For HGV drivers, 2021 was always doomed to be a challenging year, with the first Brexit regulations coming into play from the first of January. However, the combination of Brexit and Covid-19 has been particularly devastating for HGV drivers in the UK or drivers who need to drive to and through the UK.
Delays, frustration, and excess paperwork are some of the first problems that come to mind. However, many fail to realise the cost of both Brexit and Covid-19 for HGV drivers. Indeed, lorry drivers face devastating financial consequences as a result.
Multiple Covid-19 tests
The requirements regarding Covid-19 regulations are constantly evolving for HGV drivers. In January, regulations expected drivers to take multiple Covid tests upon entering the British territory. Drivers scheduled to arrive in Kent were required to provide a negative test at the start of the journey. Depending on the length of the trip in the UK, they might also require a second test before entry to France, as each test is only valid for 72 hours. Things became more challenging for drivers with conflicting regulations demanding multiple tests per trip. Additionally, valid tests taken from recognised test centres were not always accepted, forcing HGV drivers to pay for additional tests. Poor refund policy and repayment processes have left some drivers out-of-pocket.
Some HGV drivers still carry their covid debt
At the peak of the pandemic, lorry transportation was reduced to the strict minimum to control spread risks. Consequently, some drivers have found themselves out of a job for an indefinite period of time. With furlough pay and unemployment benefit delays and disparities, many HGV drivers have been relying on their own savings and credit cards to survive. As a result, many are still struggling to recover from the unexpected covid debt, even after being back at work. While there are dedicated solutions to support individuals in their situation, such as bad credit car finance or Covid benefits for loss of income, these may not be sufficient to recover.
Advanced waiting times means less work
Industry groups have complained about the need for multiple Covid tests for lorry drivers. The cost and delay due to the tests can cause dramatic disruptions to the supply chains in the UK. While rapid tests can deliver a result within an hour, it is fair to say the total delay can be a lot greater if you include time spent at the test centre, paperwork, additional border regulations and schedule. Unfortunately, the apparition of new variants and new risks make tests mean that tests are now more relevant than ever. From a driver’s perspective, the delays can significantly affect their productivity. Consequently, drivers may not be able to cover the same distances and trips as they used to, losing potential wages as a result.
HGV journeys have become more uncomfortable
Finally, British drivers are also facing the combined consequences of Covid-19 and Brexit. Indeed haulage companies are struggling to attract British drivers with low wages and poor working conditions. Drivers are becoming impatient and are not willing to face unnecessary challenges. The additional money threats from Covid has driven many to quit.
Will Covid be a wake-up call for haulage companies to consider new regulations and protections for their drivers? It’s impossible to tell. However, the time for a change has come, and we can only hope that the haulage industry will rise to the challenge.