The government is relaxing restrictions on night-time deliveries for food retailers in built-up areas over concerns about stockpiling and is also considering extending drivers’ hours.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “By allowing night-time deliveries to our supermarkets and food retailers, we can free them up to move their stocks more quickly from their warehouses to their shelves.”
“Our retailers have well-established contingency plans in place and are taking all the necessary steps to ensure consumers have the food and supplies they need. I will continue to work closely with them over the coming days and weeks on this,” he said.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said in a Tweet: “The UK Government is helping the supermarket supply chain respond to coronavirus.
We’ll allow night-time deliveries to supermarkets and I stand ready to allow drivers hours’ to be safely and temporarily extended if needed.”
The British Retail Consortium said demand for a limited number of products was “unprecedented outside of the Christmas period”.
The Freight Transport Association welcomed the announcement. Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at the association said: “FTA has been urging government to enable restrictions to be relaxed on night-time deliveries for several years; we hope this temporary measure will be soon be considered for permanency.
“Retiming deliveries to quieter periods has the potential to reduce road congestion while delivering a number of social benefits, such as improved air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and increased road safety during the busiest periods of the day.
“FTA has worked with the Noise Abatement Society and Transport for London to develop measures to support the retiming of deliveries to out of peak hours and the shoulders of the day and overnight whilst not disturbing residents.
“We hope the government will learn lessons from this temporary measure and consider ways to support local authorities in permanently relaxing delivery restrictions to allow for more innovative, flexible solutions to meet the challenges that lie ahead,” she said.
Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest driver union, representing over 50,000 lorry drivers, said that drivers were willing to be flexible but the union warned that safety must not be compromised.
“In order to meet the increased demand as a result of the coronavirus, many lorry drivers are being asked to work long hours. While Unite recognises that increased flexibility is required to cope with this increased demand, it must not be allowed to compromise drivers’ safety, ” Adrian Jones, national officer, Unite said.
“If changes in normal working practices are required than Unite believes that employers should enter into negotiations with Unite, to reassure drivers their safety is not being compromised.
“If the government does decide to change the driving regulations this should be done in full co-operation with Unite and the industry. Changes should be kept to a minimum and should be for a clearly defined period.”
“Drivers already report high levels of fatigue and exhaustion during their normal working time, which affects their physical and mental health as well as their family life and relationships. Lifting the regulations, without proper safeguards, will put more strain on them which could result in them being a danger to other road users and themselves.” Jones said.
Source: Global Cold Chain News