreign workers to work in the United Kingdom.


 The driver shortage has been dubbed ‘one of the greatest challenges of a generation’. Thankfully, the latest technological advancements in transport management enable businesses to maximise their human resources and overcome the emerging difficulties in this uncertain landscape.

TrackTrans TMS is an advanced supply chain planning and optimisation solution that can help hauliers reach their full potential. Our system allows you to easily re-optimise your plans as demand and capacity change; enabling you to balance assignments and manage hours effectively. If you need to check on your drivers’ wellbeing while they’re working longer shifts, our simple messaging services gives you the ability to directly contact employees.

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