Monday, February 25, 2013

Tanker Drivers Strike Prompts Action from DfT and Comment from Road Haulage Association

Emergency Action to Maintain Fuel Supplies Whilst Elsewhere Freight Crime Remains an Issue
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has welcomed the Department for Transport’s (DfT) agreement to a temporary, and limited, emergency relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours and working-time rules for drivers of fuel tankers engaged in the delivery of refined fuel within Scotland and northern England. The timing coincides with drivers represented by the Unite union threatening further strike from Thursday after a work to rule and walk out last week when an aviation fuel contract at Grangemouth was switched from BP to DHL.

According to information received from the DfT on Sunday, 24 February, this temporary relaxation applies from 00.01 on Monday 25 February 2013 and will run until 23:59 on Thursday 28 February 2013 and will apply only to those drivers involved in the delivery of fuel within Scotland and northern England; with the latter being defined as the Government regions of North East England, Yorkshire and the Humber and North West England (i.e. England as far south as and including Cheshire, West and South Yorkshire and the North and North East Lincolnshire Council areas).

DHL of course are no strangers lately to controversy over their relationship with unions outside their native Germany and Unite claims that the British drivers are objecting to possible loss of earnings of up to £1,400 per year and their pension accruals diminishing by as much as £100,000. Unite Industrial Officer Tony Trench said:

“We’ve had a tremendously solid start to this strike action and our members are resolute in our pursuit of pay and pensions justice, we're in this for the long haul. On a normal day up to 10 million litres of fuel will pass through the refinery gates and out to airports and forecourts across the country, but not today. Our message to BP is simple: Do the right thing. Pay up on the cuts our members will suffer - it's a drop in the tank for a company worth nearly £8 billion."

The DfT has emphasised that in no circumstances should the relaxation of regulations compromise driver safety and they should not be expected to drive whilst tired, with employers remaining responsible for the safety of their employees and other road users. For the drivers and work in question, the EU drivers’ hours rules will be temporarily relaxed by replacement of the EU daily driving limit of 9 hours with one of 11 hours; reduction of the daily rest requirements from 11 to 9 hours; suspending the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limit (90 hours) and postponing the weekly rest requirement until 23:59 Thursday 28 February 2013, at which stage a driver has to take a minimum rest of 24 hours (with no compensatory rest required).

The enforcement of working time rules has also been relaxed for this period to allow drivers to work up to 66 hours instead of the usual 60 hour weekly maximum. This extra time should be recorded, but does not count for the purposes of determining average working time with the practical implementation of the temporary relaxation agreed between employers and employees and/or driver representatives. The drivers in question must note on the back of their tachograph charts or printouts the reasons why they are exceeding the normally permitted limits. This is usual practice in emergencies and is, of course, essential for enforcement purposes.

The normal requirement to take a 45 minute break after four and a half hours driving remains and will continue to be rigorously enforced. The temporary relaxation of the rules described above reflects the exceptional circumstances of the increased demand for fuel. The DfT wishes to emphasise that, as a general rule it expects business to plan for and manage the risks of disruption to supply chains.

In other UK road freight news Last week, the RHA wrote to all 41 of the newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners to urge action within their county forces to combat crime against road haulage and distribution. Chrys Rampley, secretary of the RHA Security Forum said:

“We have stressed that this is an important but often neglected area of business crime that can affect firms and employment in their areas. We also offer to engage further with the PCC’s. Ministers have made clear that they hold the key to policing in this, as in many other areas, and we will be working to strengthen our local contacts”.