Sheffield TUC supports national “Trucked Off” campaign by HGV drivers

UK Lorry Drivers “TAKE A BREAK” at 11am Monday 1st November

rank-and-file protest over low pay, bad conditions, long hours  and lack of facilities


Government and employers to blame – not BREXIT

Sheffield TUC supports truck drivers’ “TAKE A BREAK” protest at 11am on Monday 1st November, organised by the rank-and-file “Trucked Off” campaign, which is bound to cause disruption to traffic on our roads tomorrow.

“The 100,000 shortage of lorry drivers is very much the fault of employers and successive governments” said Martin Mayer Secretary Sheffield TUC. “They have connived over the years to de-unionise the industry, drive down pay and conditions and lengthen driving hours in a bid to boost profits and slash transport costs. No wonder drivers are leaving the industry in droves, and few new drivers are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for their own HGV training to enter the profession”.

Don’t blame BREXIT

“We have probably lost about 25,000 EU drivers following BREXIT, which doesn’t explain the 100,000 shortage we have today,” said Martin Mayer. “The fact is the road transport industry got addicted to lower and lower pay to such an extent it had to seek out low-cost drivers from Eastern Europe to fill the vacancies. BREXIT may have exposed the problem, but the real reasons for the shortage are much closer to home” he said.

Blame the employers

“Thirty or forty years ago, most big employers – supermarkets, oil companies and manufacturers – had their own fleets with well-paid drivers on trade union rates. One by one they sought to break the union and drive down costs by contracting out their haulage to a plethora of smaller non-union firms. It’s cut throat competition out there to win contracts, with a race to the bottom in pay and conditions creating the situation we see today,” said Martin Mayer.

Blame successive Governments

“Trade union campaigns to rectify the situation have been totally ignored by successive Governments – including this one,” said Martin Mayer. “We’ve demanded action to reduce the appallingly long driving hours which we know is causing fatigue, ill-health and a danger on our roads. Not only were we ignored, but even during the pandemic Boris Johnson’s Government further “relaxed” the driving hours rules to allow HGV drivers to drive up 99 hours* per fortnight and only have a 24-hour weekly rest**.

To compound the problem, the Government has just reinstated EU cabotage rules to “ease the crisis” – allowing low-cost EU trucks to enter the UK and do local domestic trips before returning to EU, further undercutting UK hauliers and drivers.

Trade unions have also demanded public investment to provide safe and secure rest facilities for truck drivers – nothing has been done and still today drivers are sleeping in their cabs on lay-bys with no toilet or washing facilities. Is it any surprise no-one wants to be a truck driver in the UK?

* that’s just driving hours, not working time which is longer

**not even a full day off – you can finish work at 12 noon on Saturday and start again at 12 noon on Sunday!

Sectoral collective bargaining is the only solution to low pay

“The employers may have been rubbing their hands with glee at successively de-unionising the industry and getting their transport done at rock bottom cost” said Martin Mayer “but now they cannot solve the problem without trade unions. If one employer raises rates of pay then they will be undercut by those that don’t,” he said. “We need a framework collective bargaining agreement to cover the whole road transport industry, raising pay and conditions across all employers to ensure that HGV driving is an attractive and secure profession once more. To do that we need the trade union to be recognised, and for the employers to form a national road haulage employers’ body to negotiate with the union and agree minimum standards for the industry. And we need the Government to back that too,” said Martin Mayer.

UNITE the Union, the major union representing truck drivers in the UK has given public support to the TRUCKED OFF campaign tomorrow:

See UNITE U-Tube video about how HGV drivers feel about their job:

Where UNITE has trade union members and union recognition, there have been some big increases in pay recently – but there are large areas of the industry that are “union-free”…